Saturday, February 4, 2017

Inside Access: Philadelphia Flyers vs. Los Angeles Kings

Philadelphia Flyers vs. Los Angeles Kings
Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia
February 4, 2017
Game Time – 1 p.m.


The Philadelphia Flyers (26-20-6, fifth place in the Eastern Conference's Metropolitan Division) defeated the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 at home on Thursday. That followed a 5-1 clunker loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday after three consecutive wins. Their opponent, the Los Angeles Kings (26-21-4, fifth place in the Western Conference's Pacific Division) shut out the Colorado Avalanche 5-0 on Wednesday. That victory marked the Kings fourth consecutive win.

The Flyers enter the game with a -17 goal differential. The Kings are +8. Philadelphia is 16-7-3 at home this season (going 11-2-1 since November 27), while Los Angeles is 11-13-3 on the road.

While analytics has clearly enhanced everyone's approach to, play within, and ability to analyze the game, there's no doubt that some simple stats still sing.

Michal Neuvirth started in goal for the Flyers. Peter Budaj handled the Kings' net assignment.

First Period

A lackluster frame. The Flyers tallied a number of shots toward the end of the period, which overtook the Kings total. The final line was 9-8 by the time the horn sounded.

Second Period

Sean Couturier hit the left-side post at 15:18, after moving in on a short breakaway after crossing the offensive zone blue line. It was the best scoring chance either team had to this point in the game.

Neuvirth made a brilliant, sprawling glove save against the ice which stopped Dustin Brown from scoring with approximately 12 minutes to go.

Brown slashed Radko Gudas at 11:43, which led to either team's first power play opportunity. Then, at 12:50 the Flyers had too many men on the ice, which negated their PP. Neither Philly's brief advantage, or LA's man-up worked as the game remained scoreless.

The shot total stood at 18-13, advantage Kings, by the time the second horn sounded.
It was an unusual contest to this point. The Flyers downshift to lower shot totals in recent games, as compared to their regular offensive thrust earlier in the year was interesting. Travis Konecny and Shayne Gostisbehere may have wondered the same thing on the press level as this scribe glanced over at them during the game.

MarkHowe is a regular attendee at Flyers' games, as he scouts for the Detroit Red Wings. Easily one of the most affable people in the building (ever), the best defenseman in Flyers' history can always be seen talking with the media, former players, Wells Fargo staff members and others as though he was a regular guy (which he never was). Just another example of how humility and class can allow someone to live a Hall of Fame life.

Howe's modest voice could be heard above where this scribe was sitting during the game, which prompted this necessary and deserved accolade.

Third Period

Brayden McNabb's interference penalty at 4:52 gave the Flyers another odd-man scoring chance. No dice, as the dual goose eggs continued their standoff. McNabb left the box relieved.

As this frame lagged, the thought of how many rebound shots Philadelphia or Los Angeles had emerged. A lack of sustained pressure, meaning even within one offensive effort, enabled the double-blanking.

Tanner Pearson attempted to backhand a shot across the goal line from the left side of the net, but Neuvirth used his left glove (again) to keep the scoreboard clean.

The Kings outshot the Flyers 27-17 through the end of regulation, including 9-4 in the third.

0-0 after 60 minutes played.

Free Hockey

The three-on-three format is beloved. And so it was seen to start the fourth period, which is limited to a maximum of five minutes.

Neuvirth used that glove to stop Jeff Carter at 4:03. However, the former Flyer shot the puck into an open net on Neuvirth's open right side at 2:25. The game-winner was his 27th. Assists to Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty.

Budaj earned his milestone 150th career win. 

Three stars – Koptiar, Neuvirth and Carter. Neuvy deserved the first star, but his efforts earned his team one point by playing into the free frame. 

The Flyers play the St. Louis Blues on Monday as the home stand continues. The Kings travel to play the Washington Capitals tomorrow at Noon.

