Flyers Notes: Boucher sees first NHL action of season

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Flyers Notes: Boucher sees first NHL action of season

TORONTO -- Brian Boucher would have liked very much to have started Tuesday night against the Jets as the Flyers' six-game road trip continues at The Peg.
 
“Absolutely,” Boucher said. “I played a bit down in Adirondack. So it’s been good. Any time you get to play with game sharpness, it certainly helps. It’s been a good thing for me.”
 
The plan changed, however, in the second period of Monday’s 5-2 loss to the Leafs when Boucher relieved Ilya Bryzgalov.
 
“You prepare for every game, but obviously that’s not what you envision,” Boucher said. “They kind of came at us in the second in the early going and capitalized. Unfortunately, that was the game.”
 
He gave a lone goal to ... fellow American James van Riemsdyk, on a nifty backhand move in the third period.
 
“It felt a little bit better than usual to get a goal like that in a game like that,” JVR said of the goal.
 
“The key part is to get a win. The team played well from top to bottom. I don't think I had one of my better games like I wanted to have.”
 
Van Riemsdyk said Boucher knows most of his moves. And Boucher?
 
“I thought I had a good read on it,” he said. “Maybe I moved a little too quick. I felt he was going five-hole and I pushed across a little too quick.
 
“I don’t know if he shanked it or meant to go back. But I was surprised. I felt he’d go five-hole and I had the five-hole covered.”
 
Boucher appeared in six games (2-4-0) with the Phantoms, posting a 2.71 goals-against average and .908 save percentage.
 
He was called up on Sunday when Michael Leighton went on injured reserve with an injury to the ring finger on his stick hand.
 
His last regular season appearance in a Flyers jersey was April 9, 2011 in a 7-4 win over the Islanders. He entered the game in relief of Sergei Bobrovsky in the final game of the season and got a win.
 
That season, Boucher went 18-10-4 with a 2.42 GAA and .916 save percentage.
 
If he plays in The Peg, he knows the arena.
 
“I played in Winnipeg last year [with Carolina], one regular-season game and one preseason,” Boucher said. “It’s a tough place to play in. The crowd gets into it. Last year, they were pretty good at home. It would be a good challenge.”
 
Boucher said that coach Peter Laviolette has not told him whether he would play.
 
Shots
The Flyers' 46 shots on Monday were the most they’ve had since a 55-shot game at Winnipeg last Feb. 21 in a 5-4 overtime victory. The Flyers were 5-5-1 in games last season when they had 40 shots or more, and only two of the five wins came in regulation.

Also, the 22 shots on goal in the second period were the most in a period for the Flyers since they had 24 in the third period of a 6-4 loss against New Jersey on Feb. 4, 2012.

Loose pucks
Sean Couturier missed the game with the flu. His absence resulted in some line changes. Max Talbot moved between Tye McGinn and Mike Knuble, while Brayden Schenn centered Matt Read and Jakub Voracek. ... The Flyers mixed up their D-pairs in the first period, but only for a few shifts. Luke Schenn with Nick Grossmann; Grossmann and Bruno Gervais and Braydon Coburn with Kurtis Foster. ... Fans sit next to player benches in Toronto at each end. Bryzgalov had an ongoing conversation with an elderly man sitting next to him from the time he left the game in the second period to the period’s end. He even smiled for a few photos. ... Every skater on the Flyers' roster had at least one shot on goal. Every skater was also credited with at least one hit. ... The Flyers scored seven goals in one game on the road in Florida, but have just eight overall in their six road losses.

Shayne Gostisbehere was right: Let's not forget the big picture

Shayne Gostisbehere was right: Let's not forget the big picture

Shayne Gostisbehere spoiled us.

In 64 games, we were spoiled by his 17 goals, most by an NHL rookie defenseman since Dion Phaneuf scored 20 over a full 82 in 2005-06.

Spoiled by a historic 15-game point streak, the longest ever for a first-year blueliner.

And spoiled by four overtime winners, an NHL rookie single-season record.

With it all, Gostisbehere created a mighty and somewhat unfair challenge. He exceeded anyone’s wildest expectations and perhaps made for even greater ones as an encore.

So, naturally, questions and doubts have swirled around his quiet sophomore season. Speaking to reporters last week after a 4-1 loss in Buffalo, Gostisbehere, for the first time, expressed just a hint of frustration. In the midst of his current 22-game goal drought, he wanted to make a point.

“I’m doing my job,” he said. “I mean, I’m a defenseman, I’m not a goal scorer.”

It served as a reminder of what many wanted to see improve in Gostisbehere’s second NHL go-round — a more sound game in his own end by honing in on the defensive skills to his position.

Yes, the 23-year-old can change a game offensively, but could he be reliable and responsible defensively?

