10 observations from Flyers-Blue Jackets

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10 observations from Flyers-Blue Jackets

BOX SCORE

Ten random observations from the Flyers' 5-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

1. Brayden Schenn began the game on the Flyers’ top line with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. The line went without a shot for 20 minutes. In the second period, Michael Raffl replaced Schenn — and was an immediate boost. That period alone, the line combined for five shots on net.

2. And speaking of Schenns, Tuesday’s game was a rough one for both Schenn brothers. Luke, too, had a tough outing. Too many times he sent a pass into an area dominated by white jerseys or simply lost control of the puck in critical situations. He was on the ice for three Blue Jackets goals (see Instant Replay).

3. Ray Emery gave up two goals on four shots to start the game. He did the same thing Jan. 27 against the Arizona Coyotes, and was pulled. That didn’t happen this time, but this was not Emery’s best performance; he had trouble tracking the puck, gave up far too many big rebounds and simply wasn’t the goalie he seemed to be in his last few starts.

4. Which leads me to my Emery theory: I think he plays better when he feels he is “The Guy” — as in, someone like Anthony Stolarz is backing him up — than he does when Steve Mason or even Rob Zepp is on the bench. In a weird way, knowing he wouldn’t get pulled takes the pressure off while, at the same time, there’s “good” pressure on him to perform and carry the team. Feel free to tell me how wrong you think I am in the comments.

5. Wayne Simmonds has been a bright spot in recent games while others’ offensive output has declined. He now has seven points in his last five games — and his line with Sean Couturier and Matt Read has looked good. His tip-in goal against the Jackets Tuesday night was particularly impressive.

6. Read, too, had another solid outing, which is encouraging, especially taking into account how he spent the first half of the season. His four-game point streak came to an end, yes, but it’s good news for the Flyers to see his improved play continue.

7. Blame the ice? The circus was in town while the Flyers were on the road, and reconfiguring the arena for hockey lasted well into Tuesday. That could be one reason why the passing seemed off — for both teams — throughout the night. But the Flyers seemed to struggle particularly early on in the night.

8. It was a classy move by the Flyers to honor Scott Hartnell, who recently appeared in his 1,000th game. PA announcer Lou Nolan read a congratulatory message as Hartnell was shown on the big screen to loud cheers and applause, and Flyers Charities donated $10,000 to his #HartnellDown foundation. Hartnell is still loved in this city.

9. The Flyers’ nine-game point streak was curious, if only because the team didn’t look particularly impressive through that stretch of games. (Don’t get me wrong; they did at times, just not consistently.) But one thing they were doing well consistently was starting games strong. That was not the case Tuesday, however, and is exactly why they found themselves down 2-0 less than seven minutes into the first period.

10. Both Luke Schenn and Michael Del Zotto were on the ice for three of the Blue Jackets' four goals — but Del Zotto's game was far less troubling. Yes, he had the goal that tied the game 2-2 in the second period, but beyond that, he actually looked solid in all areas Tuesday night. Not perfect, but definitely passable.

Best of NHL: Trocheck's last-second goal lifts Panthers past Blues

Best of NHL: Trocheck's last-second goal lifts Panthers past Blues

ST. LOUIS -- Vincent Trocheck scored with just under 5 seconds remaining to lift the Florida Panthers to a 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Monday night.

Jonathan Marchessault also scored and James Reimer stopped 26 shots to help the Panthers complete a 5-0 road trip -- their first perfect trip of at least that many games in franchise history.

Reimer has won five straight decisions and has not lost in regulation since Jan. 7 against Boston, going 6-0-1 since.

The Panthers moved into a tie with Boston for third place in the Atlantic Division, but have the edge because they have a game in hand on the Bruins.

Kyle Brodziak, playing for the second time after missing 10 games due to a broken foot, scored for the Blues and Jake Allen finished with 31 saves. St. Louis lost its second straight since winning six in a row (see full recap).

Coyotes use three-goal 1st period to beat Ducks
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Radim Vrbata capped Arizona's three-goal first period and the Coyotes held on for 3-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night.

