There was so much commotion about Sean Couturier’s winning goal and Michal Neuvirth’s brilliant goaltending that a collision involving Ivan Provorov late in Friday night’s Game 5 didn’t garner much attention.
But maybe it should have.
If the Flyers’ best defensive defenseman can’t play in Sunday afternoon’s Game 6, it would deal a serious blow to the team’s chances of staying alive in its playoff series with Pittsburgh.
The Flyers staved off elimination Friday night in Pittsburgh but are faced with the same situation on Sunday.
Late Saturday afternoon, the Flyers issued the following text: “No update on No. 9.’’
From the Flyers’ perspective, the one bit of good news is that Provorov came back to the ice to play in the final minute of the game, apparently to test whatever was bothering him.
So, as was the case with Couturier earlier in the week, there is no real way of knowing Provorov’s availability.
Saturday’s practice at the Skate Zone was an optional, so there was no conclusion to be drawn from Provorov’s absence from that.
The 21-year-old Russian is considered the team’s best shutdown backliner and was a big part of the Flyers’ ability to kill off all five Pittsburgh power plays in the 4-2 win at PPG Paints Arena.
The Flyers do have Travis Sanheim or veteran Johnny Oduya in reserve if Provorov can’t go.
It should be noted Provorov set a Flyers’ record by playing in all of his first possible 164 regular-season games (not to mention the first five games of this series), so it’s safe to say it’s going to take a lot to keep him off the ice.
Claude Giroux talked about how important Provorov is to the Flyers. Provorov continues to lead the Flyers in minutes on ice. Last year, at 20, he set a rookie record for time on ice.
“Usually it takes a defenseman a little longer to log a lot of minutes,’’ Giroux said. “But starting from last year, he played a lot of minutes.
“The more the season went on, he just felt more comfortable. He plays with a lot of confidence. He’s really fun to watch every night.’’
Provorov received the Barry Ashbee Trophy for best Flyers defenseman as a rookie and likely finished a close second to Shayne Gostisbehere in this year’s voting.
The two were paired together this year.
“He (Provorov) is skilled, he moves great,’’ Giroux said. “He uses his body very well.’’
Neuvirth looks to repeat
Goalie Michal Neuvirth, who played so brilliantly in Game 5 at Pittsburgh, hopes to duplicate that performance in Game 6 on Sunday.
“The team’s playing good in front of me all season long,’’ he said on Saturday. “They stepped up for me again, especially on the penalty kill.
“I’m feeling more confident in my game. I think I’m close (to a hundred percent).’’
Neuvirth, who started his first game since Feb. 18, wanted to get on the ice Saturday, even though it was an optional practice. He still wants to get some work in between starts because he’s been out so long.
“I’ve been feeling good about my game,’’ he said. “But I’ve got to be better (than the goal he allowed on Pittsburgh’s first marker). That’s why I went on the ice today, try to fix those little things.’’