Best and Worst of the Week: Ivan Provorov, Flyers’ top line and more

Updated: November 6, 2017 at 5:47 pm by Tim Riday

If there is one thing you can say about the Flyers, it’s that there is never a dull moment.

They had a busy week, and found plenty of ways to shoot themselves in the foot and aggravate the fanbase in the process. It started with a home game against Arizona, a team that entered winless and with the worst record in the NHL. Then a back-to-back set in Chicago and St. Louis followed. Everything concluded with another home tilt against Colorado.

It went … as expected. The Flyers, predictably, lost to the Coyotes. They played above-average hockey against the Blackhawks but were shut out. In their second game in two nights on the road, they stunned the Blues thanks to some stellar play from Michal Neuvirth in a 2-0 win. And to wrap it all up, they lost to the Avalanche in a shootout after dominating the majority of the game.

We should be used to this by now.

Fortunately, the Flyers have the chance to nurse some nagging injuries, take a step back and work out the kinks with a few days of practice now that they have a four-day break from game action. While we wait, let’s break down all the good and bad from a busy start to November:

Best

Goal
This play was all Ivan Provorov. The 20-year-old defenseman showed tremendous composure in a frenetic setting as the Flyers were attempting to tie the game late in the third against Arizona. Provorov grabbed a clear attempt out of the air, calmly put the puck on his stick and smartly moved it down the wall to Claude Giroux after the defenders abandoned him in the corner. Giroux, with his head on a swivel, quickly looked towards the front of the net and found a breaking Sean Couturier, who redirected the pass to the back of the net with just 15 seconds to go.

Assist
With the exception of Jakub Voracek, no Flyer is seeing the ice and creating offense for his linemates better than Travis Konecny. He’s a human highlight reel machine right now. His pass on Valtteri Filppula’s goal on Saturday could not have been more perfect. That’s what you call threading the needle. He was all over the ice the entire shift. He slowed down after a clean zone entry to wait for a teammate to join him on the rush. His initial feed was deflected but he busted his ass to get to the loose puck in the corner to maintain offensive-zone pressure. Then he found Filppula back door. What a playmaker. Take a look below for some his magic against the Blackhawks, as well.

Decision
I’ve been hard on Dave Hakstol in the past. I’ll be the first to admit that. This season, however, he’s made some excellent tweaks to the lineup. Moving Giroux to the wing and promoting Couturier to top-line center has provided to be a fantastic decision. Recently, Hakstol even placed Couturier on the top power-play unit. That’s smart for several reasons. It keeps the first line together and adds two additional skilled players with them (i.e. Wayne Simmonds, Shayne Gostisbehere). That’s how you build chemistry. Also, there is no need to juggle the lines for a shift or two after the penalty expires. They can all regain their energy together. It helps that the PP has clicked, too. Nice job by Hakstol here.

Hit
No opponent goes in the corner or along the boards without being punished when Robert Hagg is on the ice. Former Flyer Nick Cousins learned this the hard way. The Arizona forward got caught with his head down and Hagg crunched him hard into the wall. It was a clean hit that separated Cousins from the puck. Great stuff.

Hit Part II
This was a beauty. Konecny is never going to take a shift off. His feet are always moving and his head is always up, whether he has the puck or not. This time, Konecny was aggressively attacking on the forecheck. Niklas Hjalmarsson admired his pass a little bit and Konecny lowered the boom on him with a clean shoulder-to-shoulder check. Get your head up!

Hit Part III
Michael Raffl absolutely destroyed Blake Comeau in the loss to Colorado. That’s about all there is to say. Watch this:

Allowed goal
Hey, the Flyers had a call go in their favor! After a review in which everyone thought the orange and black were about to get hosed on, the refs said Brandon Manning’s tally in St. Louis was “a good hockey goal.” Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo pushed Voracek, who was setting a screen, into the blue paint and netminder Jake Allen was actually the one who initiated contact with Voracek in front. Voracek has as much right to that ice as any out there. He really just stood there and was pinned against Allen, allowing Manning’s point blast to find twine. For once, the NHL war room got it right. Don’t expect another one until at least February.

Fantasy Player
Giroux is off to a fabulous start. He posted two goals and three assists last week and now has 17 points in 15 games this season. Play the man in every league if you have him.

Save
If you go back and watch the tape, Hagg might have the most saves this season. The young Swede, yet again, bailed out Brian Elliott against Chicago. After battling Artem Anisimov in front, Hagg turned around and saw the puck trickling towards the goal line. He was quick to react and clear the puck out of danger. He’s down this at least five or six times now. Someone see if Elliott or Michal Neuvirth’s gear will fit him already.

Teammate
There’s nothing worse than throwing a clean hit and having to drop the gloves and fight a guy because of it. Whatever happened to getting the guy’s number and repaying the favor later in the game? Blackhawks defenseman Connor Murphy steamrolled Taylor Leier in the neutral zone on Wednesday and immediately had Simmonds and Scott fLaughton breathing down his neck. Murphy knows you cannot fight Wayne Simmonds, so he decided to have a go with Laughton. That’s something that goes a long way in the locker room, however. Guys appreciate when a teammate sticks up for them. Stick taps to Laughton, even though it was a clean check.

