In the second week of the season, the Philadelphia Flyers went from one extreme to the other.
They opened it was a lackluster 6-1 loss at home in the first of two games against the Buffalo Sabres on Monday, but bounced back the next night with a sound 3-0 victory. Then on a two-game swing to New England, the Flyers squandered a pair of leads in the third period during a disappointing 5-4 overtime loss on Thursday to the Boston Bruins. To close the week, the Bruins dealt them another 6-1 pounding.
The Flyers only picked up three out of a possible eight points and begin this week with areas to fix up and down the lineup. While the team had a mediocre week, there were a few players who stood out for both the right and wrong reasons.
So without further delay, let’s dive into the second installment of the weekly Flyers who’s hot and who’s not.
The backup goalie is the one player who had a remarkable week. In his first start of the season, Elliott turned aside all 40 shots he faced and recorded a 3-0 shutout. The veteran, who allowed two goals in relief of Carter Hart on Monday in his season debut, made the routine saves and a handful of brilliant stops.
Elliott had key saves to help kill the Sabres’ 5-3 power play early in the first period, stoned Jeff Skinner on back-to-back, point-blank shots – he stopped the first with an extended right pad and the second with his glove to snare the puck out of the air – and a huge block when the Flyers were down a man in the second period. Also, he made 16 saves in the final 20 minutes when the team was still nursing a one-goal lead.
Elliott delivered a standout performance when the Flyers needed it most – after the 6-1 loss the previous night. The netminder proved he is up to the task again this season to serve as a reliable and stable Plan B behind Hart.
James van Riemsdyk
James van Riemsdyk had a strong week on and off the stat sheet. Although he failed to register a point, the winger contributed some blue-collar play in the second game against the Sabres. The 6-foot-3, 217-pound veteran used his size to dig out pucks in the corner and made big contributions on the forecheck. Following the game, head coach Alain Vigneault had high praise for van Riemsdyk.
“We battled hard on the forecheck. We battled hard to keep pucks in,” Vigneault said. “I thought a guy like James tonight showed the way. It was intense. It was physical in his compete. He didn’t get on the scoresheet, but he did a lot of other things tonight that I noticed and my other coaching staff noticed.”
His strong game on Tuesday carried over to Thursday when he had two goals, including a game-tying, power-play goal with under four minutes to play in regulation that forced overtime.
He ended the first week of the season by cursing out a reporter during a post-game press conference. This week, he took his frustration out on the ice.
Voracek had a goal and four assists and was a plus-two over the four games. The winger scored his first goal of the season in the victory over the Sabres, added three assists in the shootout loss, and looks like he is finding a groove.
Also, Voracek overtook Mark Recchi for fifth place on the Flyers’ all-time assists leaders list on Thursday and now had 399 with the club. He has a good shot to overtake No. 4 Bill Barber (463) and possibly even Brian Propp (480) next season. With his last assist that night, Voracek notched the 700th point of his career.
It was a week to forget for the 22-year-old budding star. He went 0-2-1, allowed 14 goals on 91 shots (.846 save percentage), and took out his anger on his stick after Saturday’s game – with five chops off the crossbar before it shattered. Hart, who was solid in the first two games of the year against the Pittsburgh Penguins, was pulled just shy of the midway mark on Monday and should have been lifted early in Saturday’s massacre.
Now, let’s be clear – it was not all his fault. The defense, which has been hit by injuries, was not sharp in front of him and the team put forth lackluster effort in the blowout losses. However, Hart is not himself right now between the pipes.
The good news is it’s still early in the season and there’s plenty of time for the youngster to get back on track. Remember, Hart struggled out of the gate last season before he turned it around and had a phenomenal campaign.
The defenseman, signed this offseason, has a reputation as an above-average puck carrier and contributor on the offensive end and power play. While his defensive game has deficiencies, Gustaffson still needs to raise his game in his own zone.
Over the last four games, Gustaffson is turning the puck over too frequently and not making smart reads or decisions on defense. He is still getting used to his new team and Vigneault’s system and is only one of the handful of issues the Flyers have on the blue line, but he needs to play better than he did last week – or risk losing his spot in the lineup in the future.
Looking ahead, the Flyers have two games on the road against the New Jersey Devils (Tuesday and Thursday) and host the New York Islanders this weekend in back-to-back games. They will focus on tightening things up in their own zone and getting Hart back on track – and picking up some valuable points to keep pace in an ultra-competitive East Division where three points separate first place and sixth place.