Wrap: Flyers Roast Ducks, 6-2
The Philadelphia Flyers entered Saturday afternoon with a prime opportunity to take care of business on home ice against a demoralized Anaheim Ducks that came to town dragging a six-game losing streak and which had only won two games since Dec. 17. Mission accomplished, although it wasn't easy as the lopsided 6-2 final score
would make it seem.
The Flyers exploded for a 4-0 lead in the first period, and outshot the Ducks in all three periods. However, Anaheim got a good cycle game going down low at times in the Philly zone and there were segments where the Flyers' engagement wavered for awhile. Fortunately, Carter Hart was plugged in from start to finish, and the Flyers buckled down again when they needed to. Additionally, the Ducks were their own worst enemies at times even as they gradually cut their deficit in half. Finally, the Flyers struck for two latter-third period goals to restore their four-goal margin.
The red-hot Sean Couturier scored a goal (23rd) and added two assists (24th and 25th) on the afternoon. Fourth line forward Phil Varone chipped in a goal (3rd) and assist (2nd), while linemate Michael Raffl scored a shorthanded goal (4th) and earned the lone assist (7th) on Varone's goal. The Flyers also received a goal apiece from Oskar Lindblom (8th), Nolan Patrick (power play, 11th) and Travis Konecny (15th). Single apples were collected by Robert Hägg (10th), Scott Laughton (13th), Andrew MacDonald (7th), Jakub Voracek (34th), Konecny (18th), Travis Sanheim (14th) and James van Riemsdyk (13th).
Hart stopped 30 of 32 shots. He extended his personal winning streak to eight straight games, tying an NHL record for goaltenders younger than age 21.
"I don’t really look at those things. Sure it’s cool, but we just want to win hockey games and right now we’ve been playing really good hockey. We got a lot of run support today with 6 goals there. I thought we really pressured them for a full 60 minutes and generated a lot of scoring chances tonight," Hart said.
The Flyers went 1-for-5 on the power play. The PK had a somewhat off-day at just 2-for-4 but Raffl's shorthanded goal in the first period made the special teams on the day a wash.
When a team jumps out to a huge early lead, especially against a team that has been struggling, it can make the rest of the game a bit tough to manage from a focus standpoint. Overall, the Flyers did a decent job of it. Hart was certainly an important reason why.
"Yeah, it can be tricky, but even coming into this game it could’ve been- it was a tough, tough matchup. They’re struggling, we could’ve taken it easy, but I thought we came out pretty well prepared. We capitalized early and from there, we just kind of ran through it," Couturier said.
Added Raffl, "Everyone let their foot off the gas a little bit. I think that’s perfectly normal. We found a way to win. That’s all that matters. Being up four-two is better than being down four-two, so I have no problem with that."
Adam Henrique (PP, 10th) and Nick Ritchie (PP, 8th) scored for the Ducks. Ryan Getzlaf, who became the Ducks all-time games played leader, notched two assists. Ritchie and Rickard Rakell had an assist apiece.
Veteran goaltender Chad Johnson got the start for Anaheim, subbing for injured netminder John Gibson. Johnson lasted one period, stopping 10 of 14 shots. Kevin Boyle made his debut in relief, stopping 24 of 26 shots.
With the win, the Flyers have earned at least one point in 10 straight games (9-0-1) and have won 10 of their last 12 games (10-1-1).
"It was 4-0 in the first period, but [Hart] made a couple huge saves in the first, I don’t know if that took momentum away from them, but I thought they came out hard. I thought we were a little light against them in our zone, they have some big bodies that play a heavy game and they stripped us of a few pucks, but Carter made those big saves and the rest of the game was a little bit easier," Flyers interim head coach Scott Gordon said.
The Flyers went right to the attack with a dominating opening shift by the Couturier line. The Ducks were forced to ice the puck. On the next shift, Jakob Silfverberg got a mini-breakaway but Carter Hart denied him with the glove. Hart went on to make several other additional fine saves among his dozen first in the opening period.