Christian Dvorak and Jakob Chychrun also scored for Arizona, and starting goalie Mike Smith had 27 saves before leaving about 4 1/2 minutes into the third period after a collision in the net. Marek Langhamer helped kill a power play after being pressed into action for his NHL debut and stopped six of the seven shots he faced.

The Coyotes have won four of their last six.

Langhamer gave up Ryan Getzlaf's second goal of the night with 26.8 seconds to play, but thwarted two quality shots in the final seconds.

Jonathan Bernier gave up three goals on six shots in the first period for the Ducks. John Gibson came on to start the second and stopped all 14 shots he faced (see full recap).

Playing with 'swagger,' Gostisbehere flashes glimpse of rookie self vs. Canucks

Playing with 'swagger,' Gostisbehere flashes glimpse of rookie self vs. Canucks

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – The Flyers’ “Ghost” headed home Monday on a high note — for a change.

Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere recorded three assists for the first three-point night of his NHL career Sunday as the Flyers edged the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 in the final game of a three-game Western Canada road trip (see story). In one night, he matched his offensive output of his previous 10 games played. 

He was a healthy scratch for three games in the meantime. On many other occasions, he has struggled while dealing with the NHL’s proverbial sophomore jinx following a standout rookie season. 

“It’s been a while coming,” Gostisbehere said. “It’s good to get some points, but I thought it was more important to get two points for our team.”

The win moved the Flyers (28-24-7) within a point of the eighth and final playoff spot, currently held by Toronto, in the Eastern Conference. With considerable thanks to Gostisbehere, the club’s much maligned power play scored on two of three man-advantage opportunities. 

“He played great,” Wayne Simmonds said of Gostisbehere. “He had his confidence and a little bit of swagger.”

Gostisbehere’s first assist enabled the Flyers to get off to a quick start offensively as Simmonds deflected in his point shot only 1:11 into the game. On the Flyers’ second goal, Gostisbehere head-manned the puck to Sean Couturier on a rush. Jakub Voracek easily put Couturier’s big rebound into a gaping net with Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller caught out of position.

One minute and 27 seconds later, Brayden Schenn took Gostisbehere’s pass and put in a shot from the slot. Altogether, Gostisbehere’s assists enabled the Flyers to build an insurmountable 3-0 lead in the game’s first 23 minutes.

“Ghost has had his ups and downs this year, but he's a heck of a player and has unbeliveable skill,” Simmonds said. “He can be a catalyst offensively for us, that’s for sure.”

Gostisbehere now has four goals and 18 assists on the season. Until Sunday, the 23-year-old had seemed like an apparition of his former self. 

He had a less-than-ideal recovery period from offseason hip (labrum) and abdominal surgeries, due to his participation with Team North America in the World Cup. Then he suffered a facial cut in the Flyers’ season opener and took a bruise on his right hand in December.

He also struggled defensively to the point where he was scratched — for the first time in his NHL career — in November and was later benched and pulled out of the lineup again. Heading into Sunday’s game, he had a woeful minus-22 mark, but he was only on the ice for one Canucks' goal.

He helped the Flyers shut out the Canucks in the first and third periods. 

“We don’t like how they came back, but we held the lead and, like I said, we got the two points,” Gostisbehere said.

Ghost’s offensive showing evoked memories of his seemingly other-worldly 2015-16 season. In 64 games last season, he notched 17 goals, the most by an NHL rookie defenseman since Dion Phaneuf, then with Calgary, who scored 20 over a full 82-game schedule in 2005-06. Gostisbehere also enjoyed a historic 15-game point streak in 2015-16, the longest ever for a first-year rearguard, and he was a runnerup for the league’s Rookie of the Year award.

His return to form Sunday bodes well as the Flyers face two Metropolitan Division rivals this week, first Washington at home on Wednesday and then the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Saturday in an outdoor game that will pack plenty of hype and pressure. 

After those games, the Flyers face a more compressed schedule than they have lately. The Feb.12-27 portion of their calendar contains only five games. But starting Feb. 28, they will play their final 21 games of the regular season over 41 days as they push to make the playoffs.

“We definitely know we’re a playoff team, for sure,” Gostisbehere said. “It shows. It’s a big test for us (this) week, playing these really good teams.”