Simmonds sparks Flyers' win to force Game 7


Simmonds sparks Flyers' win to force Game 7


They talked about a different attitude. One with a little vim and vinegar.

They talked about making Henrik Lundqvist do some work. Make some saves. Move for some rebounds.

They talked about playing the kind of Flyers hockey they played in the second half of the regular season to earn a playoff berth but hadn’t been seen yet in these playoffs.

“The passion and skating and tenacity was really good tonight,” coach Craig Berube said.

Everything came together Tuesday night in Game 6, as the Flyers thumped the Rangers 5-2 at Wells Fargo Center to set up Wednesday’s Game 7 in New York at Madison Square Garden (see Instant Replay).

“I’ve been to one in junior but never in the NHL,” Jakub Voracek said. “It’s do or die like it was today for us, just got to go and see what happens.”

The Rangers could have closed the Flyers out. Now the Flyers can close them out.

Wayne Simmonds had a big Game 6 with his first career playoff hat trick (see story). No player in the NHL had ever scored a playoff hat trick on Lundqvist until now (see video).

Who knows what’s in store for Wednesday?

“We take the positives from this and keep it rolling into [Wednesday] night,” Simmonds said. “It’s great that we’re having it back to back. The other games, we had a couple days off.

“That’s why you saw the series go one, one, one, one. Teams had time to regroup. Now we've got the momentum and can keep our foot on the pedal.”

He didn’t do it alone. Actually, the guy who carried the bulk of the load was goalie Steve Mason, who faced 36 shots and was nothing short of spectacular (see highlights).

Mason had two point-blank saves on Rick Nash and Anton Stralman. Plus, he added one enormous momentum save on Benoit Pouliot during a Rangers power play that ended seconds later with Erik Gustafsson bursting out of the penalty box for a breakaway goal that made it 3-0 and pretty much ended the game in the second period (see story).

Gustafsson was the replacement for Hal Gill who was the replacement for Nick Grossmann (ankle surgery).

“The whole game he was great and he has to be,” Berube said. “Our whole team did a much better job in the first period. We were more aggressive and got that [power-play] goal, which was huge and it put us in a good spot the rest of the game.”

He said the Flyers displayed more “passion” in this game.

“A more aggressive mindset that brings it out,” Berube added. “Our guys want to win. They brought a little more tonight, more tenacity in staying in the battles for loose pucks and blocking shots. You need that in the playoffs.”

Berube pushed the right buttons in this one with the addition of Gustafsson on defense and line changes that saw Michael Raffl on Claude Giroux’s line with Voracek and Scott Hartnell playing with Brayden Schenn and Simmonds (see 10 observations).

All those players combined for five goals and five assists for 10 points in the victory.

This win likely puts a little element of doubt in the Rangers’ minds.

This will be the Rangers' fourth Game 7 over the past three playoffs.

“Game 7s are what brings the best out in people,” the Rangers’ Brad Richards said. “It’ll be a hard-fought battle. We’re going home. We’ve had success in Game 7s, especially a lot of these guys in this room. That’s why we battled hard right to the end to get home ice.”

The Flyers feel since they won Game 2 up there, and have staked their claim all season as a team that plays best with its backs to the wall, they can do just that once again on Wednesday.

“We have a lot of character in this room and when we play a team game and the chemistry is doing very good on the ice, I think that’s when we’re successful,” Giroux said.

“Going back to the start of the year I think that’s what we were missing -- just playing as a team, everybody getting in the zone of the game and moving the puck. I think tonight was our best game of the series and hopefully it keeps going for Game 7.”

