Instant Replay: Blues 1, Flyers 0 (SO)

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Instant Replay: Blues 1, Flyers 0 (SO)

BOX SCORE

ST. LOUIS – The Flyers and the St. Louis Blues locked horns in a scoreless battle Thursday at Scottrade Center.

Up and down the ice they went, as Flyers understudy Ray Emery went skate-to-glove with Blues leading man Ryan Miller in the save department. Miller made 31 saves in regulation; Emery 28. It was 0-0 at the end of regulation and after the five-minute overtime.

But the Blues finally earned a 1-0 victory in the postgame-skills showdown known as a shootout.

In the SO, T.J. Oshie and Kevin Shattenkirk lit the red lamp for the Blues, with Oshie dipsy-doodling all over the place before beating Emery and Shattenkirk scoring on a wrister to clinch it. (Alexander Steen didn’t get off a shot, losing control of the puck.) At the other end, Miller stopped Vincent Lecavalier with his right pad and gloved a salvo from Claude Giroux.

The Blues are 9-3 in SOs this season; the Flyers 3-7.

It was a quite different game than the teams’ meeting March 22 at Wells Fargo Center. In that one, the Flyers decisively beat the Blues 4-1 to extend their winning streak to five games; they’ve gone 1-2-1 since then. The Blues won three in a row after the loss in Philly before losing to Dallas on Saturday.

So, the Blues had revenge on their minds, and the Flyers wanted to show the victory on the 22nd wasn’t a fluke in any way.

The Flyers started strongly Thursday, controlling the play early on and making Miller earn his keep. Once the Blues got their sea legs, they tested Emery at the other end as Steve Mason got a much-needed day off to rest up for the Flyers’ game Thursday vs. Columbus.

Michael Raffl had the Flyers best’ scoring chances through two, but Miller stopped him twice. Emery also stood tall and benefited from the Blues’ hitting a couple of posts in the second period.

Penalty killing was solid with the Blues killing two and the Flyers one, including Giroux’s high-stick of Oshie in a center-ice collision with 1:24 to play.

The start
The Flyers came out like gangbusters with odd-man rushes/situations in what seemed like every time down the ice and/or in the Blues’ zone. One time, Blues defensemen Alex Pietrangelo fell down and took out partner Jay Bouwmeester on the Blues’ side of center ice, giving the Flyers a two-on-none rush -- a two-on-none! Ryan Miller stopped the shot by Raffl on a pass from Giroux, a nightmare of a break for a goalie to see coming at him if there ever was one.

Another time, the Blues’ Patrik Berglund made like Jaromir Jagr and stickhandled around several Flyers in the Philly zone, then hit Brayden Shenn on the shin and the puck bounced out of the zone for another Flyers’ rush. The shots were 5-0 in favor of the Flyers before Jaden Schwartz got the first shot for the Blues 4:21 in.

Miller kept the Flyers off the board and helped the home team survive the visitors’ onslaught and take the crowd out of it just like home teams do all the time. Yep.

After one
The Blues ended up outshooting the Flyers 11-10 in the first period, 11-5 after the Flyers’ strong start, and Emery stood tall. He made strong stops on Schwartz, Ryan Reaves and Maxim Lapierre among others. Both goalies were the stars of the first period, through two periods really with the Blues holding a 19-18 edge in shots.

Ping
The goalie’s best friend -- the post -- helped out Emery twice in the second period. Schwartz hit the pipe on a slapper from the slot less than 10 seconds into the second period. The end of the period provided the perfect bookend, as the Blues’ Pietrangelo also did the ping routine behind Emery in the final 15 seconds.

Mutual foul
Referees Tim Peel and Don VanMassenhoven pretty much let the lads play without interfering with them. Only one foul was called in the first period -- the Blues’ Barret Jackman for delaying the game by clearing the puck out of play -- and the tone was set early in the second period when Andrew MacDonald and Alexander Steen went off for coincidental penalties for roughhousing in front of Emery at 1:28.

There would be no monkey business on this night. (The crowd later gave VanMassenhoven a cheer -- yes, they cheered the ref -- when the PA man announced that he was reffing his second-to-last game before retiring after 23 years.)

