The Battle For Gloria rages on with the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues tied 2-2 in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final. Nick and Pete also discuss the latest coaching moves (Dave Tippett, Bob Boughner, Marc Crawford), trades (Kevin Hayes) and rumors (Patrick Marleau, Nikita Zaitsev, Phil Kessel), while Nick introduces a new game segment that has Pete stumped.
Travis Sanheim ended things in overtime with his fifth goal of the season as the Philadelphia Flyers cruised to their sixth win in-a-row over the Boston Bruins, 3-2, on Thursday night at TD Garden.
Carter Hart (8-5-0 record, 2.48 goals against average, .922 save percentage in 14 games played) made 23 saves on 25 shots against (.920 SV%) in the overtime win for the Flyers and became the 10th different goalie in National Hockey League history to record a personal win streak of at least five games before his 21st birthday.
Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask (14-8-4, 2.45 GAA, .920 SV% in 27 GP) turned aside 38 out of 41 shots against for a .927 SV% in the overtime loss and remains tied with Tiny Thompson for the most wins by a goaltender in Boston’s franchise history (252 wins).
The Bruins fell to 27-17-7 (61 points) on the season, but improved to 3rd place in the Atlantic Division.
Boston is tied with the Montreal Canadiens in points (61) and regulation-plus-overtime wins (26), but leads the Canadiens in standings as a result of having attained a greater number of points earned in games between the tied clubs (Boston went 2-1-1 in the season series against Montreal, thereby yielding the Bruins five points in the standings to Montreal’s four points in the standings in games against each other).
If that doesn’t make sense, hopefully things will be clearer after both teams play their next game (the Canadiens play on Saturday, B’s play on Sunday).
Philadelphia improved to 22-23-6 (50 points) on the season and remain 7th in the Metropolitan Division standings. In addition, the Flyers extended their current win streak to six games.
Boston finished the month of January with a 6-3-3 record (15 points out of a possible 28 points, .538 points percentage).
While David Backes (900 career games) and Brandon Carlo (200 career games) both reached milestones Thursday night, Bruce Cassidy celebrated the return of Joakim Nordstrom to the lineup for the first time since the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on New Year’s Day.
Nordstrom missed the last 11 games with a non-displaced fractured fibula he sustained against the Chicago Blackhawks on Jan. 1st, but he didn’t miss a shift outdoors in true hockey player fashion.
Rask was also back in action after missing one game due to a concussion sustained on Jan. 19th against the New York Rangers. As a result, Zane McIntyre was reassigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL) prior to puck drop against the Flyers.
John Moore was inserted back into the lineup in place of Matt Grzelcyk, having been a healthy scratch for the last few games.
Joining Grzelcyk in the press box on Thursday were Noel Acciari (out of the lineup due to Nordstrom’s return) and Steven Kampfer (the de facto depth defender since being re-acquired by the Bruins in the Adam McQuaid trade in October).
Nordstrom suited up to the left of Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner on the fourth line, while Cassidy juggled his defensive pairings, placing Torey Krug alongside Kevan Miller to round out the top-four blue liners with Zdeno Chara paired with Charlie McAvoy.
Moore slid in as the left shot defender on the third pairing with Carlo to his right side.
Cassidy did not make any adjustments to his first three forward lines.
Almost two minutes into the game, Claude Giroux got his stick between the legs of David Pastrnak and brought the young Boston winger down to the ice.
Giroux was assessed a minor penalty for tripping at 1:47 of the first period and the B’s went on the power play for the first– and only– time of the night.
As the seconds ticked away on the ensuing skater advantage, Boston sustained a level of pressure on the special teams that had been seen in Tuesday night’s, 4-3, shootout loss to the Winnipeg Jets– it was only a matter of time before the Bruins would strike.
Brad Marchand worked the puck back to the point to Krug, whereby the Boston defender sent a pass across the slot to Pastrnak (29) for the one-timer past Hart while falling to one knee, giving the B’s the, 1-0, lead.
Krug (29) and Marchand (38) recorded the primary and secondary assists, respectively, on Pastrnak’s goal at 3:05.
In the final minute of the opening frame, Giroux (15) tied things up, 1-1, on a breakaway goal that he fired past Rask’s glove-side. Jakub Voracek (30) was tabbed with the only assist on the goal at 19:16 of the first period.
Entering the first intermission, both teams were tied, 1-1, on the scoreboard, with the Bruins leading in shots on goal, 10-8.