Don't expect Brandon Manning to lose his role when Radko Gudas returns

Don't expect Brandon Manning to lose his role when Radko Gudas returns

MONTREAL — It figures to be the hardest decision that Flyers coach Dave Hakstol has to make, but if Radko Gudas is to enter the lineup Tuesday against Buffalo, someone has to come out.
And what happens with the Flyers tonight in Montreal could impact that.
A year ago, in the blink of an eye, people would suggest Brandon Manning as the obvious pick to exit the lineup.
Yet since the preseason, the guy they call “Man Dog” — sometimes Hakstol refers to him as “Mad Dog” — has been the Flyers' best two-way defenseman. And he’s done it despite suffering a left shoulder injury in training camp.
Hakstol has so much faith in Manning that he switched up rookie Ivan Provorov so the 26-year-old Manning could settle the 19-year-old down. Given the ages here, that’s saying something.
Manning admits he felt honored being asked to be a mentor.
“As a young player, I’ve been in the same situation,” he said. “Obviously, last year being my rookie season, it was different.
“But just being a little older, having a lot of experience in the American League, I just wanted to make him comfortable out there. Make it as easy as possible for him.”
Through five games, Manning has a goal and four points and is a team-high plus-5. While the Flyers may have missed Gudas' physical edge, there’s no way Manning will be the odd man out “if” Hakstol makes a lineup change against the Sabres.
Even if he does make a move, Manning is supremely confident he’s earned his keep. He has been defensively sound without the puck, challenging entries at the blue line, handling his man down low and generating offense when he has a chance.
The Flyers gave him a two-year, $1.95 million contract in July to avoid an arbitration hearing.
“My attitude after I got the new contract was I wanted to present myself as a top-six D-man,” Manning said. “A lot of people are saying, ‘He’s a seven or eight,’ but I don’t listen to that stuff.
“Coming into the season, I saw myself as a top-six guy, I felt good in the playoffs ... just continue to get better and grow.”
Hakstol says he’s seen significant growth in Manning’s game.
“Steady improvement,” Hakstol said. “Last year was the first time he was able to get into a stretch of games. He knows he is in the lineup and what his role is.
“You got to be careful about reading into the last couple months of last season because sometimes that doesn’t carry over. But we see continued, confident, reliable, two-way play out of Mad Dog. He continued that again the other night [against Carolina].”
Hakstol said he liked the result of moving Mark Streit back with his old partner, Nick Schultz, and giving Manning a rookie to school a bit.

“They were a solid pair,” he said.
The Flyers' lineup tonight against Les Canadiens is unchanged from Carolina.
Manning says he has seen the biggest improvement in his play when compared to two years ago. Playing consistently in the lineup since last season has allowed his game to evolve a bit.
Manning came here in the fall of 2010 as an undrafted free agent and had already played more than three seasons in the Western Hockey League, where he began his pro career. By 2011, he was with the Phantoms. There were Flyer call-ups here and there but nothing of substance until last season, when he played 56 games in the NHL, largely because of injuries across Hakstol’s blue line. He and Gudas were a strong pairing from early-February to season’s end.
“The finish last year gave me a lot of confidence,” Manning said. “This year, more ice time, a little 4-on-4, playing on the penalty kill allows you to become more involved in the game.
“I’ve taken that on and tried to build off it. If you look at my career from junior, I’ve gotten better every single year.”
As for the nickname, it was one of the few lasting treasures left behind by Harry Zolnierczyk during the Peter Laviolette era. Except some people still call him Mad Dog, which is why Manning wears an undergarment that says “Man Dog.”
“Last year, Hak and Lappy started called me Mad Dog and then sometimes it’s Man Dog,” Manning. “I think he should know. It’s on my shirt.”
Hakstol is aware.
“He has a nickname and I have mine [for him],” Hakstol laughed.
Dale Weise’s three-game suspension won’t end until after the Buffalo game. He still has declined to talk about it.
His previous suspension was in 2013, when he was in Vancouver and had an illegal hit on Taylor Hall during an exhibition game.
Weise admits he badly wanted to play tonight against his former club.
“I look forward to playing here but we play here [again] in two weeks,” he said. “Sometimes we don’t come here twice a year.
“If it had been the end of the year, I would have been a little upset. It’s nice to come back in two weeks.”
F: Schenn-Giroux-Simmonds
D: MacDonald-Gostisbehere
G: Mason

Flyers-Canadiens 5 things: Long week starts with a bang

Flyers-Canadiens 5 things: Long week starts with a bang

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

The Flyers’ mettle will be tested this week with a stretch of five games in seven days.

That’s a lot of pucks.

It starts Monday night when the Flyers (2-2-1) visit the hot-starting Montreal Canadiens (4-0-1) at the Bell Centre.

