Shayne Gostisbehere

Islanders 4, Flyers 2: Emotional loss the latest of crushing defeats

Islanders 4, Flyers 2: Emotional loss the latest of crushing defeats

BOX SCORE

This one had some extra sting for the Flyers.

Playing in total must-win mode over the final eight games of the season, the Flyers shifted all the momentum during the third period Saturday afternoon to only lose it late for another frustrating loss, this one a 4-2 decision to the Islanders.

Ten minutes after the Flyers (36-31-8) scored a 2-2 equalizer and even had a chance to go ahead on another power play, the Islanders stemmed the tide with two goals from Josh Bailey in the final four minutes.

The Flyers, barely holding on to postseason hope, entered Saturday five points behind the Canadiens for the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot. The Blue Jackets, who are one point back of Montreal, do not play Saturday, while the Canadiens host the Sabres at 7 p.m. If Montreal wins, the Flyers will be seven points out with seven games to go — close to impossible.

Coming into Saturday, Hockey-Reference.com gave the Flyers a 3.0 percent chance to make the playoffs, while SportsClubStats.com had them at 1.6.

The Islanders (43-25-7), who had lost two straight by a combined score of 9-0, picked up a timely win as they continue to chase first place in the Metropolitan Division.

• The NBC Sports Philadelphia broadcast showed Sean Couturier taking a hefty hack at something in the tunnel late in the second period after he left the ice. He had all the right to be furious as he was boarded by Matt Martin but no whistle.

Martin crosschecked Couturier right through his jersey numbers.

Couturier did not come out for the start of the third period, but when he did return, he quickly drew a penalty and the Flyers scored four seconds into the power play off a Shayne Gostisbehere missile from the point, tying the game at 2-2.

At the time, the Flyers seized all momentum, especially after killing a 5-on-3 moments prior to the goal, as Ryan Hartman was hit with a questionable interference call and then Jakub Voracek was handed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

• Carter Hart was given little help from the Flyers during the first and second periods.

The goal he allowed in the first was pretty unlucky as the puck ricocheted off of Radko Gudas' skate and was batted in out of midair by Brock Nelson.

The second goal came in the second period when it felt like the Flyers were on the penalty kill with how long the Islanders sustained time in the offensive zone and fired away shot after shot. Eventually, Nick Leddy found the middle of the ice and blasted a one-timer past the 20-year-old goalie.

Hart entered 2-1-0 with a 1.32 goals-against average and .966 save percentage over his last three starts. In the two victories, he was forced to convert 40 or more saves.

He was busy again Saturday with 36 stops. He's been having to do a lot. However, Bailey's game-winner was a stoppable shot and Hart couldn't deliver late.

New York thoroughly dominated the Flyers in the middle stanza, which has been a season-long issue for the Flyers — period-by-period inconsistency. Looking like gangbusters one period and looking overmatched another period has happened far too often.

• The officials riled up the Wells Fargo Center early in the game, too, by giving Robert Hagg a double minor for high-sticking Anders Lee. The problem with the call: Hagg didn't do a thing as Lee was actually struck by his own teammate Nelson.

It oddly worked in the favor of the Flyers, who fed off the crowd and were then rewarded by the hockey gods. Who else but Hagg put the Flyers on the board 6:39 into the first period with one of the wackiest goals you'll see this season.

• There was no extracurricular activity between Voracek and Johnny Boychuk after blood boiled between the two teams in the Flyers' 5-2 win on March 9.

That, of course, was when Voracek was whistled for interference on Boychuk, who pointed at the Flyers' winger like a madman as he left the ice with an injury. During the rest of the third period, the Islanders went after Voracek, who received a highly debatable two-game suspension from the NHL Department of Player Safety.

This was an important game for both teams. Thankfully, they focused on hockey, not WrestleMania.

• The Flyers are right back at it Sunday as they visit the Capitals (12:30 p.m./NBC). They are 0-3-0 against the defending champions this season, allowing five goals in each of the three defeats.

Washington comes in having lost four of its last six games.

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Flyers weekly observations: No, you don't trade Shayne Gostisbehere, Travis Sanheim's production, more

Flyers weekly observations: No, you don't trade Shayne Gostisbehere, Travis Sanheim's production, more

The Flyers are on a five-game point streak (4-0-1) after losing two straight for the first time since Jan. 7-8.

Last week, they won three of four games and had to say goodbye to Wayne Simmonds.

With March underway, here are observations on the state of the team:

• The NHL trade deadline came and went with general manager Chuck Fletcher making only one move last Monday by sending Simmonds to the Predators.

Leading up to deadline day, some buzz actually generated about a potential trade of Shayne Gostisbehere — nothing firm, but the defenseman's name was out there.

A deal never happened and it's head-scratching as to why anyone who follows the Flyers would be so quick to trade away a player like Gostisbehere.

He's not just a power-play specialist.

He's 25 years old, he's elusive, he's dexterous and he gets the puck out of the defensive zone and up the ice. Oh, and he's under contract through 2022-23 on a cost-effective deal.

Sounds pretty good.

