BOSTON —The NHL unveiled the 2022 All-Star rosters on Thursday night and captain Claude Giroux will be the lone Flyers’ representative on the Metropolitan Division team in Las Vegas on Feb 4-5 at T-Mobile Arena.
Giroux, 34, was named an All-Star for the seventh time in his career, the last coming in 2019. The captain leads the Flyers with 29 points and ranks second on the team with 11 goals in 32 games.
The 2022 NHL All-Star weekend will feature a Skills Competition on Feb. 4 followed by a single-elimination 3-on-3 tournament on Feb. 5 between each of the four divisions (Atlantic, Metro, Central, and Pacific). Each division’s team will have 11 players — featuring at least one player from every team.
The first 10 All-Stars from each division were announced Thursday while fans will get a chance to vote for the last representative from each division. All 32 teams will nominate one player for one of the final four spots and voting will run until Jan. 17. Winger Cam Atkinson is the Flyers’ nominee for the final vote.
Giroux, who ranks No. 2 all-time in career points for the franchise with 887, returned from COVID-19 protocols on Tuesday.
Special teams units get key reinforcements back
As Flyers interim coach Mike Yeo reflected on the five-game skid that ended 2021 and kicked off 2022 for the Flyers, he noted the importance special teams have played.
While the Flyers and their opponents have each had 14 power-play opportunities, there’s been a significant difference in the results. While the Flyers’ power play has scored on just two of those opportunities (14%), their penalty kill has conceded four, which equated to a 28% clip for their opponents.
To tip the scales even further, the Flyers have given up two shorthanded goals. Their special teams have been outscored 6-2.
But the Flyers have also been missing significant players on both units, enough that their Tuesday game against the Carolina Hurricanes was postponed. Since losing to the San Jose Sharks on Saturday, they have since seen all those players return from COVID-19 protocols with just one, Rasmus Ristolainen, going into protocols.
“You look at some of the areas where those guys have been playing, whether it’s specialty situations, 3-on-3, 4-on-4, power play, penalty kill, obviously those guys are impact players, playing against top players,” Yeo said. “It kind of helps slot everybody in a better position.”
Giroux, forward Travis Konecny, and defenseman Ivan Provorov returned to the power play. Provorov and Giroux also play on the penalty kill, as do Travis Sanheim and Justin Braun.
Forward Scott Laughton, who plays a significant role on the penalty kill and returned from COVID protocols Jan. 1, said getting “bodies” back is good, especially with penalty killer Patrick Brown going out with injury. Giroux, specifically, makes a big difference for both units.
“It’s good getting the best face-off guy in the league back in G and everything that he brings and just makes it a lot easier when you start with the puck,” Laughton said. “It’s nice to have him back to take those big faceoffs, especially on the penalty kill but on the power play. Always starting with the puck is good.”
While the power play has had its struggles this season, the penalty kill’s woes are more recent.
Despite the rough stretch, the penalty kill needs to go out with confidence and just focus on clearing the puck, Braun said. In recent games, they’ve had a few “flubs,” which teams usually “make you pay for.”
“If you have a couple tough games, you want to sit back,” Braun said. “But you’ve got to still go out there and work and do the right things.”
The Flyers are still missing some key special teams players with Brown, Sean Couturier, Derick Brassard, and Ryan Ellis out.
“It’s still going to be a challenge,” Yeo said. “But with that said, we feel a lot better about where we’re at now compared to where we were at last week.”
Boston’s back at it
The Boston Bruins may be the ones hitting the ice for the second night in a row, but Laughton said the Flyers will be the ones who need to focus on their start.
“The team on the back-to-back, always the first period, they come out pretty hard,” Laughton said. “They’re ready to go. So we’ve got to do a really good job in the first 10 minutes of this game and not weather the storm.”
Wednesday’s game gave the Bruins some positive momentum. They took down the Montreal Canadians in a chippy 5-1 win and now have won six of their last seven games overall. As Laughton watched, he noticed the Bruins play a “really fast game.”
To slow down the Bruins and have a chance to win the season series (currently tied at 1-1), the Flyers need to, “first and foremost,” stay out of the penalty box, Laughton said. They also need to focus on shutting down the Bruins’ top two lines.
“You’ve got to be smart with the puck when they’re on the ice,” Braun said. “This team feeds on turnovers. You’ve got to take care of the puck, make their D turn. Just like almost any other team, but with that line, you’ve got to be extra careful.”
The Flyers play the Bruins at TD Garden at 7 p.m. Thursday. Carter Hart will start in goal. ... Laughton added his voice to the other Flyers calling for change when it comes to COVID-19 protocols. He also mentioned that the league should make an exception for streaks that are halted due to COVID-19, like Provorov’s Iron Man streak which was recently snapped at 403 games. ... Couturier was present at morning skate. He’s no closer to being back, Yeo said, but they wanted to keep him involved.