Varone was wide open in the slot to take a pass-out from Raffl and bury it for a 1-0 Flyers lead at 2:44. Couturier continued his points binge at 10:24 of the first period as he went off the post and in with a shot from the left slot. Hägg and Varone got the helpers.
At 11:44 of the first period, an opportunistic Raffl took a lead pass from Laughton and, from the left circle, beat Johnson over the glove for a shorthanded goal and a 3-0 lead. The Flyers built a 4-0 lead at 17:46 of the first period as Lindblom crashed the net and got rewarded as a Couturier pass went off his skate and into the net.
A penalty on Hägg in the waning seconds of the first period created a carryover power play for Anaheim, who changed goaltenders to start the second stanza. The Flyers challenged for offside after Adam Henrique scored. It was very close to offside on the keep at the blueline -- at least one angle appeared to show the puck completely over the line -- but the NHL's Situation Room in Toronto ruled the camera angles weren't quite conclusive enough to overrule the initial on-side decision.
After the Henrique goal, the Flyers did a good job for the most part in limiting opportunities for Anaheim while generating 13 shots of their own. Hart did a good job of bouncing right back from a bit of an overplay on the goal sequence that took him out of position to be rock solid the rest of the period. Hart had eight saves in the middle frame.
At 4:57 of the third period, Ritchie took a cross-ice feed from Ryan Getzlaf and fired off an almost unstoppable shot for a power play goal that cut the Anaheim deficit down to 4-2. The Ducks generated some good third period chances -- Hart robbed Silfverberg two more times -- before the Flyers made good on a power play to restore a three-goal lead at 5-2.
Patrick finished it off a broken play from the right side of the net, assisted by Couturier (third point of the game) and Konecny, after a good initial entry into the attack zone. A Konecny rebound put-in of a Sanheim point shot rebuilt a four-goal lead as a final margin of victory.
The Flyers will hold an optional practice in Voorhees on Sunday before hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins in a big divisional game at the Wells Fargo Center on Monday night.
Flyers Made Trade, Recall Myers and Waive Knight
Prior to the start of Saturday's game at the Wells Fargo Center, the Flyers announced a four-player trade with the Montreal Canadiens. The Flyers sent veteran right winger Dale Weise and impending unrestricted free agent defenseman Christian Folin to the Habs in exchange for defenseman David Schlemko and center Byron Froese.
Essentially the deal is a swap of the AHL-buried contracts of Weise and Schlemko, who each have one season to go on their respective contracts and at fairly similar cap hits, with impending UFA and former Laval Titan captain Froese (who has 110 games of NHL experience) coming to Philadelphia's organization for some depth and size up front and Folin providing blueline depth and a righthanded shot to the Habs. The Flyers absorbed a small portion of Folin's salary for the rest of this season to make the cap numbers on the deal essentially balance out.
Schlemko and Froese will both report to the AHL's Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Neither player was available for the team on Saturday night; a 2-1 home loss to the Hartford Wolf Pack.
Schlemko, 31, is a decent NHL depth defenseman who simply got overpaid ($2.1 million) on his current contract. He makes a decent first period, has some mobility and blocks a lot of shots.
Unlike unrelated former Flyers goaltender Bob Froese, who pronounces his surname "Froze", the 27-year-old Byron Froese's surname is pronounced "Fraze." He is a solid two-way player at the American Hockey League level.
The trading of Folin and decision to have Schlemko remain in the AHL, at least for the time being, opened up a roster spot for highly regarded second-year pro defenseman Philippe Myers. The team also announced that veteran center Corban Knight has been placed on waivers. Knight has only appeared in three games this season due to a dislocated collarbone suffered back in late October.