After all, Gostisbehere is a defenseman, like he said. We’ve already seen the offensive potential. From the onset, defensive growth is what head coach Dave Hakstol wanted to see.

“Consistency every day,” Hakstol said in early October. “Just be an everyday worker who is pushing hard to really improve himself as an NHL defenseman.”

Now, not only is Gostisbehere in a malaise offensively with four goals and 15 assists through 43 games, but he also hasn’t been sharp or consistent defensively. That certainly is a part of the concern permeating through the Delaware Valley. The 2015-16 Calder Memorial Trophy (top rookie) runner-up has been benched twice because of it and is a team-worst minus-17 on the season.

However, the positive here is he’s focused on it. Forget scoring goals for a moment. Even with Gostisbehere’s struggles, Flyers defensemen have provided offense among the league’s best. And for a stretch of 20 games following his first healthy scratch on Nov. 17, Gostisbehere was cleaner and more active with 17 giveaways and 24 blocked shots just partially telling the story. In the 17 games prior, he had 19 giveaways and only 20 blocked shots.

“I’m here to help the team in any way possible,” Gostisbehere said last Sunday. “Right now, it’s just getting back to work and doing the little things. It’s not going to come easy. That is something that me personally, and a lot of us have to look at.”

Even some of the all-time great defensemen went through the proverbial sophomore slump. Hall of Famer Nicklas Lidstrom went from 60 points and a plus-36 rating as a rookie to 41 and a plus-7 in his second season. Brian Leetch, also in the Hall of Fame, saw a dip in production across the board in Year 2 after winning the Calder Trophy.

But let’s not draw crazy comparisons. Let’s just understand the important thing here, which is Gostisbehere’s understanding that defense is paramount. He’s learning through his lumps, starting at the end of his breakout rookie campaign in which he looked spent from the NHL grind. He underwent minor offseason surgeries on his hip and lower abdominal, suffered a nasty face cut in the season opener, then a bone bruise on his right hand in December.

We’re just over halfway through the 2016-17 schedule. Gostisbehere is only 23 years old, a 2012 third-round pick with a cap hit less than 16 other Flyers in a season that looks more like a continued rebuild than a jump to contention.

Really, Shayne Gostisbehere should be some of the least of our worries.

Best of NHL: Surging Capitals rock Blues in St. Louis

Best of NHL: Surging Capitals rock Blues in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS -- Andre Burakovsky, T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov each had a goal and an assist to lead the Washington Capitals to a 7-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.

Jay beagle, Brett Connolly, Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams also scored, and Alex Ovechkin and Daniel Winnik each had two assists to help Washington earn at least a point in its 12th straight game (10-0-2) for an NHL-best 66 points.

Braden Holtby bounced back from his roughest outing of the season with 22 saves. Holtby was pulled after giving up a season-high five goals on 26 shots in an 8-7 overtime loss at Pittsburgh on Monday. He improved to 22-8-4 and 5-0 lifetime against St. Louis (see full recap).

Grabner scores 2 goals, Rangers top Leafs
TORONTO -- Michael Grabner scored two goals against his former team, helping the New York Rangers snap a three-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

Pavel Buchnevich, Brady Skjei and J.T. Miller added goals for New York, and Henrik Lundqvist made 23 saves following a series of rough outings.

Tyler Bozak and Zach Hyman scored for Toronto, which had a three-game winning streak stopped. The Maple Leafs had earned 21 of a possible 26 points in their previous 13 games (10-2-1). Frederik Andersen gave up four goals on 40 shots (see full recap).

Tavares leads Islanders to shutout of Stars
NEW YORK -- Getting a new coach this week didn't change things much for the Islanders -- and oddly enough, that's a good thing for New York.

John Tavares narrowly missed out on his second hat trick in a week, Thomas Greiss got his second straight shutout and the Islanders beat the Dallas Stars 3-0 on Thursday night in their first game since firing longtime coach Jack Capuano.

New York canned Capuano in the middle of his seventh season Tuesday, replacing him on an interim basis with Doug Weight (see full recap).

Niederreiter, Wild dodge letdown, edge Coyotes
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Nino Niederreiter had two power-play goals and an assist, including the go-ahead score for the Minnesota Wild with 7:06 remaining in a 4-3 victory over Arizona on Thursday night after the Coyotes came back from a two-goal deficit.

With Shane Doan in the penalty box for hooking, Niederreiter knocked in a nifty redirect of Mikael Granlund's slap shot for the winner. Devan Dubnyk stopped 20 shots for the Wild, who are 18-2-2 in their last 22 games.

Louis Domingue made 21 saves for the Coyotes, who lost their fourth in a row and fell to 2-12-1 in their last 15 games starting with a 4-1 loss to Minnesota in Arizona on Dec. 17 (see full recap).