Great chances
Raffl had a glorious scoring chance in both the first period and in the second. Miller stopped him on the two-on-none with Giroux in the first period, and Miller slid to his left to rob Raffl with his left pad on a pointblank salvo early in the second period.

He had yet another chance in the third, but Miller stoned him on a semi-break-in. Miller also stopped Jakub Voracek on a wrap-around in overtime.

He’s baaaack
D-man Erik Gustafsson returned to the Flyers’ lineup after being lost in the vortex known as March -- 14 games as a healthy scratch; he hadn’t played in an actual game since Feb 27, when he was minus-2 in a 7-3 loss vs. visiting San Jose. He replaced injured defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who stayed home in Philadelphia for the quickie in-and-out trip after taking a slapshot on the chops Sunday vs. Boston. Gustafsson started the game on a pairing with Luke Schenn.

Connor McDavid, Oilers' speed, skill present Flyers with 'real good challenge'

Connor McDavid, Oilers' speed, skill present Flyers with 'real good challenge'

VOORHEES, N.J. — They are among the very best – and highest scoring — lines in the NHL this season.
 
And they’re gunning for the Flyers on Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
 
Connor McDavid’s unit with Milan Lucic and Leon Draisaitl have a combined 30 goals and 78 points worth of offense. 
 
Among them, the lightning quick McDavid leads the NHL with 36 points. All 11 of his goals are even strength. 
 
He doesn’t have a single power-play goal, but is tied for the league lead with several players, including Claude Giroux, with 10 power-play assists.
 
You can expect to see Pierre-Edouard Bellemare’s unit with Chris VandeVelde and Dale Weise against this line with defenseman Ivan Provorov drawing McDavid for the first time this season.
 
“Speed and skill that Edmonton has up front presents a real good challenge for our team,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “We have to be better with the puck tomorrow. 
 
“We didn’t do enough when we had the puck. Gave it up a little too easily and because of that, you end up playing defense a lot of the night and that’s what happened last night to us.”
 
Bellemare, who had his share of forward battles with Jaromir Jagr in Tuesday, likes to analyze the matchups against McDavid.
 
“He’s one of the best players in the world,” Bellemare said of the 19-year-old McDavid. “It’s tough not to be excited when playing against a guy who plays like this. He competes every second he is on the ice. That line is an impressive line.”
 
The Flyers better have some bad, choppy ice to slow McDavid down. Edmonton has some of the fastest ice in the league and the Oilers use it to their full advantage. 
 
Asked of McDavid’s tendencies, Bellemare said, “Is that a tendency? To be super fast?”
 
Yes it is. 
 
“When you play against them, he is a kid who is freaky fast right from the start,” Bellemare said. “Against that line, you saw [against Buffalo] that everyone knows how fast he is and he still had two breakaways.”
 
Which means the Flyers need to watch their turnovers, especially in the neutral zone where McDavid can go 60 feet in a flash.
 
“Even blue line to the top of the circle, you can’t turn the puck over,” Bellemare said. “Or he’s gone. This is a tendency we have to be careful of. All of the ice, you can’t give him any time or space. The less time you give him, the bigger chance you have to frustrate a player like this.”
 
Bellemare did some talking with Jagr a couple times in Tuesday’s game. So did Provorov. Bellemare says it helps to add psychology to the mix.
 
“You try to be in his face,” Bellemare said. “If you can win that battle against that line and our first line can win the battle against their fourth line, then it’s a win-win situation. I was trying to be in [Jagr’s] face.”
 
Jagr actually got angrier at Provorov and it showed with his hooking calls. But when Bellemare and Jagr went into the corner, Jagr got testy with his stick there as well.
 
“He was trying to give it to me a little harder,” Bellemare said. “Exactly what I need. If he is less focused on the puck, then maybe I have a chance to win that puck.”
 
McDavid’s focus will be solely on the puck.
 
“McDavid has been playing some pretty good hockey,” Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. “They’re a high-tempo team. A smart team. We’ve got to be ready.”
 