FLETCHER DISCUSSES TRADE, MYERS and MORE
Shortly before the start of warmups on Saturday afternoon, Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher met with the media at pressbox level in the Wells Fargo Center to discuss the roster moves that were made. The following transcript is courtesy of the Flyers:
What did you see in this trade you made today?
It’s something we’ve been working on for a few weeks with Montreal. First of all, just want to thank Dale and Christian for everything they did for the Flyers. Both players were I think looking for a bigger role and different opportunity, so we tried to accommodate them going forward. Adding David Schlemko, a player with a lot of experience in the league, a defenseman, can play left side, can play right side, along with Phil Myers, we think Schlemko and Myers can give us pretty good depth up here in the NHL. Byron Froese is a young man, he’s played over 100 games in the NHL. He’s the captain of his team in Laval. He’s a real top two-way player at that level, and a guy who has shown he can provide depth. I think what we tried to do is accommodate Dale and Christian, and yet to make sure we have enough depth going forward.
Will Schlemko report here?
No. They will both report to Lehigh right now.
With the call up of Phil, obviously you’re not calling him up to sit, do you see him jumping into the starting 6?
That will be up to the coaches. Right now, after this trade we are down to 12 forwards and six defensemen, so we clearly need another player. And he’s a player most deserving. Whether he gets into a game over the next few days, time will tell. He deserves this opportunity. He’s played great. The coaches can make those decisions.
Dale and Christian didn’t play big roles in that winning streak at all, but when you guys were on that, did you say okay I want to be hands off at least while this winning streak is going to show these guys that I’m not going to start tearing things down while things are going well?
Both players, well, Christian played a couple of games I believe. Obviously, Dale didn’t play much during that streak if at all. He might have been around for the first game I think. I think this is just an opportunity to make sure we have enough depth. Again, try to help both players find a better spot for their careers and just try to keep this going. But the core guys who have been playing great for us are still here. They’re still playing and hopefully we can continue. We still have some work to do.
What was it about Phil’s play that told you he was ready for a recall?
He’s been our best defenseman all year, and one of the better defensemen in the American Hockey League. He’s earned this opportunity. And he’s still a young man, and really his key time will be next year at training camp when he has to come in and earn a full-time spot for a full season. But right now, if we can get him some experience and practicing is great, being around the team is great, if he can get some games, that will only help him as he prepares for next year.
So, you’re in this spot, at least from a fan standpoint, where they’re not sure if they’re in the playoffs, how do you balance that? You’re bringing up a defenseman who has no NHL experience, granted very talented guy, how do you interject him into what potentially could be a playoff push?
That’s how you have to learn. Again, he’s earned the right. He’s better than anybody we have down there. He’s a good hockey player. I believe he can help us up here. We have six guys playing right now tonight that have helped us a lot too. I think our defense is playing very well, for a while now. I’ve been very impressed with young guys how they’ve responded. Provorov has been playing very well of late. Gudas has been tremendous all season. Andrew MacDonald has played very well for I think really since I’ve been here, but certainly the last month. We can go through all of them- Travis Sanheim has grown leaps and bounds. It’s a good group, and they’re playing well, but we need bodies. We have 3 games in 4 days starting tonight. There’s a lot of hockey down the stretch. So, to have some fresh young legs up here will be great. I think again, we will see how the coaches integrate them into the lineup. Phil Myers can help this team win right now, too.
You talked about how next camp is going to be big for Phil trying to earn a job, Schlemko has one year left on his deal, is it fair to say that Schlemko can be here if Phil is not ready to get that full-time job until next year?
I’ve never been on a team who hasn’t needed at least 10 defensemen. Phil and David give us seven and eight, thankfully. Friedman has played well, Willcox has played well down below. We think we have pretty good depth in Lehigh, but you need a lot of bodies in this league to survive. I like our depth. I like the fact that Schlemko is a left shot, can play the right side, he’s played power play, he brings some different attributes then Folin did, and I think Myers brings some of the size that Folin had, so hopefully that Schlemko and Myers combo gives us some versatility and maybe some different attributes the coaches can use down the stretch here.
