Series in Review: Flyers-Capitals 2016

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

The Flyers weren’t supposed to be in the playoffs in 2016. Not with a new head coach with no prior professional experience behind the bench and a group of upstart players that used a strong second half run to even enter the discussion. 

But there they were, on what was technically the NHL’s final day of the regular season -- it was only Game 81 for the Flyers due to a prior postponement -- clinching a playoff spot by beating the Pittsburgh Penguins at home.

Before the game, Lauren Hart sang God Bless America and held up a phone that had Flyers founder and chairman Ed Snider on the other end of the line. The man who made the Flyers possible was in failing health and sat back to watch as the team reached the postseason. Two days later, Snider passed away.

The Flyers, with the series and playoff run dedicated to their founder, were set to face the Washington Capitals, the team that had won the President’s Trophy with a staggering 120 points, 11 more than any other team. So the odds were already stacked against the Flyers, but it turned out to be a much closer series than the results showed.

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Series in Review: Flyers-Penguins 2018

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

The Stanley Cup Playoffs were slated to start today and as the season progressed into the final 13 games, the Flyers were in all likelihood going to be a part of them. While the playoffs and the rest of the 2019-20 season for that matter have no real timetable for returning, here’s a way to fill the void a bit.

For the next few weeks, we’ll take a look back on several playoff series in Flyers history, both won and lost by the Flyers, and review them to see some of the turning points within the series and how the result could have been different. The series will be reviewed in reverse chronological order starting with some of the most recent.

We begin with the Flyers last playoff series back in 2018 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Game 1: Penguins 7, Flyers 0

Really a disaster from start to finish. The Penguins jump out to a 3-0 advantage and never looked back. Sidney Crosby scored the final three goals of a the 7-0 defeat in a lopsided Game 1.

Perhaps the Flyers best chance to make a game of this was in the first period. They had one power play while trailing 2-0 and another shortly after falling behind 3-0 and could not take advantage. 

The Penguins finished the game outshooting the Flyers, 33-24, with Matt Murray recording a shutout.

Game 2: Flyers 5, Penguins 1

This was a very different game for the Flyers, though it took until the final minute of the period for them to get on the board. Shayne Gostisbehere scored on the power play with 37 seconds remaining to give the Flyers their first goal and lead of the series.

Just 47 seconds into the second period, Sean Couturier got a bounce off Kris Letang for the second goal of the game for the Flyers, giving them a 2-0 lead. 

A big moment came in the middle of the period as Claude Giroux coughed up the puck to Sidney Crosby and sent him away on a breakaway, but Brian Elliott made the save. Crosby had another great chance as Phil Kessel fed him on the backdoor in the final seconds of the period and he put the chance through the blue paint, slamming his stick over the crossbar in frustration.

That proved to be a huge turning point. Travis Konecny and Nolan Patrick scored goals in the first five minutes of the third period to take a 4-0 lead. Though Patrik Hornqvist answered with a goal just 17 seconds later, the Flyers capped off the 5-1 win with an empty-net goal by Andrew MacDonald.

Game 3: Penguins 5, Flyers 1

The series returned to Philadelphia and offered the Flyers a chance to take the series lead. Instead, the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions weathered an early storm before taking control of the game.

Patrick breezed by Olli Maatta in the first two minutes of the game, getting stopped by the glove of Murray. Murray made another save on Travis Sanheim moments later off the rush, keeping the game scoreless. Midway through the period, Crosby got on the board again with a wraparound to give the Penguins the only goal of the first, but things quickly got out of hand in the second.

The Penguins struck for two quick power-play goals, the first on a feed from Kessel to Derick Brassard in the slot and the second on a one-timer from Evgeni Malkin on a 4-on-3. Just five seconds later, with the game back at 4-on-4, Brian Dumoulin scored to make it 4-0, essentially putting a fork in the game.

Sanheim scored his first playoff goal with 6:18 left in the period, but the damage had been done. The Penguins added another power-play goal from Justin Schultz in the third, capping off a 5-1 result in their favor.

