Happy in Boston, Jagr would have loved to stay a Flyer

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Happy in Boston, Jagr would have loved to stay a Flyer

Jaromir Jagr is 41 years old.

But from the way he acts in the Boston Bruins’ locker room -- and certainly from the way he looks on the ice -- he might as well be 21.

The former Flyer-turned-Star-turned-Bruin returned to the Wells Fargo Center for Tuesday’s 5-2 Flyers' win (see story). It was his first time in the building since he left during last year’s free agency, but he brought with him the same pluck and perspective he became known for during his sole season in Philadelphia.

And he tallied an assist on the B’s first goal of the night, too.                         

That the Flyers miss Jagr has been a constant refrain of the team’s disappointing 2013 campaign. His influence on key members of the club like Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell and Jakub Voracek was invaluable.

The fans in Philadelphia missed Jagr even before the Flyers’ fate was sealed this season. The media, too.

By now, though, it’s very old news that the Flyers didn’t offer Jagr a contract last summer. General manager Paul Holmgren admitted Tuesday that the Flyers did attempt to re-sign him, though, in February. Jagr and his agent chose to wait until July before eventually walking, as the organization waited on free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to decide their fates.

But it didn’t have to be that way. Jagr would have welcomed the opportunity to remain a Flyer.

“I was very happy here, everybody knew it,” Jagr said. “I love that team. I love the fans. I love the city. But on the other side, I always believed in God, and I always believed He finds the best place for me.”

When asked if he was upset when the Flyers elected not to re-sign him last summer, Jagr paused for a long time. But he understands how the “free market,” as he referred to it, works. Jagr owns a team in his native Czech Republic; he completely understands the desire of an organization to go after the best possible players available.

That’s just one of the veteran winger’s unique characteristics –- as much as he is still a factor on the ice (he has 35 points in 43 games this season), Jagr also views the sport with a wisdom and outlook usually reserved for coaches and general managers.

And in the case of Parise and Suter, Jagr actually thinks it’s a good thing the Flyers didn’t land either player.

“They’ve got good enough players here,” Jagr said. “They didn’t have to do it. They’re a good enough team here. If they would have a little more patience, I would think this team can win it in two or three years.”

Last May, on the night the Flyers were eliminated from the postseason by the New Jersey Devils, Jagr was the only one in the team’s locker room with a slight smile on his face. The run was over, he knew, but he had loved his time in Philly. Of a career that’s spanned more than two decades, Jagr said his year with the Flyers represented the most fun he’d ever had.

Now, having been in Boston about three weeks, Jagr still feels the same way. But he’s beginning to notice some similarities between his new team and the club with which he spent 2012-13.

“The fans are so good here,” Jagr said. “They follow the sport. Surprisingly, Boston is so similar to Philly. Boston fans, Boston people and Philly people, they love the sport, they love the team. They follow the hockey, they follow the baseball, they follow the football. It’s similar.”

Jagr's effect on the two cities has also been similar, even after just a few weeks in Boston. When asked what Jagr has brought to the Bruins in his nine games with the team, former Flyer Dennis Seidenberg grinned and said, “Everything.”

Coach Claude Julien got a little more specific.

“Good scoring depth and a great example for younger players to see what it takes to be a pro for a long time,” Julien said. “He’s a great teammate, easy to get along with. He’s brought a lot of good things and he’s been a great help for us when he came to us. We had some injuries so he was able to fill in some holes that we really needed filled.”

Jagr signed just a one-year deal during last year’s free agency with the Dallas Stars for $4.5 million, before he was traded to Boston at the deadline earlier this month. He will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season.

At this point, it’s anyone’s guess where he ends up next year. He declined to discuss whether he’d want to return to the Flyers –- though of course it’s a possibility. They could use him.

All that’s basically certain is that he will end up somewhere in the NHL next year, as long as he has a say in the matter. Jagr will be 42 in February, but he’s far from ready to hang up his skates.

“I’ll stop playing when I die, man,” he said, with his trademark Jagr grin.

Flyers' power play rediscovers swagger in win over Canucks

Flyers' power play rediscovers swagger in win over Canucks

BOX SCORE

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – The Flyers got some swagger back Sunday night.

But especially so on the power play, which entered Sunday's clash just 2 for 19 over the last six games.

Two markers on the man advantage helped the Flyers edge the Canucks, 3-2, at Rogers Arena in Vanvoucer (see Instant Replay).

“It all comes back to finding a way to produce – and they did that tonight,” said Flyers coach Dave Hakstol, who had called for his power-play participants to rediscover that swagger.

Hakstol’s club won for the first time in its last nine games in Western Canada. More importantly, the Flyers (28-24-7) moved within a point of the eighth and final playoff spot, currently shared by Florida and Boston, in the Eastern Conference.

Thanks to the power-play success, the Flyers built a 3-0 lead in the game’s first 23 minutes and then hung on, atoning for a sub-par effort in a one-sided loss to the Oilers in Edmonton on Thursday night.

The Flyers converted two of three power plays while blanking the Canucks on all four of their man advantages. The loss prevented the Canucks (26-28-6) from getting closer to a Western Conference playoff berth.

“I thought we were playing some pretty good hockey of late, but the pucks weren't going in,” said Flyers center Brayden Schenn, who scored the winning goal on the power play at 2:38 of the second period. “Tonight, we tightened up defensively again from Edmonton's game and were able to score a few more goals. It's a huge two points going home."

Wayne Simmonds, also on the power play, and Jakub Voracek scored the Flyers’ other goals.

