Boston Bruins

Flyers suffer OT preseason loss to Bruins, but see strong first impression from Brian Elliott

Flyers suffer OT preseason loss to Bruins, but see strong first impression from Brian Elliott

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BOSTON — The last time Flyers goaltender Brian Elliott started a game, things ended quickly and didn’t end well.

Starting for the Calgary Flames in Game 4 of a Western Conference first-round series last April against the Anaheim Ducks, Elliott gave up one soft goal on three shots and was pulled 5:38 into a 3-1 series-ending loss.

It was only preseason, but Elliott made a Flyers debut that helped him forget that lackluster performance and get off to a fresh start with his new team Thursday.

Elliott stopped all 18 shots he faced during his two periods on the ice in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Boston Bruins at TD Garden (see observations).

“Yeah, it felt pretty good,” Elliott said. “Just trying to see pucks and basically get acclimated in a game situation. We haven’t seen that in camp at all. So playing a game is fun, to get back in there, you forget how actually fun it is to play a game.”

The Flyers signed Elliott to a two-year, $5.5 million contract on July 1 for more than just fun. They want him to combine with Michal Neuvirth to give them the type of successful goaltending tandem they’ve lacked for a while.

Elliott, in turn, wants to prove they were wise to move on from Steve Mason and bring him in. Elliott had some highlights during his season with the Flames, including an 11-game winning streak and a 2.16 goals-against average and .927 save percentage over his last 21 games of the regular season. In the playoffs, he was a bust with an 0-3 record and .880 save percentage.

In addition to getting back into action, Elliott wanted to impress his new team.

“A little bit. You just want to play the same anyways, doesn’t matter what team you’re on or how long you’ve been with the guys,” he said. “But for sure when it’s your first time, you want to make a good impression. You only get one first impression, right. But it’s just a stepping stone, working towards that first game of the season here.”

The Flyers had several power plays early in the first period and Elliott wasn’t tested much until he gloved a shot from Bruins forward Anders Bjork on a 3-on-2 at 8:46.

After a television timeout, the Bruins put more pressure on the Flyers and Elliott remained sharp. He blocked away a point shot from Brandon Carlo and then gloved Bjork’s attempt on the rebound from the slot at 9:18.

Elliott made 10 saves in the first period.

During a power play early in the second period, Elliott had to be at his best as the Bruins kept the puck in the attacking zone for the first 90 seconds. Elliott made five saves during the penalty kill, including two difficult ones on Bruins center Patrice Bergeron from around the slot.

The Flyers' attack picked up the pace in the second half of the second period and took some of the heat off Elliott. He had earned the respite and then coach Dave Hakstol switched to Alex Lyon to start the third.

Hakstol has seen Elliott live up to the Flyers’ expectations so far in camp and in his preseason debut.

“I think he got in early and I just think I’ve seen every day at camp him kind of building his game,” Hakstol said. "I don’t think he tried to come in with a finished product on Day 1. I think he kind of started on the ground floor of building his game, obviously, after a good summer. And every day he seemed to ... kind of build his game. His last couple of days of practices have been really good, really clean and he carried that into the game tonight. So it’s a good start for him. It’s nice to see that.”

Flyers-Bruins preseason observations: Power play goes 0 for 9 in OT loss

Flyers-Bruins preseason observations: Power play goes 0 for 9 in OT loss

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BOSTON — It's still early in preseason, so the Flyers have a lot of time to iron out their power-play problems.

And they have a lot of problems.

Even with their most veteran-laden lineup of the preseason on the ice against the Boston Bruins on Thursday, the Flyers went 0 for 9 on the power play and lost, 2-1, in overtime at TD Garden.

Assistant coach Kris Knoblauch had most of the Flyers’ weapons but the man-advantage didn’t score, didn’t threaten and did little to build momentum.

Rookie defenseman Travis Sanheim scored a 4-on-4 goal at 4:57 of the third period to make it 1-0. The Bruins answered at 6:39 with a goal by defenseman Paul Postma to tie it 1-1. Kenny Agostino scored the game-winner 3:20 into overtime, as the Flyers fell to 1-1-2 in preseason action.

On to the observations:

• The loss and the power-play struggles aside, the Flyers avoided one potential nightmare. Second-year forward Travis Konecny had to leave the game after just 18 seconds of first-period play. But he returned to action later in the period.

Konecny was hit late and high at the red line away from the puck by Bruins rookie forward Jesse Gabrielle just before the whistle came 18 seconds into the game. Konecny returned with a little more than four minutes remaining in the first period.