Loose pucks
Boyd Gordon came off long term injured reserve onto the active roster to give the Flyers 13 forwards. In doing that, Matt Read (oblique pull) went on injured reserve. … Defenseman Michael Del Zotto will sit against the Oilers while Radko Gudas returns from an illness. Gudas will be paired with Mark Streit, as Ivan Provorov remains with Andrew MacDonald for now. … Steve Mason, who did not practice Wednesday, will start in goal.

Ivan Provorov passes latest rookie test by shutting down Jaromir Jagr

Ivan Provorov passes latest rookie test by shutting down Jaromir Jagr

VOORHEES, N.J. — Maybe he saw some old video of how Chris Therien did it.
 
Or maybe Ivan Provorov just shrugged his 19-year-old shoulders and figured he’d do it his way.
 
Whatever the Flyers' rookie defenseman did, he shut down the ageless Jaromir Jagr during Tuesday’s 3-2 overtime victory against the Florida Panthers. 
 
Just like Therien used to do back in the day. 
 
Provorov frustrated Jagr into taking penalties. And when he wasn’t in the box for hooking the rookie, you could visibly see Jagr’s frustration across his face.
 
At one point, they were talking to each other on the ice. A Russian and a Czech. What was said?
 
“It stays in the game,” Provorov said with a smile Wednesday.
 
Provorov said he didn’t spend time watching a ton of video.
 
“We did our pre-scout in the morning,” he said. “That was it.”
 
Provorov, with help from centerman Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, held Jagr to one shot. His teammates were impressed.
 
“Unbelievable, a 19-year-old kid going against Jaromir Jagr,” Wayne Simmonds said. “I think he did a pretty good job. 
 
“I think he has done a great job all year long and he is only going to get better. If you watch him play, he is getting better and better, not every game but every shift.”
 
Provorov had an assist and two blocked shots, including a critical block on Reilly Smith that could have been a game-winner in overtime.
 
“Well we haven’t used him a lot in the 3-on-3 but we felt that it was time,” coach Dave Hakstol said. “Again, coming off of a real solid night where he’s playing against really good players all night long, he continued that right through the OT. 
 
“The impressive thing on that play is the read that he made to make that block … I haven’t looked at it on the replay or on tape yet. But I think that Mase might have been over on it but that play that Provy made was potentially a game saving play right there.”
 
Provorov doesn’t make flashy plays. He just makes the steady play every time he needs to. At season’s start, he was struggling to get his shot off without being blocked. Now he finds space along the blue to better position himself to get his shot through. He thinks before he reacts.
 
Behind the net, he is one of the few Flyers defensemen who almost never loses a puck battle. It’s often hard to believe he’s as young as he is.
 
“He moves so well and makes good reads, he’s a very intelligent player,” Andrew MacDonald said. “He has great poise with the puck, and not just for a 19-year-old, but for any aged player. 
 
“Defensively he always seems to be in the right positions and communicates well. We were fortunate to have some time together in camp, and a few games. I feel like we picked up where we left off the past few games.”
 
Jagr’s assets are size, strength — especially his lower core — and a skill set of moves without blinding speed.
 
Thursday will present a new challenge for Provorov: Edmonton’s Connor McDavid, the NHL’s leading scorer with 36 points. McDavid is all about youth and raw speed. 
 
“They’re different players, but it doesn’t matter,” Provorov said. “You take away time and space. Don’t give him time to get a lot of speed.”
 
This is another learning experience for Provorov. In a different age category. Hakstol credits assistant coach Gord Murphy for bringing Provorov up to speed at the NHL level.
 
“I think Murph has done a really good job in managing that progression along, most importantly, with Provy, managing it," Hakstol said.
 
“You can go back to the tell-tale sign of the tough night back in Chicago [third game]. That didn’t shake or rattle Provy in any way. He came back with pretty good determination the next day.
 
“You have to be an honest evaluator of your own game. I think Provy … whether it’s a real good night or a tough night, that allows you to keep an even keel and an even balance. I think that’s a real strength.”

Injury update
The Flyers on Wednesday placed left winger Matt Read on injured reserve and activated center Boyd Gordon. Gordon has been out since Nov. 3.