Flyers’ West Coast road trip kicks off first winning streak of season
The Flyers have won two straight for the first time this season, winning road games in Anaheim and Los Angeles.
SAN JOSE, Calif. — With apologies to the Beach Boys, the Flyers might consider a new slogan.
"I wish they all could be California….teeeeeams!"
Playing uninspired hockey and ranked last in the league in numerous categories, including goals-against average, when their road trip started, the Flyers have regrouped on the West Coast, scoring hard-earned victories in Anaheim, 3-2, and Los Angeles, 5-2, to win consecutive games for the first time this season.
"I wish they all could be California…teeeeeeams!"
"I think the road trip is what we needed," said defenseman Ivan Provorov, who has scored a goal in each of the wins — after going scoreless in the first 11 games. "Get the boys tighter. Bring everybody closer. And you know, we're rolling right now. I think we're playing the way we're supposed to play, the way we need to play."
The Flyers seem to like playing in the U.S.' Pacific time zone. They are 6-1 in such games, including a 3-0 mark this year, over the last two seasons.
The Flyers (6-7) played with an edge in the first two stops on the four-game trip, which continues Saturday night in San Jose (6-4-3). Their defense and goaltending have had a revival. Ditto Provorov, top-line center Sean Couturier, and right winger Wayne Simmonds, all of whom have excelled in the last two games — as have young forwards Nolan Patrick and Oskar Lindblom.
In the last two contests, Patrick has four points and a game-winning goal, while Lindblom has three points and a game-winning tally. Lindblom also set up Patrick's late game-winner against Anaheim.
Coach Dave Hakstol called Lindblom's last two outings "his most solid games up and down the rink. Not just chipping in offensively, but I like his play around the puck and on the puck."
Hakstol, in fact, has liked the all-around effort by his entire team in the last two games.
"There have been games where we haven't been consistent enough from period to period," he said, "but what we've been able to do the last two [games] is put consistent play together for 60 minutes."
The Flyers look like a different team than the one that was whipped Saturday by the Islanders, 6-1, at the boo-happy Wells Fargo Center.
"That was embarrassing," Simmonds said. "We've had two good games in a row and just have to keep on building, keep doing the simple things really well and following our systems. Just keep pushing here."
Goalie Brian Elliott was asked if he felt the Flyers had their mojo back.
"Like 'How Stella Got Her Groove Back?" he cracked, referring to the 1998 movie.
Helping the Flyers get in the groove Thursday was their much-maligned penalty kill, which gave the team momentum by stopping a five-on-three Kings power play midway through the first period.
"That was huge," Provorov said. "Statistically, we're not where we want to be on the penalty kill, but we have a great group of guys here and we'll work through it."
Elliott made two critical saves to help kill the five-on-three and keep the game scoreless.
"We just battled out there," said Elliott after lowering his goals-against average to 3.10 and raising his save percentage to .893. "They have a lot of good weapons and we got a couple of blocked shots and a couple of clears, and that's what makes a difference. If they get one there, it changes the game a lot."
The Flyers will face a San Jose team that had its six-game points streak (4-0-2) snapped Thursday when it was defeated by goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (44 saves) and visiting Columbus, 4-1…..Logan Couture and Brent Burns lead the Sharks with 15 points apiece, and Timo Meier has a team-high nine goals….Flyers goalie Michal Neuvirth, who was not the backup Tuesday because of what GM Ron Hextall called "precautionary reasons," was one of four players on the ice at an optional practice Friday. The others: Nic Aube-Kubel, Cal Pickard, and Tyrell Goulbourne……Claude Giroux (14 points) and Simmonds (seven goals) are the Flyers' offensive leaders.