Flyers’ line stability biggest plus for season’s first half

Kevin Hayes

When the Flyers completed the first half of their season with a 4-0 win at Buffalo on Monday night, it brought to light some of the reasons for their recent success.

Philadelphia entered Wednesday night’s game against Washington having scored four or more goals in six of their last seven games. Some of the credit for the revived offense can be given to line stability.

For the first couple months, coach John Tortorella did a lot of experimenting, partly due to injuries and some of it because he was just starting the job and wanted to get a handle on which players could do what.

After much jockeying, the top lines of Morgan Frost centering James van Riemsdyk and Owen Tippett along with Noah Cates playing the middle for Joel Farabee and Travis Konecny have stayed together.

Farther down, Scott Laughton at center and Kevin Hayes on left wing have developed chemistry along with right wing Wade Allison.

The fourth line of Patrick Brown in the pivot for wingers Nick Deslauriers and Zack MacEwen had scored goals in consecutive games and looks more comfortable with each passing game.

When line threesomes are familiar with one another, it makes the game a little easier.

“They’ve played simple, I just like the chemistry of the lines,’’ Tortorella said after Wednesday morning’s pre-game skate at the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees, N.J. “Sometimes everybody thinks it’s the offense but I like the part of away from the puck, too.

“I think they feel comfortable with positioning, they’ve read off one another. Our offense has moved up a bit and scored a few more goals in the games. I’m not going to change things just to change things.’’

During a 10-game winless streak, the Flyers were constantly chasing games and Tortorella searched for the right mix.

“When we were chasing some games, I’d make a change, put Kevin (Hayes) into a more offensive position,’’ the coach said. “But I think all through our lineup we’ve gotten consistent play on both sides of the puck.’’

After a rocky stretch which included a one-game benching, Hayes has come on of late and recently was named to the NHL All-Star Game.

“We’re scoring a lot more goals than we were at the beginning,’’ Hayes said. “I guess you could say the lines are working. The more you play with somebody, the more chemistry you build.’’

Hayes and Laughton actually played quite a bit when Hayes was at center, so they know each other’s moves. The other night, on a set play, Laughton won a draw, slid the puck to Hayes and he quickly fed Allison in front for a tap-in goal.

“I think we complement each other well, whether it’s him at center and me at the wing,’’ Hayes said. “He plays the game right every night, works hard. He’s fun to play with.’’

>Farabee trending up

With three goals in his previous four games, Joel Farabee is starting to look like his old self.

“I think he’s played with more energy more consistently,’’ Tortorella said. “His work away from the puck. . .the puck has found him. His goal (vs. Buffalo), we make the wrong play, we bump it back, it ends up bouncing over their player’s stick and ‘Beezer’ puts it in the net. A little bit of puck luck but I think he’s worked harder at his game.

“When you work harder at the overall game, things tend to bounce your way. I think you earn your bounces. He continues to grow.’’

>Tortorella: ‘Hart is No. 1 guy’

Carter Hart was scheduled to start in goal against the Capitals, even though rookie Samuel Ersson posted a shutout in the win at Buffalo and is 4-0 in his first five starts. Tortorella said Ersson has played well but he decided to go with Hart. “Ersson is going to play some games,’’ the coach said. “The schedule just worked out. It hasn’t changed my thinking. Ersson is going to play some games but Carter is the No. 1 guy.’’

Also in the mix is regular designated backup Felix Sandstrom, who is on a two-week conditioning assignment with the Phantoms.

>Short shots

Defenseman Cam York, who was promoted from the Phantoms last month and has played 14 games with the Flyers, was named to the American Hockey League All-Star Game (Feb. 5-6 in Quebec) but, barring unforeseen circumstances, will have to pass on that honor.

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About Wayne Fish 2070 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.