Blocking shots a fast way to rebuild Flyers’ team spirit

Robert Hagg

VOORHEES – A big goal at a key moment can evoke a booming cheer from the home crowd.

But a blocked shot at a crucial time in the game?

That can draw a standing ovation.

Such was the case on Thursday night when the Flyers used a whopping 24 blocked shots to throttle the visiting Nashville Predators to the tune of a 2-1 score.

The diving in front of shots, sacrificing one’s body in the process, is as old as the hockey puck.

In the Flyers’ case, though, it’s all about the timing.

The past two games, they’ve been playing for a new coach, Scott Gordon, and a new goaltender, Carter Hart.

If there’s a way to build some quick camaraderie, some old-fashioned esprit de corps, it’s sprawling in front of a slap shot.

The Flyers did plenty of that, especially during a two-plus-minute five-on-three situation late in the second period. Philadelphia kept the scoreboard from changing.

Hart did the rest, cutting off angles and interacting well with his defensemen.

Defensemen Robert Hagg and Travis Sanheim led the way with five blocks apiece.

Blocked shots were a major reason why the Flyers were able to kill off all six Nashville power plays.

“You can see it, as soon as someone blocks a shot, the whole bench is standing up,’’ Hagg said after Friday’s practice at the Skate Zone. “It’s energy for the bench, energy for the team. It builds momentum.

“It’s always important but I think the last two games (under Gordon), we’ve shown it more frequently. That’s why the PK has been successful the last 10 games (to be exact, 86 percent over the past 11). We have to keep doing it to be successful.’’

Hagg brought up an interesting mathematical theory.

“Someone told me if you block 10 shots, that’s saving one goal,’’ he said.

Veteran defenseman Andrew MacDonald, who blocked 10 shots (the team record is 11) in a game a few years ago, understands why blocked shots factor into success.

“There are situations in games where there might be scrambly play, penalty kill, whatever,’’ he said. “It (blocking shots) kind of shows your teammates you’re willing to do whatever it takes to win.

“When you’re a man down, sometimes you just have to suck it up and do whatever you have to do.’’

When 20,000 fans are yelling their heads off, that can get a team’s blood running.

“Especially when you’re down five-on-three like that,’’ MacDonald pointed out. “You get a couple blocks and the fans respect it. Last night it was electric during the penalty kill. We can really feed off the energy they bring.’’

 

Provorov apologetic for incident

 

Ivan Provorov received a 10-misconduct penalty for making contact with linesman Ryan Daisy at 13:09 of the second period right after Provorov was whistled for a high stick penalty.

Provorov said after the game he went over and apologized to Daisy for the incident.

The young Russian defenseman is not known for this sort of behavior. In fact, the 12 minutes in penalties he received matched his entire total for last season.

“It was just a battle in front of the net, I got the original two minutes – I let the emotion take hold of me and did something I wish I hadn’t done,’’ Provorov explained.

“I apologized to Ryan and I called him this morning just to say that I’m sorry. It’s unacceptable. But I think we’re all human, we all make mistakes and of course you always wish you never make mistakes. But when you do, you have to learn from them. I’ll learn from this.’’

 

Hart to start

 

Coach Scott Gordon said rookie goaltender Carter Hart will start his third straight game when the Columbus Blue Jackets hit town for a Saturday afternoon game.

But Gordon would not commit to whether Hart might start in the second half of a back-to-back when the Flyers visit the New York Rangers on Sunday night.

“I just try to take things one game at a time,’’ Hart said. “I prepare the same for every game. Not try to get too far ahead of myself. Just come to the rink and take things one day at a time.’’

Hart did start both ends of a back-to-back on three different occasions with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms this season.

 

Lehtera available

 

Gordon said Jori Lehtera, who is facing some legal issues involving a drug incident at his house back in Finland (he wasn’t there at the time) is available to play, even though he’s been a healthy scratch in four of the last five games.

 

New top line results in strength down the middle

 

Putting Claude Giroux back at center on the top line (he played almost all of last season at left wing with Sean Couturier at center) gives the Flyers three strong offensive players (Nolan Patrick the other) down the middle, according to Gordon.

“From an opposition standpoint, all of a sudden you’re looking at three skilled centers,’’ Gordon said. “I know from my experience with the Islanders (2008-10), I remember playing against the Flyers they had (Mike) Richards, (Jeff) Carter and this guy named Giroux, who I knew nothing about.

“I said, ‘I’m sure he’s got to be an average player. He just came up from the minors.’ Little did I know he’s a pretty good player.

“So when you’re looking at your opponent and you see that you have three good centers, there’s potential for offense on all three lines.’’

 

 

 

 

 

About Wayne Fish 1111 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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