And it doesn't hurt that since 2015-16 he has more goals than John Carlson, Drew Doughty, Seth Jones and P.K. Subban, while ranking 15th among NHL defensemen in points.

• Travis Sanheim has been so good.

Who would have thought he'd be leading all Flyers blueliners in goals (nine) and points (29) with 16 games to go?

The production shouldn't be a crazy surprise to us, though. His size, skill and offensive ability are what drew the Flyers to him in 2014.

"Offense is my game and something I want to continue to develop going forward and bring to the next level," Sanheim said in July 2016.

It does make you wonder what he could have done last year in a full season or why he was sent down to Lehigh Valley in the first place, where he quickly proved he was above the AHL competition.

Was he really that behind in his defensive principles? And was Brandon Manning that much better of an option?

The 22-year-old Sanheim is now one of the team's best defensemen and the 28-year-old Manning is in the AHL after not panning out with the Blackhawks or Oilers.

• The Flyers entered Monday five points out of the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot. Right now, they still need to jump two teams.

Hockey-Reference.com has the Flyers with a 9.7 percent chance to make the postseason and SportsClubStats.com gives them a 5.8 percent chance.

If the Flyers can pull it off, they'll have certainly earned it. Thirteen of their final 16 games are against teams currently in a playoff spot.

The teams they face are also playing well. The combined record of the clubs remaining on the Flyers' schedule is 93-61-16 since the start of February.

• It's cool to see the impact Simmonds had on the Flyers' youth.

We're seeing it from Travis Konecny, a tiny 21-year-old with first-round pedigree and a goal-scoring background. But he has mixed it up in the past two games, standing up for Nolan Patrick and also fighting Jordan Eberle.

"Simmer is one of those guys you don't want to mess with," Konecny said last Friday. "Teams probably look at us differently. We're still the same team in that we stick together. I think Simmer left a lot of that with us and taught us young guys to stick up for your teammates."

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Flyers 5, Sabres 2: Life without Wayne Simmonds starts with big win in wild-card push

Flyers 5, Sabres 2: Life without Wayne Simmonds starts with big win in wild-card push

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The Flyers passed another team as they continued their climb up the Eastern Conference standings.

Wearing their Stadium Series sweaters one more time Tuesday, the Flyers buried the Sabres, 5-2, to leap over them for 10th place in the East, while Ryan Hartman made quite the first impression.

Here are my observations from the Wells Fargo Center:

 Sometimes it’s just a matter of inches that determine the outcome. Jack Eichel’s cross-ice pass appeared to have hopped over the stick of Brandon Montour, who had a wide-open net to shoot at. The Flyers quickly capitalized, coming back the other way as Travis Sanheim filled the slot as the trailer. What could have been a tied game turned into a 4-2 Flyers lead.

• There had to be some concern of a letdown coming off that huge overtime thriller at Lincoln Financial Field combined with the departure of Wayne Simmonds, but that wasn’t the case at all. Aside from a couple careless penalties, the Flyers dominated the opening 20 minutes, outshooting the Sabres 19-6 to start the game.

• It also helps that they received an emotional spark from the newcomer Hartman. On his first shift of the game, Hartman gave Flyers fans a nice introduction of what he’s all about, as he leveled rookie defenseman Rasmus Dahlin with a legal open-ice check (see story). Former general manager Ron Hextall said during his exit press conference that he thought this team needed more sandpaper, and it’s clear that Hartman has that element in his game.

• It was interesting to see how interim head coach Scott Gordon was going to divide up the minutes, electing to play 11 forwards and seven defensemen, like he did during Philippe Myers' NHL debut in Detroit. In that game, Myers played just 9:53, but you can see how much trust he built with his coach and how much trust he has earned. After two periods, Myers had logged nearly nine minutes and two-and-a-half minutes more than Andrew MacDonald.  

• There were a lot of rumors swirling around defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere at the trade deadline and I still think his name could be in play during the offseason. What I’ve noticed from "Ghost" recently is how he’s stepped up his physical play. At one point in the Stadium Series game, he was actually leading the Flyers in hits and he had another big one against the Sabres.

However, his positional play is what frustrates coaches. Gostisbehere stepped up and made a very poor decision that led to Casey Mittelstadt’s 3-2 goal.

• Oskar Lindblom has truly turned into a complete forward with his commitment to doing all the little things, constantly pressuring the puck. Rarely does he cheat himself on any shift. Not only did he score with a nice touch around the net, but he should have drawn a cross-checking penalty in the process. He had a couple of whacks from close range in the third period. Lindblom is coming on strong down the backstretch wth 13 points (eight goals, five assists) in his last 17 games.

• The Flyers were looking to match a franchise record by going three straight games without giving their opponent a power-play opportunity. However, that dissipated quickly with Scott Laughton’s tripping penalty that gave Buffalo a power play. Eichel capitalized with his 22nd goal of the season.

• The Flyers topped 40 shots for the ninth time this season. While they’re just 8-19-2 in games in which they outshoot an opponent, they’re now 6-2-1 when putting up 40 or more shots.

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