Konecny looked himself when he nearly scored in the final minute of the first period, but his redirection of a Sanheim pass on a 3-on-2 went wide of the Boston net.

Gabrielle, trying to make the Bruins as a bottom-six forward, should hear from the NHL department of player safety, although Konecny’s return might’ve gotten Gabrielle off the hook.

• Goaltender Brian Elliott made his Flyers preseason debut and made 18 saves on 18 shots through two periods before Alex Lyon replaced him at the start of the third (see story). Lyon made nine saves, including one on Anton Blidh on a 2-on-1 late in the third period and one on Zach Senyshyn on another 2-on-1 in overtime to preserve the 1-1 tie.

• Sanheim was strong at both ends throughout the game, getting active on offense even before the game. He made a big play to break up a 2-on-1 with a Flyers power play late in the second period. Sanheim could make it difficult for the Flyers to pick among their three rookies for two spots on defense. Of course if Brandon Manning isn’t ready to start the season, there could be three spots available.

• Despite practicing as a left winger on Tuesday, captain Claude Giroux made his preseason debut at center between Oskar Lindblom and Jakub Voracek.

Giroux looked himself throughout the night, both 5-on-5 and on special teams. Early in the second period he canceled out a Boston power play by drawing a holding penalty on Bruins defenseman Postma during a race to the puck in the Boston end. He was also in the box for Sanheim’s goal and just exiting the box when Postma scored for Boston.

Coach Dave Hakstol said Thursday morning he would like to test Giroux out on the wing during a game later in the preseason.

• Voracek made his preseason debut and had his skating legs early as he won a race with Bruins forward Blidh into the Boston zone and drew a slashing penalty with a drive to the net.

• The Flyers dodged a miscommunication in the first period shortly after the Gabrielle penalty expired. When Konecny’s linemates Michael Raffl and Sean Couturier jumped on the ice for their shift, no one jumped over the bench with them and the Flyers played with four skaters for about 10-12 seconds. The puck changed possession a couple times in safe areas of the ice. And one could say the strategy worked because during the next shift, Voracek drew a penalty.

• Flyers forward Colin McDonald nearly joined Konecny on the sidelines near the three-minute mark. Off a faceoff win, Andrew MacDonald’s slap shot hit his teammate. McDonald hobbled to the bench. The Flyers didn’t need any more friendly fire considering they were already without Konecny.

• Lindblom joined Giroux and Voracek on the Flyers’ first line and that carried over to the power play, where Lindblom was part of the first unit along with Giroux, Voracek, Ivan Provorov and Wayne Simmonds until late in the second period. After the Flyers' power play had gone 0 for 5, Hakstrol switched Lindblom with Valtteri Filppula and that seemed to jump-start the man advantage. The Flyers didn’t score but put more pressure on Tuukka Rask during their sixth power play.

• Thursday morning the Flyers reduced their roster by 18 players. Forwards Connor Bunnaman (Kitchener — OHL), Pascal Laberge (Victoriaville — QMJHL), Ivan Kosorenkov (Victoriaville — QMJHL), German Rubtsov (Chicoutimi — QMJHL), and goaltender Carter Hart (Everett — WHL) were returned to their junior teams.

Then the Flyers assigned forwards Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Radel Fazleev, Tyrell Goulbourne, Danick Martel, Carsen Twarynski, Mikhail Vorobyev; defensemen James de Haas, Mark Friedman, Maxim Lamarche, Phil Myers, Reece Willcox; and goaltenders Leland Irving and John Muse to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley (more on moves here).

Here’s a look at how the Flyers lined up to start the game:

Oskar Lindblom-Claude Giroux-Jakub Voracek
Michael Raffl-Sean Couturier-Travis Konecny
Jordan Weal-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Taylor Leier-Valtteri Filppula-Colin McDonald

Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas
Sam Morin-Andrew MacDonald
Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg

Flyers Notes: Estimating Wayne Simmonds' next contract; early edge for Brian Elliott?

usa-wayne-simmonds-david-pastrnak.jpg
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Flyers Notes: Estimating Wayne Simmonds' next contract; early edge for Brian Elliott?

The Boston Bruins and right winger David Pastrnak agreed on a six-year, $40 million contract Thursday that comes with an average annual value of $6.67 million. The 21-year-old just completed a career-best season that saw him score 34 goals with 36 assists for 70 points in 75 games. The Bruins are hoping the incredibly skilled Pastrnak, who was a restricted free agent, has only scratched the surface at the NHL level.

