Philadelphia Flyers 2 Up, 2 Down: Raffl, Provorov and Goalie Choices

BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 8: Ivan Provorov #9 of the Philadelphia Flyers celebrates his goal at the bench during an NHL game against the Buffalo Sabres on December 8, 2018 at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Sara Schmidle/NHLI via Getty Images)
BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 8: Ivan Provorov #9 of the Philadelphia Flyers celebrates his goal at the bench during an NHL game against the Buffalo Sabres on December 8, 2018 at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Sara Schmidle/NHLI via Getty Images) /

In this look-back at the Philadelphia Flyers’ week, we look at the positive play of Ivan Provorov and Michael Raffl, plus the negatives of some of the goalie choices and Department of Player Safety. Games included this week are the team’s wins against the Islanders and Senators.


Ivan Provorov

Since January or so, Provorov has really settled back into the play that we saw so much from him last season. What that means is dictating play when he’s on the ice by making subtle, defensive plays and either lugging or passing the puck up-ice.

Earlier in the year, the Russian blueliner really struggled defensively, which hurt his offensive time. That hasn’t been the case of late, and especially in the past two games this week.

Provorov had a single assist against the Islanders but did finish the game as a plus-four. Against the Senators, he was a physical force in his own zone and even had a one-man effort on a power play in the second period that created a dangerous scoring chance.

After such a down first half of the season, it’s nice to see Provorov turn things around.

Michael Raffl

Raffl didn’t have a point in five goals scored against the Islanders, but his play against the Senators and the small sample size this week is enough for him to get into the ‘Up’ category.

Things didn’t start out so hot against the Senators for Raffl in his 400th game, who in the first period was fed the puck in the slot with only the goalie to beat, but instead dished it to the wing. By the end of the night, the Austrian had a goal and assist.

On his goal, Raffl initially broke up a clearing attempt by Mikael Boedker which gave Nolan Patrick a chance to steal the puck completely to feed his winger. He didn’t do much on his secondary assist on Scott Laughton’s goal, but it was Raffl’s complete game that helped the win.

He was strong on the boards and had some other scoring chances besides his goal. Raffl also stole the puck from Cody Ceci with just over two minutes left and the game separated by a goal. James van Riemsdyk got the puck and drew a game-sealing penalty that never would have happened without Raffl’s defensive play.


Luck with DoPS

The Flyers have been involved often with the NHL Department of Player Safety lately, and on Saturday into Monday, they were involved again. The DoPS decided that Jake Voracek’s interference hit on the Islanders’ Johnny Boychuk Saturday night was appropriate for a two-game suspension Sunday afternoon.

Like most Flyers fans, I felt that the hit wasn’t suspension-worthy. Yes, it’s interference and a penalty (not necessarily a major), but it was simply a case of a player protecting himself from a hit.

Voracek may have seen Boychuk coming at him, but he did not target the defenseman’s head or simply hit him to protect the puck. He anticipated a hit from Boychuk and performed a counter-hit to protect himself along the boards. It’s a play that is seen every night in the NHL — though with worse consequences than usual.

What makes matters worse is that Flyers fans have seen lesser suspensions for more dangerous actions on their players. I’m not saying that the NHL has any sort of vendetta against Philly, but it has to make you wonder how DoPS comes up with some of their verdicts.

The most egregious offense happened when Evgeni Malkin earned just a one-game suspension for swinging his stick at Michael Raffl’s head. The Penguin got off light because, by luck, he hit Raffl’s helmet rather than his face. It was a complete non-hockey play that should never be part of the game, unlike Voracek’s.

Of course, things could get better today with Commissioner Gary Bettman expected to review the suspension on an appeal from the NHLPA, but considering Voracek has already missed one game, we’ll still say it’s bad luck.

Goalie Choices

With the Flyers winning their only two games this week and scoring eight total goals in the process, it wasn’t the easiest to point out a second negative, but I wasn’t too impressed with head coach’s Scott Gordon’s netminding choices.

First, Brian Elliott was a surprising choice for Saturday’s game after he had a poor effort against the Capitals last Thursday. Obviously, though, Gordon and Elliott walked away with no issue as the 33-year-old made 25 saves on 27 shots.

By Monday’s game, rookie Carter Hart was ready for game action and even dressed as the backup, but again Gordon went back to Elliott. Philadelphia did win the game against the Senators, but it’s the next couple games that makes that decision unsettling.

Gordon is likely to go back to Hart, who has been the team’s best goalie when they play the Capitals again this Thursday. Going back to Elliott after his poor play last week against Washington seems like a recipe for failure. Or if he waits till Friday to play Hart, that’s an even better offense in the Toronto Maple Leafs.

But instead of giving Hart a should-be easy, warm-up game against the Senators, Elliott played and Hart will return to the crease after 20 days off against the Capitals or Maple Leafs. That doesn’t seem like the best step to success either.

More. Flyers Continue Playoff Push with Win Over Senators. light