3 Stars: Flyers go toe-to-toe with Western Conference-best Blues but fall again in shootout

3 Stars: Flyers go toe-to-toe with Western Conference-best Blues but fall again in shootout

A look at the Philadelphia Flyers’ 1-0 shootout loss to the Western Conference-leading St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night at Scottrade Center in St. Louis through the perspective of three players who had an impact on the game.


Much like this past Sunday’s contest with the visiting Boston Bruins, that was one heck of a hockey game despite the outcome. And much like this past Sunday, the Flyers deserved a better fate. But they have nothing to be ashamed of. A point is a point, especially at this time of year. The Flyers will take it.


3. Claude Giroux

On a night when defense and goaltending ruled the roost and no player really stood out on the offensive end beside Blues forward Jaden Schwartz, who had a game-high six shots and was buzzing around the puck all game long, it should come as no surprise that Giroux didn’t have his best game of the season.

Part of that is due to the smothering defense the Blues play. But Giroux had his chances to try and make something and was a bit too passive.

In the first period, two Blues defenders tripped over each other and allowed Giroux to carry the puck into the zone untouched with Michael Raffl alongside on the wing for a mini 2-on-0. Instead of going full speed, Giroux slowed down and telegraphed a pass to Raffl that Blues goalie Ryan Miller read and then Miller was able to slide across to stop Raffl. Giroux probably would make a move and shoot if he could have that one back.

In the second period, Giroux skated with the puck down the wing and led the Flyers on an odd-man rush. Instead of shooting, he tried a low-percentage centering pass that the Blues easily knocked away.

The opportunities weren’t plentiful but when they were there, the execution wasn’t.

He was also mauled in the faceoff circle as he won just five of 18 draws, good for 28% on the night. And that high-sticking penalty he took late in the third period could have been costly but his penalty killers picked him up.

It was just one of those nights for the captain. He’ll bounce back.


2. Ray Emery

Emery starting in net was a bit of a surprise from Flyers head coach Craig Berube but the Flyers’ backup goalie was superb and had every answer until the dreaded shootout.

He stopped all 28 shots he faced in regulation and overtime and only allowed shootout goals to Mr. America T.J Oshie and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.

Emery faced quality chances all night from the Blues but stood tall each time to get a piece of puck at the very least. He did leave a few rebounds around the crease but his teammates were there to get those out of harm’s way.

It was another solid game from Emery, whose last three starts have now come against the Chicago Blackhawks, Los Angeles Kings and these Blues. Those are three of the best teams in the stacked Western Conference and he’s performed admirably. In fact, he’s given up just five goals in those three games. You can’t ask for much more from your backup.

Tuesday’s game will actually go down in the record books as Emery’s second shutout of the season since he didn’t allow a goal in regulation or overtime.

The shootout is so cruel.


1. Ryan Miller

If you thought the goaltending performance by Boston’s Tuukka Rask this past Sunday was something, go back and look at what St. Louis’ newly-acquired netminder did on Tuesday night because he was even better.

Miller stopped all 31 shots he faced in regulation and overtime and then two more in the shootout to earn the victory.

He kept the Blues in the game with impressive save after impressive save as the Flyers poured on the pressure in the first five minutes of the contest including that save on Raffl on the 2-on-0.

His most remarkable save of the night came in the second period as the teams played 4-on-4. Flyers defenseman Mark Streit hit Raffl with a nice pass while on an odd-man rush and Miller stretched across to somehow get his pad on Raffl’s one-timer from the circle. It was right after that crazy save that you started to get a feeling he was going to be unbeatable on Tuesday night.

Miller then went on to save the game in overtime when he robbed Jake Voracek twice on the doorstep with the pad as Voracek found a seam in front of the net and had two great chances.

That could well have been the best game Miller has played since the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. He was sensational. There’s really no other way to put it.


Through the last 130 minutes of hockey they’ve played, the Flyers have taken every punch the two best teams in the NHL have thrown. Not only have they taken those punches, they’ve gotten right back up and thrown haymakers of their own and hung with the Bruins and Blues every step of the way. Despite the outcome, the Flyers once again proved they are to be taken seriously.

The Columbus Blue Jackets come to Wells Fargo Center for a big Metropolitan Division matchup on Thursday night. After Tuesday’s results, the Jackets are just four points behind the Flyers for third in the Metro. With the New York Rangers winning in Vancouver, they are now three points ahead of the Flyers for home ice in the opening round of the playoffs but the Flyers still have two really important games in hand.

