Wayne Simmonds

Lightning 6, Flyers 5 (OT): Furious comeback ends in heartbreak

Lightning 6, Flyers 5 (OT): Furious comeback ends in heartbreak

BOX SCORE

What began as a promising five-game homestand ended in heartbreak Saturday afternoon.

The Flyers (9-9-2) dropped their season-high third straight game with a 6-5 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Wells Fargo Center to finish the homestand 2-2-1.

Anthony Cirelli scored the game-winner at 1:41 in overtime.

Tampa temporarily moves atop the NHL standings. The Eastern Conference-leading Bolts are 14-5-1 with 29 points. The Predators (27 points) host the Kings tonight.

• The big difference between this Flyers team and the one that left Philly on Oct. 27 after a 6-1 clunker to the Islanders is its fight. Tampa went up 5-1 and things were getting ugly. But the Flyers fought back with four straight goals and forced overtime. The Flyers rung off four goals on eight shots in a span of 6:04. Travis Konecny had two and both Sean Couturier and Wayne Simmonds had one.

They lost and it was an unsuccessful homestand, but they didn't lay down like they did three weeks ago. This was really an effort in which you're happy with a point.

• This is a story about an unstoppable force meeting a very movable object, and well, you know the result. It was not pretty.

The Flyers' 30th-ranked penalty kill surrendered three power-play goals. The Flyers now have allowed an NHL-worst 22 power-play goals. They have allowed three power-play goals two times and multiple power-play goals five times. They have gone just five games without allowing a PPG. The Flyers played with the NHL's fifth-best power play and were electrocuted. Tampa was 3 for 4 on the power play.

You cannot win in the NHL with a penalty kill this ineffective.

• Finally, the Flyers' power play struck twine Saturday. In fact, it recorded a hat trick. James van Riemsdyk ended an 0-for-15 drought in the second period and Konecny and Couturier added two in the third period.

The Flyers' PP is now 6 for its last 48 opportunities since Oct. 13 and has just six goals at home. Really, special teams have been the Flyers' biggest wart, and it hurt them again Saturday. As bad as the PK has been, the PP has been equally feeble.

But Saturday's development was a huge positive.

• Claude Giroux, after two pointless games, picked up an assist on JVR's PPG for his 700th career point as a Flyer (see story).

With another helper in the third period, Giroux became tied with Brian Propp for second on the franchise's all-time assists list (480) and is 149 points from passing Propp for third on the team's all-time scoring list.

Giroux now has 24 points in 20 games this season and is on pace for 98.4 points. He is an all-time Flyer and somehow, he's still underappreciated by a good portion of the fan base.

• Calvin Pickard's stat line Saturday doesn't read well: six goals on 26 shots. But it's hard to fault him. He wasn't bad. Tampa's second goal was a bit leaky but its others don't fall on Pickard. With Brian Elliott out two weeks, the Flyers will need Pickard to raise his level of play. He mostly did that Saturday.

• The Flyers came out ready to play with a strong first period, outshooting the Lightning, 18-7, and had 21 shot attempts at 5-on-5. The biggest takeaway was how the Flyers were attacking Tampa. The forwards went to high-danger areas and the defense had just six shot attempts at 5-on-5. That's usually a successful formula for scoring, but goalie Louis Domingue was the Lightning's best player despite some shaky moments.

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Hall of Fame induction will be extra special for Wayne Simmonds

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Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers

Hall of Fame induction will be extra special for Wayne Simmonds

VOORHEES, N.J. — Wayne Simmonds has been to the Hockey Hall of Fame so many times he can no longer count.

The Toronto-based museum is a slap shot distance away from Simmonds’ hometown of Scarborough, Ontario, and his mother would take him and his younger brother when they were kids quite often. He knows where all the cool memorabilia is located and he can take you straight to the room where the Stanley Cup is showcased. 

“I think that was one of my favorite places to go for sure,” Simmonds said Friday.

The next time Simmonds walks those hallowed halls will be a little more memorable as the Hockey Hall of Fame will induct six more legends of the game Monday night. It’s an enshrinement Simmonds believes is long overdue. Willie O’Ree, the NHL’s version of Jackie Robinson, will be added to the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe and a handful of Flyers legends.

Thankfully, the voting committee did the right thing before it was too late. O’Ree, who grew up in Fredericton, New Brunswick, will turn 84 next Thursday. Despite playing just 45 NHL games and scoring just four goals in his brief career, O’Ree opened the door 60 years ago for guys like Simmonds and other black hockey players.

“This is something that especially for the black community it’s huge,” Simmonds said. “To have Willie inducted into the Hall of Fame, he set the table for all of us to be able to play in the NHL and for us to obtain our goals as black hockey players.”