Postgame Quotes

Responses to media questions after the game:

Michal Neuvirth

This has got to be bittersweet for you, that might have been your best performance of the year. You clearly kept them in the game, you gave them the point.

“Yeah, it felt good but, we only got one point so I am not happy about it, it’s tough. You know, I feel really good, I see the puck well.”

Can you talk about the save on Dustin Brown there?

“It kind of happened quick, it caught me off guard a little bit. I just stayed with it, had my eye on it the whole time and it was a big save for us.”

Are you like a pitcher, in warm ups do you know you are going to be good this day? Today, did you know in the warm ups you might have a sharp game?

“Actually, I felt normal. I was coming into the game feeling confident, calm and just feeling good about myself right now and playing with confidence.”

The first time you have had consecutive starts within a couple of months, how did that feel to get that rhythm a couple of games in a row now.

“It’s definitely huge. Like I said, so many times the more I play the better I play, I felt really good out there. I am seeing the puck well, I was battling through traffic, PK was really good once again. It would have been nice if we could win that game but, it didn’t happen. We have to be ready for Monday because, we have another tough team coming.”

Pearson, Toffoli, Carter were all talking to themselves after some of your saves, did you catch any of the banter? Is there anything they said, was it loud enough so you could hear?

“They’re always saying something, I am not really paying attention too much, I am focusing on myself.”

You knew you were getting in their heads a little bit though?

“Yeah, they had great chances and they couldn’t score, they were getting frustrated for sure. But, I had a piece of it in the overtime goal.”

Flyers Head Coach Dave Hakstol

What do you think about the goaltending?

“I like the battle of our entire team. He’s part of it, he battled real hard and so did everyone else in the line up.”

A couple people talked about LA being a tough team to play against. Is that also something that you think is general for this time of year?

“Yeah. They play a hard heavy style. If you look at the makeup of their team, they are built that way. But yes, this time of year there is less and less space. We talked about that over the last couple of weeks.”

I mean with a 1-0 overtime game, it’s one of those where there is no other way. Are you generally happy with the your play and how things are, and not giving up too many quality scoring opportunities?

“I thought from the drop of the puck we worked hard, we battle pretty hard together, we played a pretty good hockey game. Effort wise, absolutely the guys left it all out there. There are stretches in the game when they get their game going and there’s not a lot of time and space. They force you into some tough spots in terms of managing the puck. We only had a couple of those stretches and we recovered from those. We talked about it and it was a good effort. Of course we wanted to get the second shot and the second point, because the second point is critical but it was a hard fought game all the way through.”

Dave do you guys think that at any point in the game you guys used defense almost to an extreme, and just pulled back from taking shots that you would have otherwise taken?

“No, absolutely not. Pulled back from taking shots? No, no I don’t. I would disagree with that. I think we had some shots blocked tonight. They’re a good team. They’re a smart, veteran team. They get sticks in the lanes; they make it tough on you to get pucks through. But no, I don’t think we turned anything down in terms of pucks to the net.”

This is the first time you have not dressed the two young guys for more than a game, are you just trying to make sure that they get the message or that they get the emphasis on what they need to work on?

“Trying to dress the best roster possible to win hockey games. Point blank.”

Do you have plans for Gostisbhere going forward as far as the next game?

“I haven’t considered that, we will consider that after we look at our performance tonight. We will consider who our opponent is. I said it yesterday - those two young guys are a huge part of what we are doing. They have been a big part of any success that we have had. They happen to have been out the last couple of nights, nothing more than that.”

Does Neuvirth strike you as a goalie that can kind of raise his game when the stakes get higher? He seems like the plays like last year in the playoffs. He just seems to have that ability to rise it up a notch.

“He had a calmness to his game today and I think that’s an important aspect. He probably made 3 or 4 big saves for us tonight and a bunch of other pretty good ones. He went out and he did his job. I thought he was the one of the group that went out and battled as hard as he could and he did a real good job for us. He was a big part of us gaining one point.”

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