Philadelphia Flyers

Flyers Weekly Observations: Fatal Jekyll and Hyde show continues

Flyers Weekly Observations: Fatal Jekyll and Hyde show continues

For all intents and purposes, we've reached the final curtain on this Flyers season.

While the Flyers are not mathematically eliminated from playoff contention yet, their postseason hopes are just about cooked after another typically inconsistent week of action.

The Flyers fell to the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets, 5-3, Monday night, ran roughshod over the Pittsburgh Penguins, 4-0, Wednesday and finished up the week with a 6-2 blowout loss in New Jersey to the Devils on Thursday night in a game that wasn't even as close as the final score dictated.

After all that, the Flyers find themselves seven points back of the upstart Toronto Maple Leafs for the last wild-card spot with 12 games left heading into Sunday's contest against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Let's dive into the week that realistically ended the Flyers' playoff hopes.

• This week, in so many ways, was a microcosm of the inconsistency that has plagued this group of Flyers all season long, and for the past few years, for that matter. There's a long list of flaws to this Flyers team. Go ahead and take your pick. But the inconsistency has been the most pressing and fatal flaw. You just don't know which Flyers team is going to show up on which night. You could get the team that showed some fight but ultimately fell to the Jackets in a hard-fought loss Monday. Or you could get the team that hit on all cylinders and stifled the Penguins at every turn Wednesday. Or you could get the team that barely showed up and was pasted in embarrassing fashion Thursday by a conference-worst Devils team that entered the contest on a 10-game losing streak. That inconsistency is a huge anchor and a glaring sign a team isn't playoff-worthy. Every team has an off night every now and then. Look at the Penguins on Wednesday. But with a playoff-worthy team, you know the team and effort you're getting 99 percent of the time. Even with the inexperience of the young Maple Leafs, you know they're going to scratch and claw for points almost every night. Steve Mason summed it up nicely Saturday after the lousy effort vs. Devils. "We can't go from having one of our best games of the year against Pittsburgh and then come around the next night against Jersey with that kind of outcome and overall team game," he said. "That's what makes good teams and separates them. Consistency on any given night, what kind of effort they have." And that's also what separates a playoff team from a team sitting at home on the couch come mid-April.

• Travis Konecny had the best offensive showing of his very young NHL career Monday when he potted two goals against the Jackets. He ripped a wrister past Sergei Bobrovsky in the first period, then showed great patience in the second period as he held on to the puck and fired it past Bobrovsky short side in the second period. But he had a rookie learning moment when he made a crucial mistake in the third when he hit a Blue Jacket on the way to the bench and was whistled for a penalty. Brandon Dubinsky netted the winning goal on the ensuing power play. With the flashes he shows, it can be tough sometimes to remember Konecny is a rookie who just turned 20 years old. Monday's mistake is something to learn from. In his defense, though, I'll say this: At least he outwardly showed some grit this week.

• Another week of struggles for the Flyers' power play. The power play had a disheartening 1-for-8 showing Monday against the Jackets. The Flyers lost that game by a final of 5-3, and that was with a late empty-netter for Columbus. So if the Flyers had hit on just one more of those power plays, we could have been looking at a whole different story that game and a whole different story this week. So Dave Hakstol switched up the units Wednesday, putting Ivan Provorov on the top unit and dropping Jake Voracek down to the second unit. It worked once in four tries against the Pens as Wayne Simmonds picked up a power-play tally. But it floundered again in Jersey, getting zilch in three chances. Dating back to March 2, the Flyers are 3 for 33 with the man advantage in their last eight games. They're 3-4-1 in that span, with four of the five losses coming by two goals or less. That stings.

• Much like Konecny, Provorov experienced rookie ups and downs this week. On Wednesday, he made an excellent play when he kept a bouncing puck in at the blue line during a Flyers power play in the second period. Moments later, Simmonds potted his 15th power-play tally of the year. But he made a critical mistake Thursday in Jersey when he turned the puck over behind the goal line and it wound up in the net courtesy of Adam Henrique. Provorov has had a very good rookie season and has stepped into a tough top-pairing role on a struggling Flyers’ defense. And he’s excelled. In fact, heading into Sunday's matchup with Carolina, Provorov leads the Flyers in ice time with 21:50 per night. There's something to be said for that for a 20-year-old. It can be tough to remember he's a rookie, too. His play this year should give confidence that those bumps in his game will be smoothed out with more experience.