Game 4: Penguins 5, Flyers 0

More of the same for the Penguins in Game 4. An early power play allowed them to vault to the lead with Malkin scoring off a nice passing play. As the period progressed, the Flyers were starting to get the better chances, but after a flurry of chances on Murray, a counter-rush for Malkin and Kessel resulted in a goal as Kessel finished on his chance to make it 2-0.

Again, the Flyers had the better chances late in the period, including a breakaway for Konecny in the final minute of the period, but could not take advantage.

Midway through the second, the Penguins did what they had in their two wins in the series and broke the game open in short order. Letang scored on a rising shot to make it 3-0 at 8:04 and Crosby buried a puck at the side of the net less than three minutes later to make it 4-0.

By that point, the result was pretty well decided, with the Flyers best chance to even make it a game again coming when Malkin took a double-minor for high-sticking late in the period. The Penguins scored the lone goal of the third, with Riley Sheahan scoring in the final five minutes of the game to cap off the 5-0 defeat for the Flyers and put their season on the brink.

Game 5: Flyers 4, Penguins 2

With their season on the line, the Flyers needed their top players to step up and they did. It started in the first with Claude Giroux getting the first goal of the game to give the Flyers a lead late in the first period. 

In the final eight minutes of the second, the Penguins struck twice quickly to once again take control of a game. Bryan Rust tucked in a wraparound with eight minutes left in the period, then Jake Guentzel beat Michal Neuvirth through the five-hole to make it 2-1 with under four minutes to play in the period.

The Flyers could have been buried in the final minutes of the period when the Penguins got a power play, but the Flyers struck for a shorthanded goal with Valtteri Filppula getting a rebound to tie the game at two.

The third period was a chess match with the Penguins getting the bulk of the chances. Just days before this game, Sean Couturier had collided with Radko Gudas in practice and suffered a torn MCL in the process. Playing despite the injury, Couturier provided the heroics with a goal with 1:16 remaining in the third.

Just seconds later, Crosby had the tying goal on his stick and Neuvirth robbed him with the glove, preserving the lead for the Flyers. Matt Read scored into an empty net and the Flyers survived to extend the series. 

Game 6: Penguins 8, Flyers 5

Late in Game 5, Ivan Provorov suffered a separated shoulder but played in the game anyway. Couturier was also suiting up for another game while injured and the Penguins were playing without Evgeni Malkin due to injury.

Couturier started things early, scoring on a rebound at 2:15 to give the Flyers the lead. Crosby answered by jumping on a rebound off Neuvirth to tie the game at one at 6:30. Carl Hagelin gave the Penguins the lead just 47 seconds later, being left alone in front for a one-timer from in tight. The Flyers tied things back up with 4:12 left in the period with a one-timer from MacDonald.

In the second, the Flyers appeared to take control, getting an early breakaway goal from Couturier just 40 seconds into the period and Scott Laughton scoring off a rush with 7:46 remaining in the period.

At this point, things were starting to shift the Flyers way and the thought of a Game 7 back in Pittsburgh was definitely on the table. But as they had done throughout the series, the Penguins struck quickly and turned the game in their favor. 

Just 1:21 after the Flyers had gained a two-goal lead, Hornqvist scored to cut it back to one. Then with under a minute to play, Guentzel scored on a deflection that leaked through Neuvirth to tie the game at four.

In the third, the injuries just started to catch up to the Flyers. Kessel stole the puck from Provorov in the opening minute and fed Guentzel on a 2-on-0 to give Pittsburgh the 5-4 lead. Despite the goal, the Flyers had their chances to even things back up, getting a 4-on-3 power play with 9:23 remaining. They could not score and shortly after the penalty expired, everything unraveled.

