Best and Worst of the Week: Not a bad start for the Flyers

Updated: October 24, 2017 at 2:04 am by Tim Riday

You know what? A 5-3-0 record through eight games doesn’t look bad at all for the Flyers. I mean, it could have been a lot worst.

The Flyers were forced to start their season with three games on the West Coast and a stop in Nashville before their home opener last Saturday. Not an easy way to kick off a campaign by any means but the Flyers responded well.

And, sure, it looked like six out of eight points in the standings – five at the very least – on the road trip was in the cards before Dave Hakstol’s, let’s call it, lapse in judgement against the Predators. With the way everything unfolded late in the third and the failed challenge, it was a tough loss to swallow. But it was easy to put in the rear-view after the Flyers bounced back with an 8-2 thrashing of the Washington Capitals in their first game at the Wells Fargo Center in 2017-18.

The past week of action has left even more reason for optimism. The Flyers knocked off the Florida Panthers, 5-1, on Tuesday, didn’t play their best but managed to hang tough with Nashville in a 1-0 loss on Thursday and shut down arguably the best player in the game – looking at you Connor McDavid – in a 2-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday afternoon.

If you’re counting at home, that means the Flyers now have a chance to take eight of 10 points when their five-game homestand concludes on Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks. Not too shabby indeed.

Now it’s time for Flyers Nation to get to business. This season, we’ll be recapping the best and worst of every Flyers week. Let’s get to it with Volume 1!

Best

Goal
Wayne Simmonds’ game-winner late in the third against Edmonton is a play every youth coach should be showing to his players. It was absolutely picturesque as all five Flyers on the ice touched the puck before it hit the back of the net. Shayne Gostisbehere had McDavid bearing down on him before he dished it over to defensive partner Robert Hagg. Seemingly always calm and collected, Hagg – who made an eerily similar and underrated pass to earn his first NHL point against Florida – stretched the puck up ice to a waiting Jori Lehtera at the Oilers’ blue line. Lehtera maintained possession and cleanly entered the offensive zone before making a nifty drop pass to Valtteri Filppula. The play was finished off when Filppula got the puck over to Simmonds, who was at full steam ahead. That’s called execution, kids.

Assist
Oh, man. We’ll be talking about this one for a long time. Nolan Patrick’s drop pass in the slot was simply stunning to watch at full speed and slow motion. Linemate Travis Konecny started the play off by crashing down the wing and cutting to the middle of the ice before getting a good shot off on Panthers netminder Roberto Luongo. Patrick picked up the rebound and, without even looking, fooled everyone on the ice when he decided to drop pass the puck in the slot for Dale Weise, who buried it to give the Flyers a 4-0 lead.

Quote
Will someone please help Jake Voracek out with his cable?

Hit
If opponents think Hagg won’t lay the body, they better think again. Just ask Oilers forward Kailer Yamamoto. He was caught in the open ice and Hagg threw a hard shoulder check that sent Yamamoto into the Flyers’ bench.

Fantasy player
Gostisbehere scored his first goal of the season against Florida, which turned out to be the game-winner, and also had two assists last week. He’s already racked up 11 points (10 helpers), a plus-4 rating, seven power-play points, and 19 shots on goal through eight games.

Decision
Getting rookie defenseman Travis Sanheim back in the lineup is only going to benefit the team and the player. Sanheim needs to play, not sit. How else is he going to gain experience and know the feeling of playing against the best players in the world? I know, he was a healthy scratch just three games total. But he’s expected to be a big part of this team’s future. Brandon Manning, a good sixth or seventh defenseman, should not be playing over him. Sanheim is going to make mistakes and has been adventure, at times, in his own end. That’s fine. He’ll figure it out. He has such a high two-way ceiling and will eventually make an impact. I like what I’ve seen from him in terms of joining the rush and being active offensively. Sanheim has a deceptive shot with a lot of movement. Don’t be surprised if he finds his way on the scoresheet sooner rather than later.

Break up
About seven minutes in against the Predators, the Flyers found themselves on the wrong end of a 2-on-1 rush. Didn’t matter. Hagg had it covered. Gostisbehere pinched in the offensive zone but failed to keep the puck in. Konecny then stepped up along the wall and attempted a poke check but missed and allowed his man to get around him. When the puck crossed into the Flyers’ zone, Hagg made an excellent read on the play and positioned himself perfectly to disrupt a cross-ice pass attempt. The Flyers regrouped and broke the puck out shortly after. Now that’s how it’s drawn up.

Point keep
With the Flyers down 1-0 and just seconds remaining in the game, Gostisbehere leaped at the blue line, grabbed the puck out of the air and made an incredible backhanded pass to give his team one more opportunity to force overtime. Unfortunately, Sean Couturier, who was down low in the corner, missed on a pass attempt back to the point and time expired as the puck rolled through the neutral zone.

Milestone
Flyers captain Claude Giroux picked up his 400th NHL career assist in the win over Florida. He currently sits in 10th place in franchise history with 585 points in 664 games. His 400 helpers are fourth-best, behind only Bobby Clarke (852), Brian Propp (480) and Bill Barber (463).

