Best and Worst of the Week: Nolan Patrick, missed calls and more

Updated: November 20, 2017 at 3:11 pm by Tim Riday

Three games, three losses.

But they earned two points last week! Your Philadelphia Flyers™

This team has already gone through so many ups and downs through the first 20 games. They’ve looked elite, mediocre and downright awful. That’s in no particular order.

The thing is, they’ve remained competitive mostly. They sit at 8-8-4 with an even goal differential. They’re three points out of a wild-card spot and five points out of first place in the Metropolitan Division. If you look the other way (why are you being some negative, stop looking the other way), they are six points away from having the least amount of points in the Eastern Conference.

Are they a playoff team? They could be. But let’s not act like we expected them to be a front-runner in the East. Prospects are still developing. This isn’t the team of the future just yet. Some pieces are here and ready. Others are not. In the meantime, there’s still some hockey to play. At least the Flyers are dropping points to Western Conference foes. They have a ton of Division/Eastern Conference games coming up. Will they frustrate us? Yes. Will they surprise us? Maybe. So don’t let an 0-1-2 week drive you crazy. There was still some good. There was also some bad. That will be a season-long recurrence. And I’m here to break it all down for you.

Best

Goal
When you generate offense from down low, you’re going to be rewarded eventually. Just look at Nolan Patrick’s tally against the Calgary Flames. The rookie center was like a hawk in the slot waiting for either a pass or a rebound to find him. He displayed some stellar patience when the puck did pop loose, pulling it to his backhand and calmly elevating it under Mike Smith’s arm.

Assist
If you take a quick look at the replay from the Flyers’ second goal against Calgary, you’ll see a nice finish by Sean Couturier on a rebound. That’s not giving Jakub Voracek enough credit. Voracek knew exactly what he was doing. Positioned at the top of the circle on the power play, the Czech forward alertly threw the puck on net – hard and low – knowing Wayne Simmonds, Claude Giroux and Couturier were all battling in front. He knew the Flyers had a great chance to get a deflection or rebound to go their way. And that’s exactly what happened.

Shootout deke
Speaking of Voracek, he scored a doozy of a shootout goal in the Flyers’ loss to the Winnipeg Jets. For once, he didn’t try to go five-hole. Instead, Voracek entered the zone with a good burst of speed while cutting right, waited out Connor Hellebuyck and forced the Jets’ netminder to make the first move. Once he got Hellebuyck to bite, Voracek deked to the backhand and roofed the puck high. He made it look easy.

Power play
When the top power-play unit is moving the puck well, they’re unstoppable. Couturier’s marker on the man advantage against Winnipeg is the perfect example of why. The play started with Couturier dishing the puck to Giroux at the top of the circle. Giroux sent it cross-ice to Voracek, who then tossed it back door for Wayne Simmonds. Simmonds missed on the stuff attempt but the puck bounced right back to a crashing Couturier, who jammed it home. The Jets were running around like an in-house team and they never knew what hit them.

Save(s)
Will someone please, for the love of God, help out Brian Elliott? The man is on top of his game right now and singlehandedly kept the Flyers alive in Tuesday’s 1-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild. There were several times the Wild could have put the game out of reach. Not on Elliott’s watch. In the beginning of the third period, Elliott made a spectacular blocker save on a Tyler Ennis breakaway. Then, late in the third, he made a point blank stop after anticipating a pass on a Wild odd-man rush. The man can’t do it all himself but he’s certainly trying.

Strength
Robert Hagg is a man. Look at him making Eric Staal earn every inch in this puck battle. The thing is, he does this multiple times a game. Nothing comes easy when Hagg’s on watch.

Smarts
Towering Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien was running around like an idot trying to take every Flyers’ head off on Thursday night. Ivan Provorov made him look stupid. The young Russian joined a rush and was wrapping around the Winnipeg net when he picked his head up and saw Byfuglien coming his way full speed. Provorov ducked low and eluded him just enough that Byfuglien wound up skating face first into the glass. That’s heads-up hockey.

Troll job
“Hey, hey. Do you want some water?” Travis Konecny is a gem.

Fantasy player
Voracek continues to pile up the points. He collected a goal and an assist on Thursday and picked up two more helpers on Saturday. He’s up to five goals and 20 assists to go along with a plus-6 rating, 20 penalty minutes, eight power-play points and 67 shots in 20 games. Don’t leave this guy on your bench. Play him every night!

Shayne Gostisbehere impression
Troy Brouwer, meet Travis Sanheim. Sanheim made Brouwer look absolutely silly on Saturday afternoon with a quick sidestep deke. Brouwer bit hard on the move and went crashing into the boards as Sanheim led the charge up ice. Sanheim is an elusive defenseman and he’s looking more comfortable with the puck each and every game.

Decision
Being patient with Patrick was a smart long-term decision by the Flyers. You never want to rush a guy back with any injury but you have to be extra cautious when it’s a possible concussion. Letting Patrick take his time was the correct route. Easing him back into the lineup was even better. He played just eight minutes in his return against Winnipeg before jumping up to 14 minutes on Saturday. Let him get the blood flowing. Soon enough he’ll be back to full speed ahead.

Worst

Goal against
Provorov made a rare mistake on the opening shift Tuesday night. He got his pocket picked in the corner and the Wild took advantage on a lack of coverage in front to take an early 1-0 lead 12 seconds in. The thing was, Provorov had nowhere to go with the puck when he lifted his head up. None of his forwards made themselves open and wrapping it around the other side would’ve resulted in a turnover, too. Then, Jordan Weal, in his first game of the season at the center position, got caught watching Nino Niederreiter cut to the middle for the one-timer. Hagg was covering the back post and couldn’t get a stick on the shot attempt quick enough. This is why it’s so important to come out ready to play.