With Letang exiting the box, Neuvirth took control of a clear and played it around the endboards to Couturier to keep it away from Letang. Letang took Couturier’s legs out, flipping him and forcing a turnover. There was no penalty called, and the puck went into the slot for Guentzel to fire the one-timer to complete the hat trick and make it 6-4 with 7:12 remaining. Ten seconds later and right off the face-off, Guentzel cut to the net and scored again off a feed from Hornqvist to make it 7-4 and essentially put an end to the Flyers season.

Couturier capped off a five-point game with a hat trick of his own with 2:53 to play, but Rust sealed the final result with an empty-net goal to make it 8-5.

In the end, the Flyers were far too battered and couldn’t match the talent of the Penguins on paper, but they were certainly able to make things interesting in the series at times. While Games 1, 3 and 4 were ultimately never that close, the fact that the Flyers were past the halfway point of Game 6 with a two-goal lead showed that they did have the potential to at least get the series back to a winner-takes-all Game 7.

It’s interesting to look back at a series this recent and see the differences in this roster as opposed to the one today. Nolan Patrick was a rookie. Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny were playing in their first playoff series. Three of the seven defensemen that played in the series are no longer on the team. Only eight of the 14 forwards who played in the series are also on the roster. 

Among the 13 players on the roster that have survived to this season, three have missed significant playing time -- Patrick has been out for the entire year, Oskar Lindblom has been out since his December diagnosis with Ewing’s sarcoma and Gostisbehere has been in and out of the lineup both due to injury and as a healthy scratch.

What is also interesting in analyzing this series is that this was a very likely playoff matchup for the Flyers this season. The Flyers would have held home ice in the series against the Penguins should the season have ended as of the stoppage on March 12 and there was reason to believe that this year’s team had the chops to compete with the Penguins and make it a highly-competitive series. 

Tomorrow, we will continue the series by looking at the Flyers playoff appearance against the Capitals from back in 2016.

Flyers Top 10 Games of 2019-20...So Far 

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

Over the course of the season suspension, the NHL put together lists of the top plays for each team. While no list of top games was created, there are still several games Flyers fans can look back on with great fondness this season, especially as the team started to make a push for the playoffs and challenged for a division title.

So with that, here are our Top 10 games of the Flyers 2019-20 season (so far).

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Flyers Top 10 Plays of 2019-20…So Far

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

With no games actively happening, there has been a lot of time to reflect on what has happened so far this season. The NHL has been releasing videos of the Top 10 plays for each team so far this season. The Flyers video was released a couple of weeks ago and here is a look at the list.

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Hart’s Potential Continues to Reach New Heights

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

It has been no secret that the Flyers greatest weakness for decades was finding a goalie that had the ability and the potential to get them to the next level. In just two short years, Carter Hart has appeared to transform that discussion.

It’s definitely way too early to put Hart among the top netminders in franchise history, but his path to the top is not exactly going to be a difficult one at the rate he is on. Only 17 goaltenders in Flyers franchise history have played in 100 games or more for the Orange and Black, the 17th being Hart’s partner in goal, Brian Elliott.

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Hayes’ Personality Shines Through Off the Ice Too

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

Perhaps the most important addition to the Flyers over the course of last offseason was the decision to trade for the rights to Kevin Hayes and sign him to a seven-year contract. The move has paid immediate dividends, as Hayes had scored 23 goals and posted 41 points through 69 games played. He was two goals shy of tying a career-high in goals and appeared poised to post the second 50-point season of his career.

That’s what Hayes has done on the ice, but it may be what he has done off the ice that has made a greater impact. In the time since the NHL stopped play due to the concerns of COVID-19 sweeping the globe, Hayes made his second appearance this season on the Spittin’ Chiclets podcast with former NHLers Paul Bissonnette and Ryan Whitney, sharing tales of Ivan Provorov’s training routine and some great Carter Hart stories. He was part of Gritty’s Quarter Hour of Power on Thursday, a new series the Flyers have been running on social media and played charades.

Of course, by now Hayes has gone viral with his nicknames for teammates and mic'd up videos proclaiming that he used to ref. It’s all part of the personality that has made him a favorite in the locker room among teammates and to the fan base.