Let’s get you set with five things to know for the matchup:

1. Goals, goals, goals
There should be an abundance of them Monday night.

The Canadiens are scoring an NHL-most 4.00 goals per game while the Flyers, coming off a six-goal outburst, are third at 3.80.

Montreal has been scary good through five games. Not only are the Canadiens lighting the lamp at a league-best clip, but they’re also allowing the fewest goals per game at 1.60 a night. They have hockey’s No. 1 goal differential (plus-11) and No. 8 penalty kill, having thwarted 23 of 25 opponents' power plays (92.0 percent).

The Canadiens' offseason additions of defenseman Shea Weber and backup goalie Al Montoya have paid instant dividends. Weber, acquired in a blockbuster trade that sent P.K. Subban to the Predators, has one goal, four assists and leads all NHL blueliners with a plus-8 rating. Montoya, who filled in early for a flu-stricken Carey Price, is 2-0-1 with a 1.30 goals-against average and .962 save percentage. Price, the 2014-15 Hart Memorial Trophy winner (NHL MVP), looks in form after playing just 12 games last season because of a knee injury.

2. A fresher Ghost
Shayne Gostisbehere went off for three points (one goal, two assists) in the Flyers’ 6-3 win over the Hurricanes on Saturday, his biggest output of the season.

It just so happened to come in a game in which Gostisbehere registered his lowest ice time of the season at 16:45, a significant drop from his previous low of 20:57. Before the defenseman’s three-point game, Gostisbehere played an average of 23:14 over the prior three games while totaling one point and a minus-3 rating.

Is it a coincidence Gostisbehere’s best game yet was in far less ice time? Maybe, but the 23-year-old is playing the Flyers’ most minutes (21:29 per game) after undergoing offseason surgery and finishing the longest year of his hockey life.

Defensemen Mark Streit (22:45), Nick Schultz (19:44) and Brandon Manning (18:41) all played season highs in minutes on Saturday, and there’s no way that was by mistake.

If head coach Dave Hakstol can manage Gostisbehere’s ice time and not rely so heavily on the second-year blueliner, it can only help the Flyers. A more rested Gostisbehere is a better Gostisbehere — and we all know how vital the 2015-16 Calder Trophy runner-up is to the Flyers’ power-play success, as well as defensive coverage.

3. Stop and start
Speaking of defensive coverage, while the Flyers are scoring quite a bit, they’re not stopping anyone. The orange and black are surrendering 3.80 goals per game — tied for fifth-most in the NHL — which is exactly what they score on average.

The Flyers can’t consistently bank on winning goal-fests.

Starting fast will be critical against the Canadiens, who close games as well as anyone. Montreal is outscoring its opposition 17-6 through the second and third periods. The Flyers have just one goal in the first period.

Facing this Habs team, it’ll be problematic if the Flyers fail to get going early.

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: Matt Read, why not? With five goals, the 30-year-old is astoundingly tied for second in the NHL with Maple Leafs phenom Auston Matthews. Last season, it took Read 29 games to score five goals. The previous season, he needed 56 games. This year, just five. Until he comes back to Earth, Read will be worth watching as much as any other Flyer.

Canadiens: The 22-year-old Alex Galchenyuk racked up career highs last season in goals (30) and points (56). To start this season, the 2012 No. 3 overall pick has a goal and four assists in five games. Young and offensive-minded, Galchenyuk has given the Flyers trouble in the past with 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 11 career games against them.

5. This and that
• Steve Mason has played in the Flyers’ last four games with three starts and one relief appearance. Michal Neuvirth has not played since last Tuesday. He is 6-4-2 with a 2.14 goals-against average and .926 save percentage in 13 lifetime games against Montreal.

• Price is 11-9-0 with a 2.61 GAA and .916 save percentage in 21 career games against the Flyers.

• Jakub Voracek leads the Flyers in points with seven but is third in the NHL in penalty minutes with 24.

• The Canadiens have won three straight games by a combined score of 13-4.

• Defenseman Michael Del Zotto (knee) and forward Scott Laughton (knee) returned to practice on Sunday.