Save(s)
Seeing a lot of Hagg, aren’t ya? Well the kid is playing exceptionally well. Next thing you know, he’ll be wearing goalie pads. On Tuesday, he helped out Michal Neuvirth by sliding across the goal line and pressing a trickling puck forward in between Neuvirth’s legs to freeze the play. He made a similar play against Nashville on Thursday night, too. Ain’t nothing getting passed Hagg.

Power play
Giroux’s tally against the Oilers was probably exactly how Flyers assistant coach Kris Knoblauch drew it up. Voracek sent a cross-ice pass to Gostisbehere at the point, which led to a slap-pass attempt toward Simmonds in front. Instead of directing it on net, Simmonds got the puck over to Giroux below the faceoff circle on the left side of the ice and he fired his shot into the open cage. Tic, tac, toe.

Poise
OK, let’s gush about Hagg one more time. With less than one minute remaining on Saturday, the rookie defenseman ate the puck in his own corner, almost challenging any Oiler to try to take it from him. This was with the Flyers holding a one-goal lead. How confident is this kid right now? The puck was in the Flyers’ zone and Hagg wasn’t letting anyone near it. That’s a big-time play.

Worst

Luck
Filppula won’t score an easier goal in his career. The Panthers won a faceoff late in the game at the far blue line. Good, right? Not so much. The puck went rolling past both defensemen and into an empty net. Not a single Flyer touched the puck on the play but Filppula, the losing centerman, was credited with the marker.

Goal against
This was U-G-L-Y. Patrick was holding onto a loose puck and facing the glass in the Flyers’ zone, perhaps waiting for his teammates to regroup or for Gostisbehere, who was positioned in front of the net on the far side, to creep behind the net for a pass. Former Flyers farmhand Pat Maroon came barreling in and stole the puck off Patrick, dipsy doodled his way out of the corner past Hagg and beat Brian Elliott low from a bad angle. That’s a save Elliott has to make. It’s also a play Patrick, Hagg and Gostisbehere deserve some fault for, too.

Turnover
I was going to let it go because the Oilers weren’t able to do anything with it but it’s still a turnover Andrew MacDonald should know not to make. MacDonald, attempting to break out of the defensive zone, blindly threw a pass up the middle of the ice instead of trying to chip it off the glass and out that was picked off by Edmonton forward Milan Lucic. Lucic was quickly stick checked and the Flyers broke up the play but it was still frustrating to watch. MacDonald gift-wrapped the puck for Lucic and had his head down the entire time. You just can’t do that. It will come back to bite him eventually. It has in the past. Many times, in fact. Gotta be smarter.

Acting job
Former friend Scott Hartnell tried his best to sell this one. After engaging in contact with Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas at center ice, Hartnell threw his head back attempting to draw a high sticking penalty. Gudas’ stick wasn’t even close to making impact with Hartnell’s face but was whistled anyway. Very sneaky, Mr. Hartnell.

Non-calls
The refs had a brutal first period on Thursday. Konecny was literally tackled in the neutral zone by Miikka Salomaki. No call. Cody McLeod slashed Gostisbehere’s glove off of his hand. No call. Taylor Leier was tripped by Ryan Johansen in the final minute of the frame. Even Johansen looked to the sky thinking he was going to the sin bin. No call. But god forbid if someone taps another guy on the hand with their stick this season. You get a slashing penalty! You get a slashing penalty! Everyone gets slashing penalties!

Trend
Jordan Weal and Leier are a little banged up right now. Both forwards are sidelined with upper-body injuries and are considered day to day. That’s a lot of speed coming out of the lineup. Both guys are relentless on the forecheck and cause headaches for their opponents. Let’s hope they don’t miss a lot of time.

Pinch
A-Mac, come on down. Or don’t. Actually, stay at home. On the lone Nashville goal on Thursday, MacDonald was caught pinching. Instead of skating back to his point, he remained in the high slot to try to win a puck battle. When Nashville pressed forward, Simmonds, covering for A-Mac, tried to step up and poke the puck free but missed. MacDonald began weaving up the ice, instead of taking a straight line on the backcheck. Then he started pointing at Ivan Provorov, the lone Flyer back on the 2-on-1 rush, where he should go. It was not pretty and unsurprising that the Predators cashed in on the opportunity.

Decision
Apparently Micheal Haley didn’t get the memo. You cannot fight Wayne Simmonds. Well now he knows what P.K. Subban was talking about. Haley got his face pounded in when he challenged Simmonds to some fistcuffs on Tuesday night. Don’t think he’ll try that again any time soon.

Jerseys
Adidas and the NHL done messed up. Nashville’s home and away jerseys are a travesty. They are so hard to look at. Big Bird would buy one though.

Mess up(s)
The Flyers’ broadcast team might have been pregaming a little too hard in the parking lot on Thursday. First, Chris Therien referred to Travis Konecny as “Tyler Konecny.” Then, at intermission, Bill Clement called Taylor Leier “Travis Leier.” Simple errors, yes. But let’s hope they never reach the level of “Steve Hartnell” or “Scott Mason” on Twitter.

Nickname
90s kids will probably hate Giroux and Voracek’s nickname for Couturier. From the sound of it, Couturier is quick to respond when the team takes jabs at him during practice or in the locker room. He’s been dubbed “The Answer.” Sixers and Allen Iverson fans will take exception to it but I won’t complain because …

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