Following this season, Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds will be eligible to sign a new pact with the organization prior to becoming a free agent in 2019. Teammates Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek both agreed to contract extensions in July heading into their respective contract years. 

Instead of evaluating Simmonds with analytics that don't cut to the core of his real value, let’s simply judge him as a consistent goal scorer. Judging Simmonds on a goal-per-game basis would disguise his real value, so let’s look at his production by minutes played since he doesn’t see the ice time of other wingers like Alex Ovechkin, Patrick Kane or Corey Perry. While he obviously doesn’t possess the skill set as the aforementioned superstars, you may be surprised how frequent Simmonds scores goals in relation to other players at his position. 

Since joining the Flyers in 2011-12, Simmonds has amassed 163 goals in his six seasons in orange and black. For Simmonds, that’s one goal for every 46.60 minutes of ice time. How does that stack up to other right wingers in the league?

Goals per minute played among RW since 2011-12
Vladimir Tarasenko (STL) - goal/40.29
Nikita Kucherov (TB) - goal/43.97
Corey Perry (ANH) - goal/45.55
Wayne Simmonds (PHL) - goal/46.60
Patrick Kane (CHI) - goal/47.02
Jeff Skinner (CAR) - goal/48.06
Phil Kessel (PIT) - goal/52.43
T.J. Oshie (WSH) - goal/61.77

Pastrnak’s $6.67 million AAV would be a nice target for Simmonds and his agent to aim for, but a more realistic starting point should be the eight-year, $46 million extension the 30-year-old Oshie received from the Washington Capitals this past summer. In choosing an eight-year term, the Caps were able to carry a lower cap number in relation to the AAV. Simmonds may not possess Oshie’s creativity, but he’s been a more steady contributor.

Working against Simmonds will be his age. He’ll be 31 when a new contract goes into effect and general manager Ron Hextall might have reservations with a max eight-year deal that would extend Simmonds to the age of 39. A more realistic scenario would be an extension in the five-to-six year range with an AAV of $6-6.5 million that would pay Simmonds market value as one of the more consistent goal scorers over the past six years.  

Early edge for Elliott?
Brian Elliott won’t be surprised if his new teammate and fellow netminder Michal Neuvirth rolls into practice or even a morning skate with bags under his eyes.

Neuvirth became a father for the first time Tuesday when his girlfriend Karolina — sister of Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas — gave birth to their first child, daughter Emilka. It was about this same time last season when Elliott and his wife Amanda were eagerly awaiting the arrival of their son, Owen, who was born Oct. 2, just days prior to the start of the regular season. It was a whirlwind time for Elliott, who was adjusting to a new team in a new city with an entirely new lifestyle.

As one might expect, Elliott struggled with the Flames, starting the season off 3–9–1 with a 3.31 GAA and an .885 save percentage in his first 14 games. By mid-December, Elliott started to turn his season around and regained the starting job during the second half of the season, leading Calgary into the postseason.

“I don’t want to blame my month-old son for anything, but it’s a huge adjustment,” Elliott said. “You realize how actual selfish you are when you’re in this profession when you have to be your best. You do everything you can in your power to be prepared and when someone throws a wrench in the system, it’s definitely an adjustment. 

"Once we got some help from some family, feeding and sleeping got better. Your worries start to lessen where you can actually just focus on the task at hand. Leave work at work and leave family at home when you’re at work. It’s just hard to compartmentalize those things when it first starts.”  

Unlike Elliott, who is now on his third different team in the past 16 months, Neuvirth was fortunate he didn’t have to uproot after signing a two-year contract extension in March. For any expecting parents, finding a new doctor and moving into a new neighborhood just months before childbirth can create a “shock to the system.” With Owen Elliott now approaching his first birthday and on the verge of taking his first steps, Elliott has been quick to childproof his new home — a house they moved into sight unseen, just trusting the word of others and their real estate agent.  

Another advantage Neuvirth might have over Elliott is a family member to help out. Uncle Radko is right around the corner for diaper changing duties.

Roster moves
The Flyers made four cuts Thursday following Wednesday's rookie game against the Islanders. Forwards Morgan Frost (Sault Ste. Marie), Isaac Ratcliffe (Guelph), Matthew Strome (Hamilton) and Maksim Sushko (Owen Sound) have all been loaned back to their respective teams, putting the training camp roster at 57. Training camp opens Friday in Voorhees, New Jersey.