• If only Sean Couturier could play the Penguins every night. He was great Wednesday with a goal (just his third in 18 games) and a career-high eight shots on goal. He had those eight shots on goal through two periods, too. And, of course, he held Evgeni Malkin pointless and to just two shots on goal. In 25 regular-season games against Pittsburgh, Couturier has 13 points (two goals and 11 assists). And there was that hat trick in Game 2 of that ridiculous first-round playoff series in 2012. You just notice Couturier on the ice way more when he's playing against Pittsburgh.

Coming up this week: Sunday vs. Carolina (7:30 p.m./CSN), Tuesday at Winnipeg (8 p.m./CSN). Thursday at Minnesota (8 p.m./CSN), Saturday at Columbus (2 p.m./CSN).

Gunn's bullet points: Run game comes alive and a kicker saves the day

Gunn's bullet points: Run game comes alive and a kicker saves the day

Five bullet points from the Eagles' 27-24 win over the Giants in their home opener (see breakdown).

• The smallest guy on the field was the biggest hero Sunday. Jake Elliott's 61-yard field goal on the final play of the game saved what could have been a disaster. Wide receiver Torrey Smith said, "We didn't even know he could kick it that far." Other players admitted they had hardly spoken to Elliott in the two weeks he's been here, but they would definitely go out of their way to exchange words with him in the future.

• Thirty-nine (39?!?!) rushing attempts in one game! The Birds had a grand total of 41 attempts in the first two games. The Giants came into this affair allowing 133.5 yards per game on the ground. The Eagles busted them up for 193. Wendell Smallwood told me, "We just knew where the holes would be after watching them on tape." Lane Johnson added, "We did a great job of mixing up our runs inside, outside, mix directions and delay runs."

• The Giants' trio of Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard combined for 24 catches, 278 yards and three touchdowns. They killed the Eagles on slant routes. Considering how depleted the Eagles' secondary was, Jalen Mills said they wanted to keep everything in front of them. When I asked cornerback Patrick Robinson why they played Beckham so much in single coverage, he responded, "We didn't think he was that healthy, but in the second half, we found out otherwise."

• As if the Birds' defense wasn't banged up enough going into this game, they lost Fletcher Cox and Jordan Hicks along the way. Safety Rodney McLeod, who was a scratch for this game, told me he will be ready for Philip Rivers and the Chargers next week.

• Numerous players said they were proud of the way the team came together in unity in response to President Trump's comments. Alshon Jeffery told me, "It doesn't make a difference if you're black or white, we are all in this together."

Flyers camp notes, quotes and tidbits: Roster chatter, Nolan Patrick's status, more

Flyers camp notes, quotes and tidbits: Roster chatter, Nolan Patrick's status, more

VOORHEES, N.J. — The Flyers play a preseason back-to-back set when they visit the Rangers on Monday, then host them Tuesday.

With such a schedule setup, head coach Dave Hakstol already has two lineups in mind as the Flyers continue their evaluation for the opening night roster. The training camp roster is technically at 29, but with three players injured (Cole Bardreau, Colin McDonald, Anthony Stolarz), it's actually at 26 and must be down to 23 by the Oct. 4 season opener.

The obvious roster hopefuls are forwards Nolan Patrick, Oskar Lindblom, Scott Laughton, Taylor Leier and Mike Vecchione, and defensemen Robert Hagg, Sam Morin and Travis Sanheim.

"Everybody that's here is still in the mix," Hakstol said after practice Sunday at Flyers Skate Zone. "I said it a couple days ago, this is when the competition gets pretty high."

If Sunday's practice combinations are any indication of what Monday's lineup will look like at Madison Square Garden, Travis Konecny, Vecchione, Leier and Lindblom will be extras. They were the four-man rotational line Sunday.

Hakstol said there could be some differences from the groupings Sunday when it comes to Monday's game. However, he does hope to play each bubble player at least one of the two games. So whoever sits Monday is more than likely to play Tuesday.

Eyes on Patrick
Patrick is feeling better and better.

After assisting Shayne Gostisbehere's overtime winner in Wednesday's 3-2 preseason split-squad win against the Islanders, Patrick played 16:50 Thursday in the 2-1 OT loss to the Bruins at TD Garden. The No. 2 overall pick saw some power-play time, had a few shots on goal and a pair of takeaways.

"Last game was the most comfortable I've felt," Patrick said Sunday.

He's now played in three preseason games, as well as the rookie game.