Last time we spoke with you, I think was three games into the winning streak, but the playoff picture was a little different than maybe it is now. I know Columbus got another point or two on you, but how much did that winning streak and cutting down the playoff deficit change your viewpoint for the rest of the season as it relates to trade deadline or any moves you could make?
I don’t think it changed it at all. As I mentioned the last time we spoke, we’re trying to win every game. It’s really important that we start to build the right habits, whether its defensive habits, game management habits- when you have the lead and you’re protecting leads, that’s important things that this group needs to learn and get better at. Everything we do is about building not only for now, but for next year too. To be better next year, we have to be better this year. Nothing has changed, we are still trying to do the same thins.
Where does Sam Morin fit into all of that?
Well we got to get him playing first of all. So, at some point here when we got the OK, we’ll get him down to Lehigh and get him some games and we’ll let his play dictate where it all fits in.
With Corban, you didn’t have a chance obviously to see him play because of his injury, was there just a determination that Corban was not part of the plan moving ahead?
No, that’s not the case at all. He just needs to go play. He hasn’t played all year, so if he clears waivers we can get him down and get him playing. He still can very much still be in the plan. But when you miss that much time, it’s important to play.
But doing that as opposed to having him on a conditioning stint, is that just because of roster spots?
How many guys do you want to have on a conditioning stint… we need some players to play too. So, Corban, it’s a calculated risk. If he clears and we’re not bound by any arbitrary threshold in terms of number of games. It’s really difficult to miss four or five months and give him two or three games to play. This will give Corban a chance to play. And again, we have a lot of hockey left and I’m hopeful he can be certainly a recall candidate and a guy who can provide depth for us down the stretch.
Is Phil a good example of a younger guy who can earn their way up here, even with the team playing well in the playoff race that you can be trusted when you earn the right to be here?
Yeah, absolutely. That’s what it’s all about. Sanheim put his time in, Hagg put his time in. guys have put their time in over the years. Scotty Laughton has certainly paid his dues, and now Myers has done that. And again, I think there’s a good chance he can play again in Lehigh this year. We’ll see, but he fact that he’s getting the call is a recognition of what he’s accomplished and that he’s knocking on the door.
What have your impressions been on Justin Bailey’s play since he’s come over and has he potentially worked his way up?
Yeah, he’s played very well and I think Justin is certainly deserving of an opportunity and that’s something we will have to look at here pretty quickly.
Where is the Wayne Simmonds thing that you’ve said you don’t want to be stuck in a Tavares situation? Two weeks and change where does that stand?
Two weeks is a lifetime before the trade deadline. We will continue to see and we’re working at it every day. I guess we’ll see, when something happens we will be in a position to let you know. Wayne’s played hard, he’s been very good of late and I can’t commend him enough on his professionalism, his attitude. You watch him in celebrations after we win a game, he’s pretty much the first guy out there to congratulate Carter or Anthony as the case may be. He’s just a great teammate, and has done a lot for this franchise. We will try to work on a conclusion that works best for everybody.
Going back to the trade for just a second, I haven’t crunched the numbers, but I saw it was reported that you retained salary, did that even out the cap hit for both sides of the trade?
I think it’s about even. We might be slightly ahead. Just a few logistics that we worked out. But essentially, it’s a pretty even move, 18.75%.
The status of Wayne Simmonds...
Two weeks is a lifetime before the trade deadline. We will continue to see and we’re working at it every day. I guess we’ll see, when something happens we will be in a position to let you know. Wayne’s played hard, he’s played very well of late and I can’t commend him enough on his professionalism his attitude. You watch him in celebrations after we win a game, he’s pretty much the first guy out there congratulating Carter or Anthony as the case may be. He’s just a great teammate, and has done a lot for this franchise. We will try to work on a conclusion that works best for everybody.