Day off
Couturier supports Philadelphia sports … and hot dogs. What a guy. BUT MAYBE IF HE WERE PRACTICING AND NOT ATTENDING FOOTBALL GAMES THE FLYERS WOULD BEAT TEAMS LIKE THE AVALANCHE!!!

Fill-ins
Mark Alt and Will O’Neill, career minor-leaguers, have been relied on to step in and play simple roles because of all the injuries on the back end. Alt has a few games under his belt and O’Neill made his NHL debut against St. Louis. They didn’t receive a ton of minutes but they did an admirable job when they were on the ice. In one shift, Alt made several keeps at the blue line and O’Neill jumped up into play and got a decent shot off while Jordan Weal, Jori Lehtera and Dale Weise were pressuring. That’s just a bonus for the Flyers when the “other guys” are contributing.

Flyer
Have you heard about the Church of Ivan Provorov? The kid is playing out of his mind.

Wake-up call
Giroux knows how to get the boys going: Smelling salts.

Worst

Start
It was almost like the Flyers wanted to gift-wrap the Coyotes their first win of the season. To say they came out flat would be a severe understatement. It began with a brutal line change that led to Alt and Sanheim getting their signals crossed in coverage on Jordan Martinook’s opening tally. The Flyers allowed an AHL-caliber team score the game’s first goal inside the first three minutes of the first period … in their own arena. Yikes. The miscommunications continued with a slew of passes behind or ahead of one another. Nothing was clicking. All the evidence you need is when you look back to Giroux missing Provorov off the rush. Provorov lost his stick trying to reach back for the pass and the play went the other way. It was not easy to watch.

Trend
[Insert Player’s Name Here] has an upper-body injury and will not return, according to GM Ron Hextall. That’s a tweet the Flyers probably have saved in their drafts on Twitter. Nolan Patrick, Gostisbehere and now Gudas have all been diagnosed with the dreaded “upper-body” injury, aka head, this season. The Flyers’ defense was already without Gostisbehere, who returned Saturday, and Andrew MacDonald, who should be back in a week or two, when Gudas was injured in Chicago. The defense was depleted but you have to give Provorov, Hagg, Sanheim and Manning credit for elevating their games. The Flyers simply cannot afford any more injuries this early in the campaign.

Goal against
All of them. It was not a good week from a defensive or goaltending standpoint.

Cheap shot
Who ever liked Brayden Schenn anyway? On Thursday, the former Flyer got away with a dirty hit on Couturier. It was late and to the head. I’m still trying to figure out how he wasn’t given a five-minute major and game misconduct. It was the exact type of check that the NHL is trying to get rid of: A blind side hit well after the puck was released from Couturier’s blade. He landed awkwardly, too, appearing to smash his face on the ice. The contact was one that merited a response from a teammate but Schenn got away unscathed, most likely because the Flyers were more worried about winning the game and are familiar with Schenn. But when the league is more fixated on taps to the hand and faceoffs rather than headshots, you know there is a bigger problem. Schenn is lucky he wasn’t suspended.

“Fix”
You can thank Sidney Crosby for the NHL cracking down on slashing. Crosby, after all, was the guy who basically chopped off Marc Methot’s finger last season. So, entering 2017-18, refs were informed to call any chop on the hands or sticks. It’s been taken to ridiculous levels though. Right now, you can throw your hand up and yell, “Ouch!” real loud and it will automatically draw a penalty. Dale Weise and Brandon Manning have been the worse offenders. If you know you’re going to wind up in the box, just keep your sticks down. Don’t give the zebras a reason to blow play dead.

Forced pass
Voracek is always looking to set up his teammates. You’d like to see him attack the net more, though. One play I didn’t like was with the Flyers pressing in Chicago with an empty net. Voracek tried to force a pass to the slot, where Simmonds was waiting for a one-timer … with three Blackhawks marking him. It was a careless giveway on a low-percentage play. They didn’t have a chance for success. Either eat the puck or put in on net.

Penalty
Simmonds has a temper. We know this. Sometimes, he loses his head when frustration sets in. Case in point? Monday against Arizona. The Flyers were trailing and Simmonds was whistled after planting a Coyote in the corner. The problem was the puck was already away from the play and Simmonds had no business throwing a check on an unsuspecting player, who also had his back turned. You have to show some restraint there. Putting your team down a man won’t help anything when you’re try to catch up on the scoreboard. It was the right call, even if Mr. Train disagreed.

Turnover
Hagg had his first glaring rookie mistake in the loss to Chicago. He lost track of the puck at the blue line in the offensive zone and Jonathan Toews went the other way, cashing in on a breakaway. Those happen from time to time.

Delayed call
This was just flat-out bizarre. After consulting during a commercial break and watching a replay on the jumbotron, the refs assessed Voracek with a four-minute high-sticking penalty against Arizona. Are they allowed to do that? It was the correct call, as Voracek drew blood on Luke Schenn with a reckless cross-check to the mouth, but it came way late. I’ve never seen anything like it and the call nullified a Flyers man advantage. But, hey, at least the NHL fixed faceoffs!

Luck
Alt’s stick somehow got stuck in Neuvirth’s mask against the Blues. It could’ve ended up a lot worse but the crisis was averted. Neuvirth is fine.

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