Defensive coverage
The Jets’ game-tying goal with 49 seconds remaining was absolutely infuriating. I don’t care that they had an extra attacker on the ice. All five Flyers skaters were within eight feet of each other and Mark Scheifele still found a gap to get in position for a shot down low. Nobody managed to get a stick on him, either. This is what happens when you get mesmerized by the puck. Can’t happen.

Awareness
You need to be aware of your surroundings when Gaudreau is on the ice. Hagg and Provorov were caught sleeping on Saturday. Gaudreau snuck past them after a Flyers turnover in the offensive zone and turned the jets on. Hagg nearly intercepted Michael Ferland’s home run pass but couldn’t disrupt the play. Gaudreau then beat Elliott blocker side on a nice move on the breakaway. When the opponent’s best players are out there, you can’t get complacent.

Penalty call
Two minutes for winning a board battle?

Penalty call Part II
Two minutes for, um, I got nothing.

Turnover
Turning the puck over is part of the learning process. Sanheim had a bit of miscue against Winnipeg that I’m certain came up in film review with the coaching staff. After a faceoff win in the offensive zone on a penalty kill, Sanheim took too much time to get rid of the puck at the blue line and fumbled it. The Jets then went in on an odd-man rush and scored. Sanheim couldn’t get back in time to make a play on the puck carrier, either. I don’t think he’ll be doing that again any time soon.

Decision
I, for one, am shocked that the second power-play unit is having trouble scoring when Jori Lehtera and Dale Weise are parts of it. Seriously. What is Dave Hakstol thinking putting these guys on special teams. They’re not making quick decisions. They force passes. They don’t get shots off. They’re not applying pressure or keeping plays alive. They are pretty much regularly killing any plays their linemates create for them. But, yeah, power-play ice time. I’ll give you one example. With under a minute remaining against the Flames, Weise was wide open in front with the puck on his stick. What did he do with this high-danger, power-play opportunity. He blindly backhanded it through the slot, never picking his head up on the play. Woof.

Scoreboard officiating
I’ve already said my piece on the reckless stick swing by Radko Gudas. It doesn’t matter what his intentions were. It was dangerous and he deserves to sit quite a few games for his actions. Now let’s get down to how the call unfolded. What I do have a problem with is a term Jim Jackson coined during the broadcast: “Scoreboard officiating.” We saw it earlier this season when the officials used video replay on the jumbotron to overturn a Flyers goal. It happened again on Thursday in Winnipeg. This time, however, the refs switched what looked like was going to be coincidental minor penalties to an advantage for the Jets. Was it the correct call? Yes. Is it right that the officials used replay to determine they messed up the initial call? No. If that’s the case, the NHL is setting a scary precedent. If fans complain long enough to get the refs’ attention, are they going to overturn more calls? That’s some Montreal, typical stuff there. It took the refs a good minute or two after a meeting a center ice to switch Gudas’ penalty from a minor to a major and game misconduct. There was no challenge in the same time frame, either. If that’s going to be allowed, then the league should change the rule immediately. The big board should not – and in years before video replays were even on jumbotrons has not – be used to alter a call on the ice. My biggest issue is that, apparently, a ref can call a penalty after watching a replay but can’t call a clear goal if there was intent to blow a whistle. That’s the NHL for you.

Non-call
Earlier we mentioned Byfuglien running around head hunting. It was a disgrace that the refs didn’t take any action. Are they afraid of the big man? If that’s the case, they shouldn’t be officiating at this level. The most egregious non-call of the week came when Byfuglien elbowed Weal in the head in open ice. Weal should’ve had his head up but that doesn’t make it OK for Byfuglien to target him. Byfuglien realized he was too tall to connect with his shoulder and extended his elbow to the side of Weal’s head from the blindside. Weal even missed a game because of an “upper-body injury.” It’s likely because of this contact. It’s the kind of hit the league wants to eliminate but here we are. No call and no supplemental discipline. It’s funny they call it the Department of Player Safety because they could not care less about head injuries or player’s safety if they’re letting these hits go.

Non-call Part II
Byfuglien. Again. Look where the puck is. It’s in the air. Now look where Raffl is. Away from the puck. Tell me why this isn’t interference. I’ll wait. I’m actually still waiting. Oh, yeah. Byfuglien.

Non-call Part III
I’m starting to sound like a homer, aren’t I? Well, if you’ve watched the Flyers this season, you know the men in the stripes have done them no favors. It’s actually quite ridiculous. The Flyers have received a few calls, sure, but it seems uneven. Remember when Brayden Schenn threw that cheap shot on Couturier? Two-minute minor. Remember Gostisbehere getting boarded and injured against Toronto? No call and no suspension. Now take a look at this. Tell me, again, how is this allowed? It’s a textbook boarding call. Giroux is driven face first into the wall. It’s a dangerous and scary play.

Non-call Part IV
Oh, by the way. The same thing happened later in the game against Calgary to Konecny. Another boarding call missed. Is the NHL going to wait until someone is seriously injured to do something?

Non-call Part V
This one, at least, is laughable. Jaromir Jagr literally hugged Provorov. It was sweet but it’s still illegal. Yet, the whistles were still in the official’s pockets.

Miss
Konecny might be gripping the stick a little too hard. He’s way overdue for a goal but he just can’t get over the hump. In the loss to Winnipeg, Giroux and Gostisbehere created some magic while playing catch in overtime. The Jets were shaken and broke down defensively, leaving Konecny wide open in the slot. His shot, however, sailed way high and wide. You can’t make it that easy for the goalie. Get it on net and hope for a rebound at the very worst. The missed shot attempt led to a breakout the other way. That’s called shooting yourself in the foot.

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