“We needed a win,” Simmonds said. “Especially after the game in Edmonton, this is good for the morale."

Shayne Gostisbehere assisted on all three goals, recording the first three-point night of his career.

Schenn’s winning goal came only a minute and 27 seconds after Voracek gave the Flyers a 2-0 lead at 1:11 of the second by sending Sean Couturier’s huge rebound into a gaping net behind Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller. Voracek’s goal was his first in 10 games. He had not scored since Jan. 25 against the New York Rangers.

How did long sought-after goal make him feel?

"Like I scored a goal,” deadpanned Voracek. “We won the game. That’s the way I looked at it. It doesn't matter who scored the goals. Special teams were huge tonight. I liked our power play. We were going all 60 minutes. This one kept us in the race."

The Flyers were a well-rested team thanks to a two-day break between games and a three-day break before the start of the road trip. The Canucks, on the other hand, were playing their second of back-to-back home games with only a day’s rest following a grueling six-game United States road trip. But there was still considerable suspense over the final 30 minutes.

Markus Granlund and Jannik Hansen tallied for the Canucks, who are known as comeback artists, at 3:43 and 12:42 of the second, respectively, before the Flyers shut Vancouver down the rest of the way. Voracek indicated the Flyers were not nervous in the final frame.

"I don't think we changed anything to be honest,” he said. We were pretty tight in the neutral zone. We didn't give them much. When we had a couple of breakdowns, [Michal Neuvirth] was on his act.”

Neuvirth stopped 18 of 20 shots as the Flyers outshot the Canucks, 28-20. He enjoyed a much better start Sunday, holding the Canucks scoreless in the opening period after allowing four goals on his first 12 shots on Thursday in Edmonton. One of his better saves came with just over a minute into the game as he got his toe on Markus Granlund’s dangerous chance from in close.

"I felt good,” said Neuvirth. “I have been practicing well and playing with confidence. The last game, it didn't work out. I put that one behind me and restarted my mind and got back to work tonight.”

“I thought he was excellent,” said Hakstol. “He was calm and settled in there. You can go back through that 60 minutes and you can pick out three or four pretty darned good saves.”

Neuvirth excelled while making his fourth consecutive start and sixth in the past seven games overall.

“It feels good,” he said of the heavy workload. “It feels better when we win.”

But he was not about to get too excited. The Flyers have a tough clash at home Wednesday against NHL-best Washington and a road game Saturday at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field against the rival Penguins as part of the NHL’s Stadium Series.

“We have a tough schedule coming and we have to be ready,” Neuvirth said.

Instant Replay: Flyers 3, Canucks 2

Instant Replay: Flyers 3, Canucks 2

BOX SCORE

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The Flyers passed a freshness test Sunday night — barely.

After building a 3-0 lead in the first 23 minutes, the Flyers held on for a 3-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena.

The Flyers were the more rested team. They had two days off here following Thursday’s loss in Edmonton — and a three-day break before the start of the trip.

But they almost allowed Vancouver to come back in the Canucks' second of back-to-back home games with only a day’s rest following a grueling six-game United States road trip.

The Flyers (28-24-7) moved within a point of the eighth and final playoff spot, currently shared by Florida and Boston, in the Eastern Conference. The Canucks (26-28-6) were denied a chance to gain ground on the final postseason berth in the Western Conference.

Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek and Brayden Schenn — who added the goal that proved to be the winner — scored for the Flyers. Two of the three goals came on the power play. Both teams failed to score in the third period.

Markus Granlund and Jannik Hansen replied for the Canucks.

With the win, the Flyers avoided going winless on a three-game tour through British Columbia and Alberta. They posted their first victory in Western Canada in the past nine attempts.

Goalie report
Coach Dave Hakstol showed loyalty in Michal Neuvirth after the Flyers' netminder allowed four goals on his first 12 shots in Thursday’s one-sided loss in Edmonton. Neuvirth started off much better Sunday, as he got his toe on Markus Granlund’s dangerous chance from in close early and stopped all eight shots that he faced in the first period.

Power play
Hakstol was looking for the Flyers to rediscover their “swagger” on the power play. He got his wish early as Simmonds jammed in a Shayne Gostisbehere rebound only 5:45 into the game. The puck barely crossed the line but was clearly in, as confirmed by a video review. Vancouver winger Alex Burrows was off for hooking at the time. In the second period, Schenn padded his NHL power-play goals lead as he gave the Flayers a 3-0 lead at 2:38. Schenn scored his 14th power-play goal of the season on a shot from the slot as Simmonds screened Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller. With his goal, Simmonds moved into a tie for second in NHL man-advantage markers with Washington’s Alex Ovechkin. Both players have 12.

Voracek busts his slump
The drought is over for Voracek. The winger busted his scoring slump as he gave the Flyers a 2-0 lead at 1:11 of the second period. The goal was Voracek’s first in 10 games. He had not scored since Jan. 25 against the New York Rangers.

Shayne the unfriendly ghost
Gostisbehere did not live up to his nickname. Ghost was quite visible as he assisted on all of the Flyers’ goals. It was Ghost's first career three-point game.

Did you notice?
Defenseman Michael Del Zotto had a chance for a rare breakaway with about five and a half minutes left in the first period, but missed a well-placed lead pass as he was coming out of the penalty box. Instead of a scoring opportunity, the missed pass led to an icing call and a face-off in the Flyers’ end.

Up next
The Flyers head back home to meet the NHL-best Washington Capitals on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center. Puck drop is set for 8 p.m.