Flyers-Hurricanes 5 things: Avoiding another bad 1st period

Flyers-Hurricanes 5 things: Avoiding another bad 1st period

Flyers vs. Hurricanes
7 p.m. on CSN, Pregame Live at 6:30

Another season, another slow start for the Flyers.

After dropping their home opener Thursday, the Flyers (1-2-1) welcome the Hurricanes (1-1-2) to the Wells Fargo Center Saturday night looking to snap a three-game losing skid.

Here are five things to know for Game 5 of 82.

1. Slow starts
Through four games, there are a few areas behind the Flyers' lousy start.

The defense continuing to abandon the goaltending and the lackluster power play are near the top of the list, but look no further than the first period of games.

The Flyers have been outscored, 6-1, in first periods through four games. Only Tampa Bay and Vancouver have scored fewer first-period markers with zero. The six first-period goals allowed are tied for the second most in the NHL. Only Calgary has more with seven.

It was an issue last season as well. In 2015-16, the Flyers were outscored, 62-50, in first periods, and the 50 goals ranked in the bottom five of the league. We've talked about slow starts in terms of wins-losses, but this issue extends to first periods too.

While the Flyers have exerted far greater efforts in second periods — leading the league with eight second-period tallies — getting behind so early results in playing from behind, and while resiliency is a trait of winning teams, it's ultimately cost them thus far.

On Saturday night, it doesn't get any easier for the Flyers, either. Carolina is an improved club from last season, which it, too, struggled scoring in opening periods.

That hasn't been the case this season. The 'Canes have outscored opponents, 5-2, in first periods, so it'll be important for the Flyers to come out of the gate with more authority.

2. Read-emption Song
One of the highlights of the early season for the Flyers has been the play of Matt Read.

Read scored his team-leading fourth goal of the season during the Flyers' 3-2 loss to the Ducks on Thursday, dusting off a play that brought back memories of years past.

The 30-year-old got behind the Anaheim defense on the backhand, drove to the net and deposited the puck into the net past John Gibson for a go-ahead score. It was very much a play we saw Read make a few years ago, but has been missing the last two seasons. Read came into training camp early this season hungrier than the previous two seasons, and on Wednesday, general manager Ron Hextall said Read knew he had to get back to the brand of hockey he was playing in 2013-14.

After the game Thursday, Read said his self-evaluation this offseason resulted in him realizing he has to get into the greasy areas to score and avoid playing the outside.

"I think that's something the last two years, I kind of faded away from, I was a perimeter player," Read said Thursday. "It's easy to be a perimeter player if you're going to be making plays and stuff like that. But if you want to score goals, you've got to get into those tough areas, be nasty around the net and battle for loose pucks."

3. Not so special
Special teams so often decide hockey games and it should factor into Saturday's game, too. Carolina comes into the game with a power play and penalty kill both in the top five.

The Hurricanes' man advantage has found twine five times in 16 chances, and their penalty kill has killed off 15 of 16 power plays against. On the other hand, the Flyers have had their struggles on special teams in the early going.

On Thursday night, the Flyers’ PP played a huge role in their loss. They finished 1 for 7 on the man advantage against Anaheim but were 1 for 5 in the second period alone. With Anaheim asking to be beaten, the Flyers couldn’t make the Ducks pay. 

“I thought we had pretty good power plays, our first power play,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “I thought we had a good power play during the second, scored a good goal. Had opportunities to stretch to 3-1. It’s disappointing we couldn’t.

“We had one poor power play at the end of the first, where we weren’t able to get set up at all. Our power play was OK. The bigger thing for me is the goal we gave up a few seconds after the last power play in the second period. Those are the type of goals that as a team we can’t give up.”

4. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: It hasn't been the smoothest transition to the NHL for Ivan Provorov, one of two 19-year-olds on the roster. Provorov has shown glimpses, but there have been hiccups, as expected. He had a nightmare of a game in Chicago on Tuesday, and followed it up with a not-so-great effort against Anaheim. But we have to remember he's a teenage rookie. Patience is important. Still, the spotlight should remain on him Saturday. How does he respond after a pair of games in which he's made visible mistakes?