What people don’t know is that they have Chuck Fletcher to thank for that personality shining through.

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Couturier on Path to Finally Getting His Due in Selke Race

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

At the All-Star break in January, the members of the hockey media had cast their votes for the midseason portion of some of the league’s top individual honors. Among the most talked about discussions was the Selke Trophy race. At the top of the list was Flyers center Sean Couturier.

Couturier has become a perennial candidate for the award. Even in his rookie season, Couturier earned two fifth-place votes in the Selke race, finishing 41st in overall voting. In just his third season in the league, Couturier finished ninth in the Selke Trophy voting, getting one second-place vote and two third-place votes. He earned one second-place vote and two third-place votes two seasons later in 2015-16, finishing eighth in overall voting. 

Two seasons ago, Couturier took his game to the next level, matching the defensive level of play with his best offensive season to date, scoring 31 goals and posting 76 points. He received 37 first-place votes that year, but finished second in the Selke race to Kings’ forward Anze Koptiar, who received 70 first-place votes. 

Last season, Couturier matched his 76 points from a season ago and topped his career high in goals with 33. Couturier wasn’t even a finalist for the Selke this time around, however, finishing sixth and getting just two first-place votes. Ryan O’Reilly took home the award with 48 first-place votes. 

Couturier came out ahead in the midseason voting, beating out O’Reilly, who came in third, and Patrice Bergeron, the four-time Selke winner, who finished second. So that prompted the thought: could this finally be Couturier’s year?

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Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher Remains Busy During Time of ‘Uncertainty’

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

Just because there have not been any games on the schedule for nearly three weeks now does not mean that Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher hasn’t been active in keeping up with his team and trying to build his future. For one, he continues to remain in contact with members of the organization over the course of the suspension from game play and other activity at team facilities, speaking regularly with the team’s player rep James van Riemsdyk and head coach Alain Vigneault and connecting daily with assistant GMs Brent Flahr and Barry Hanrahan

Fletcher also was busy in helping to lock up part of the franchise’s future. Last Monday, the Flyers signed college prospect Tanner Laczynski and closed the week by signing another college prospect, Wade Allison, on Friday.

“I don’t know if they need a year or two of seasoning,” Fletcher said on Monday via a conference call. “These are players that will be 23 years old next season. They both have put a lot of time in it at the collegiate level. They both have size and strength attributes that typically takes a 19 and 20 year old kids a lot longer to acquire. They’re men. They are good hockey players. I expect that they’ll challenge for spots right away. Whether they can make it, time will tell. They’re players that are very close to being able to step in and play.”

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Flyers Sign F Wade Allison to Entry-Level Deal

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

At the start of the week, the Flyers signed college prospect forward Tanner Laczynski to an entry-level deal and they capped off an otherwise slow week in the NHL with another college signing.

On Friday, the Flyers signed forward Wade Allison to an entry-level deal, GM Chuck Fletcher announced.

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Flyers Run Prior to Pause a Clear Sign Window is Just Opening

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

Who could have known two weeks ago when the Flyers took the ice against the Boston Bruins that it would be the last game there would be for some time. The 2-0 loss to the Bruins was not shocking, considering the Bruins are the top team in the league, but it was still a disappointment given the Flyers were locked into a close game and outplayed the Bruins for nearly two periods and saw a nine-game winning streak come to an end.

That recent run that included two wins over Columbus, two wins over the surging Rangers, a win over the division-leading Capitals and several more along the way, started to say a lot about this team. This team had a lot of potential. By the end of that stretch, they were a virtual lock to make the playoffs and had the division in their sights. All of that came to a screeching halt due to the Coronavirus crisis that suspended play, not a drop-off in the level of play.

It remains a mystery at this point if and when the season will return. Who knows how much of a regular season will be left after this suspension? Who knows what the playoffs will look like? But whenever the league comes out of this stoppage and gets back to playing, let it be known that the Flyers window to compete is just opening up.

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