Ideally, Simmonds would love to be in attendance when O’Ree stands and delivers his enshrinement speech, but with the Flyers playing a game at the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday, logistically, it’s just not feasible. However, Simmonds will be watching from his TV and he may get a little emotional holding back tears. 

“I don’t think I’ll look at it differently,” Simmonds said. “I think you got another great, great human being going into the Hall of Fame who deserves to be there. For me, it’s about time. I think he should have been in there a long, long time ago. He’s finally getting his due and I’m ecstatic.”  

O’Ree was a popular subject for Simmonds’ book reports and other assignments. It was easy to write about a sport and a player he deeply admired and one story about O’Ree’s life stands out more to Simmonds than the others.

“Everybody knows this now, but he was blind in one eye,” Simmonds said. “I think that was the biggest thing. I remember being younger and doing studies on him and stuff like that at school and doing projects on him. I think back in that time period that not only being the first black person to play in the NHL, but to do it while being blind in one eye, I thought that was incredible. He hid it from so many people. I think his sister was the only one that knew. That was crazy.”

I can remember in 1998, O’Ree helped introduce NHL hockey to Nashville, Tennessee, and the Predators along with the city held a carnival in a parking lot on the site of the old Dollywood amusement park. 

At that time, I had no idea who he was, but after spending 30 minutes with O’Ree, he was easily one of the friendliest, most endearing professional athletes you will ever meet. I would put him in a category that also includes Billie Jean King and Arnold Palmer. Athletes so personable and down-to-earth that you quickly forget just how transcendent they were in their respective sport.     

“He’s unbelievable. The smile on his face, just his attitude toward everyone. He’s a very pleasant human being,” Simmonds said as we exchanged our personal encounters with O’Ree. “I can’t even count how many times I’ve met with him. I’ve had a cup of coffee with him and just sat down and chat. He’s a huge inspiration to me obviously.”

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Flyers stock watch: Shayne Gostisbehere needs to provide more offensively

Flyers stock watch: Shayne Gostisbehere needs to provide more offensively

While the Flyers have plugged some of the early-season holes that they started the year with, they still aren’t generating the desired results with a 4-6-0 record.  

At the 10-game mark, let’s take a look at whose stock is on the rise and which players have seen their stock take a dip over the past few weeks.

Stock up

Scott Laughton
Hands down the most consistent two-way forward on the team this season, Laughton continues to earn Dave Hakstol’s trust and additional playing time to go with it. The Flyers' 2012 first-round pick is currently third behind Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek with five even-strength points. Laughton’s hustle to backcheck and break up Brad Marchand on a 2-on-1 kept the game scoreless in the opening period Thursday night. Laughton also has shown the flexibility to move up and down the lineup and from wing to center.

Travis Sanheim
Despite the losses, have you noticed Sanheim’s increased involvement in the offense over the past two games? The Flyers' second-year defenseman has nine shots on net in his last two games. Hakstol has talked about a spike in confidence, which has allowed Sanheim to jump into the rush and skate the puck into the offensive zone when the opportunity presents itself. He’s also played steady on the defensive side of the ice by simply not trying to do too much. Sanheim is using his size to keep attackers to the outside. With five assists through 10 games, Sanheim is already halfway to matching his point total from his rookie season.

Stock down

Mikhail Vorobyev
Vorobyev has now been a healthy scratch for the past four games after his previous four proved to be his “Welcome to the NHL” moment, and Hakstol made it clear what he’s looking for out of the rookie center.

“More tenacity on pucks. Little bit quicker play defensively without the puck. That needs to happen now,” Hakstol said.

The Flyers' head coach had every intention of playing Vorobyev in Boston before he second-guessed that decision and stuck with his previous third line. Saturday against the Islanders appears to be Vorobyev’s next chance to prove he belongs.  

Shayne Gostisbehere
Gostisbehere has a team-worst minus-6 rating, which can be tied to playing on the top pair with Ivan Provorov. "Ghost" has also performed a disappearing act in the offensive zone lately. Much of that can be attributed to the Flyers' ineffective power play, which has gone 1 for 17 over its last six games. However, Gostisbehere also has the same number of even-strength points (one) as Christian Folin. For a team that wants to generate offense from its back end, Ghost is the guy who has to be that spark plug and right now, he’s gone four straight games without a point.  

Wayne Simmonds
The eye test suggests the "Wayne Train" simply doesn’t look like himself lately, and you have to wonder if he’s completely healed from everything he put his body through last season. Simmonds has one goal (an empty-netter) in his last four games with a minus-6 rating and his 4.78 goals against at even strength is the worst among all Flyers forwards. You have to wonder if Hakstol should switch up his power-play personnel just to find some sort of spark, which might include replacing Simmonds with Nolan Patrick.

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