Hurricanes: Carolina has a few young players that are a joy to watch, but let’s highlight defenseman Justin Faulk, who quarterbacks the power play. The 24-year-old has a goal and three assists in four games, with two of the helpers coming on the man advantage. An extremely gifted blueliner, Faulk has scored 15 and 16 goals, respectively, the last two seasons, but that wasn’t enough to get him on Team USA for the World Cup of Hockey. We all know how that panned out.

5. This and that
• Read has 14 points in 20 career games against the Hurricanes.

• Dale Weise was suspended three games for an illegal check to the head of Anaheim defenseman Korbinian Holzer. Roman Lyubimov will replace Weise in the lineup.

• Carolina has killed off its last 11 penalties and has scored at least one power-play goal in three of its four games and two power-play goals in two of its four games.

Matt Read showing Flyers he's done his homework

Matt Read showing Flyers he's done his homework

To Matt Read’s credit, his hockey education never stopped.

Through a second straight subpar season with a murky summer ahead, Read realized he had to change, even on the cusp of his 30th birthday.

It was in late April when the much-maligned winger met with head coach Dave Hakstol and turned in his homework, almost like a student-teacher conference to address troubled grades.

Read vowed he had learned.

Now, nearly six months later, he’s off to the best start of his six-year career.

“He has always been a hard-working guy,” Hakstol said Thursday. “He is a guy that is doing things with a lot of confidence. For me, it started with Reader back in late August. He was in here working early, getting ready, getting prepared and he has carried that through everything he has done so far this year.”

What he has done is rip off a team-high four goals in four games, attacking the net at will and with an undeniable bravado. Really, it’s a Matt Read we haven’t seen before. On Thursday night in the Flyers’ 3-2 home-opening loss, he took a bouncing puck at the blue line, careened toward the net on a sharp, decisive angle and buried his fourth goal with skilled stick work.

“For myself, I’m just trying to play with speed and get to the net,” he said. “I had all the speed and kind of beat the goalie to the back post.”

Last season, the bottom-six forward needed 26 games to score four goals. The year prior, it took 54 games.

So Read studied. What exactly did he grasp?

“Even my linemates, we talk about that if we’re in the offensive zone, we’ve got to get somebody in the blue paint there,” Read said Thursday. “I don’t know the stat, but I think it’s near 90 percent of all goals are within 10 feet of the net. So if you want to score goals, you’ve got to get in that area.”

This offseason, Read looked in the mirror and, with some self-evaluation, knew what had to be done.

“I think that’s something the last two years, I kind of faded away from, I was a perimeter player,” he said. “It’s easy to be a perimeter player if you’re going to be making plays and stuff like that. But if you want to score goals, you’ve got to get into those tough areas, be nasty around the net and battle for loose pucks.”

A new outlook has brought renewed confidence. It’s fair to question whether over the last two seasons if Read ever makes the play he made Thursday. He also knows it’s early and more can be accomplished.

“I feel good out there right now,” Read said. “Hopefully I continue to have good health, keep working out and being strong on my feet. A lot of it has to do with confidence. If you’re shy or not having the confidence, you probably won’t go to that far post.

“I know for myself in the last two years, I know I’ve got to be better. Even going into last year, I knew I had to be better and I did as much I could in the offseason to have a good season and I guess it didn’t go my way, or over the course of the season, it took its toll.”

Read amassed 11 goals and 15 assists in 79 games. The 26 points were a personal low for a full season. Those figures didn’t sit well with Read and general manager Ron Hextall noticed.

“You know what, Reader came in early before camp, he's absolutely worked his tail off,” Hextall said Wednesday. “He understood that he hadn't been as good a player as he should have been last year. He understood it, he took it upon himself, put in a great summer, came in early, got himself in great shape, and he's a hungry hockey player right now and he's been back to where he was.”

When signed by the Flyers in 2011 out of Bemidji State University, it was uncertain where Read projected. Over the past two seasons, he’s fallen to a fourth-line role and was even healthy-scratched last season. More buzz surrounding his status within the organization heated up entering training camp as the Flyers made additions and Travis Konecny blossomed.

Thus far, however, Read has won himself a promotion to the third line because of his early success. He played only 16 power-play seconds Thursday, but if goals keep coming and the Flyers produce more 1-for-7 results on the man advantage, maybe Hakstol increases the 30-year-old’s minutes there, as well.

“When Matt Read is playing like he can play,” Hextall said, “he's a helluva player.”

Not a bad student, too.