Patrick centered Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds on the second unit at practice, a spot in which suits his strengths playing between two finishers with a good blend of ways to score.

Look for that line to stick Monday.

"We've only had one game together, but I think Simmer's obviously a top player in the league, he was an All-Star last year, he can put the puck in the net and make plays," Patrick said. "So he's big down low to create space. Jordan's great offensively, he's got a lot of speed, so I just try to play smart and find them when they're open and make plays."

Sound with studs
Hagg has put together a strong camp and preseason.

The 22-year-old defenseman is well-groomed and prides himself on play in his own end. Playing alongside Gostisbehere doesn't hurt, either. It allows Gostisbehere to focus a bit more on producing offensively because Hagg understands his defensive role.

The last two days, Hagg has been paired with Ivan Provorov.

With those two, he isn't complaining and seems to relish being the complementary piece.

"They're pretty good guys to play with," Hagg said.

"I don't mind it. Let them do their job and I'm taking care of the defense, kind of what I did last year, as well. Start getting used to it and I don't have any problems with it.

"I think my best game is in the D-zone, shutting down guys, 1-on-1 battles. And then sure, I can follow up in the game and find some pucks here and there. But my main focus is to be good in the D-zone, take care of that and the rest will take care of itself."

Roster two cents
Vecchione has played only two preseason games thus far and he was among the four-man line at practice. He should play at least one of these games on the back-to-back, but at this point, he looks like he'll start the season at AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley. There just isn't a spot for the rookie forward right now and he won't be on the roster to be an extra man.

Laughton seems to be a safe bet to make the Flyers' roster. He's been playing in the exact role the Flyers are hoping for him and he proved growth to general manager Ron Hextall last season with the Phantoms.

Leier has done everything you'd ask for from a guy fighting for a spot. However, the numbers game likely pegs him at Lehigh Valley to start 2017-18.

Nonetheless, Hakstol has been impressed by the 23-year-old winger, who had a two-goal game Wednesday in the 3-2 split-squad win at the PPL Center.

"It's about playing his role, what his role is," Hakstol said. "Taylor's a responsible two-way forward. When he's been with us, he's played in that third, fourth-line wing type of role, he's killed penalties — that's his chair. He's done a good job of that so far in camp and that's why he's got himself solidly in the mix."

Can't get enough
Weal is always getting in extra work.

Ever since coming to the Flyers in the January 2016 Vinny Lecavalier trade, he is often the first player on the ice before practice even starts. On Sunday, he was the last one off of it with Konecny. Together, the two took in some bonus ice time.

The 25-year-old Weal just loves the rink and it's gotten him from lots of healthy scratches in 2015-16 to what should be a prominent role in 2017-18.

Quotables
"I think they're going to try to stick to it a little bit more. I don't mind it. It's like impossible to cheat now in faceoffs. But some guys, it's kind of a skill to be able to cheat in faceoffs. I don't know, I think they're going to stick to it, and if they do, it's good. Guys are going to be not trying to cheat because you want to stay in the faceoff dot. We'll see what happens."

- Claude Giroux on refs being stricter in the faceoff circle during preseason

"I had quite a few chances that game. Just being able to jump up in the rush at the right times. You're seeing a lot more in the NHL these days that a lot of the offense is being pushed from D-men getting up in the play and joining the rush and creating chances. That's something I've had as a part in my game all the way through my career. I'm just trying to bring that to this level."

- Travis Sanheim on his goal against the Bruins Thursday

Practice lines and pairings

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek (more on this here).
Jordan Weal-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Jori Lehtera-Valtteri Filppula-Dale Weise
Michael Raffl-Scott Laughton-Matt Read
Mike Vecchione-Taylor Leier-Oskar Lindblom-Travis Konecny

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Brandon Manning-Shayne Gostisbehere
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas
Sam Morin-Andrew MacDonald

Current roster breakdown

Forwards (18)
Cole Bardreau (injured)
Sean Couturier
Valtteri Filppula
Claude Giroux
Travis Konecny
Scott Laughton
Jori Lehtera
Taylor Leier
Oskar Lindblom
Colin McDonald (injured)
Nolan Patrick
Michael Raffl
Matt Read
Wayne Simmonds
Mike Vecchione
Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal
Dale Weise

Defensemen (8)
Shayne Gostisbehere
Radko Gudas
Robert Hagg
Andrew MacDonald
Brandon Manning
Sam Morin
Ivan Provorov
Travis Sanheim

Goalies (3)
Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth
Anthony Stolarz (injured)