Both teams were also tied in blocked shots (4-4), takeaways (4-4) and face-off win percentage (50-50), while the Flyers led in giveaways (4-2) and hits (7-4) after 20 minutes of play. Boston was 1/1 on the power play, while Philadelphia had yet to see any action on the skater advantage.
Pastrnak (30) gave Boston the lead, 2-1, for the second time of the night at 5:11 of the second period when the young Bruins winger redirected a shot past Hart that originally came off Patrice Bergeron’s blade from the face-off dot to the Flyers netminder’s right side.
Bergeron (28) and Chara (4) notched the assists on Pastrnak’s goal as the 22-year-old Pastrnak became the first Bruin to reach the 30-goal plateau in a season before the month of February since Cam Neely did so in the 1993-94 season (Neely had 36-11–47 totals in 31 games played entering February 1994).
With his second goal of the game, Pastrnak surpassed Neely, Bobby Orr and Barry Pederson for sole possession of first place in franchise history for having three consecutive seasons of at least 30 goals prior to turning 23.
Entering the second intermission, Boston led, 2-1, on the scoreboard, despite trailing the Flyers, 25-17, in shots on goal. Philadelphia outshot the B’s, 17-7, in the middle frame alone.
The Bruins led in blocked shots (14-9) after 40 minutes of play, while the Flyers went into the dressing room after two periods with the lead in takeaways (9-6), hits (13-10) and face-off win% (52-49). Both teams had eight giveaways each and the B’s were still 1/1 on the power play.
As a matter of fact, Boston would finish the night 1/1 on the power play, while Oskar Lindblom would be the one to notch Philadelphia’s first power play goal of the night on their only power play opportunity in the third period (more on that in a minute).
Early in the final frame of regulation, Scott Laughton had a clean break with Moore and Carlo trailing.
Moore tied up Laughton with his stick, hooking the Flyers forward and preventing a scoring chance, yielding a penalty shot for the Philadelphia forward.
Laughton’s penalty shot was denied by Rask with a blocker save, leaving the Flyers forward 0-for-2 in his career on penalty shots.
Kuraly was penalized for holding the stick of Sean Couturier at 8:46 of the third period, sending Philadelphia on their first power play of the night.
With 10 seconds remaining on the power play, the Flyers net front presence led to a redirection that squeaked past Rask at 10:36 to tie the game, 2-2, thanks to Lindblom’s 7th goal of the season.
Voracek (31) and Sanheim (12) had the assists Lindblom’s power play goal.
With the score knotted at two goals apiece, the Bruins and Flyers were headed for overtime at the final horn of regulation. Philadelphia held the advantage in shots on goal (36-25) through 60 minutes of the Thursday’s effort.
Less than a minute into overtime, Marchand tripped up Travis Konecny 57 seconds into the 3-on-3 action.
Philadelphia head coach, Scott Gordon, followed the stoppage in play for the delayed call against Boston by using his team’s timeout to draw up a soon to be game-winning game plan.
Just like their first power play goal of the game, with one second remaining on the skater advantage, Sanheim (5) fired a wrist shot past the Bruins goaltender as his own defender (Miller) and Flyers forward, Wayne Simmonds, screened Rask’s view of the puck.
Couturier (22) and Konecny (16) had the assists on Sanheim’s game-winning power play goal at 2:56 of the overtime period, snatching the, 3-2, victory for Philadelphia on the road.
Philly finished the game leading in shots on goal (41-25)– including the 5-0 shots on goal advantage in overtime– as well as hits (18-13) and face-off win% (63-37).
Meanwhile, Boston finished the night leading in blocked shots (20-18) and giveaways (13-10).
The Flyers finished the night 2/2 on the power play, while the B’s went 1/1.
Despite scoring the game’s first goal in their last six games, the Bruins are 1-2-3 in that span– including their current three-game losing skid.
Boston is now 4-6 in overtime (1-1 in shootouts) this season, while the Flyers improved to 2-6 (2-0 in shootouts) past the 60-minute mark this season.
Boston travels to Washington, D.C. for a Sunday matinee matchup with the Capitals this weekend before heading back home to host the New York Islanders on Tuesday. The B’s travel to Madison Square Garden for a Wednesday night battle with the New York Rangers before hosting the Los Angeles Kings next Saturday (Feb. 9th) afternoon.
Sean Couturier recorded his first career hat trick in the Philadelphia Flyers’, 4-3, victory Wednesday night over the Boston Bruins on home ice.
Carter Hart (5-5-1 record, 2.72 goals against average, .915 save percentage in 11 games played) made 39 saves on 42 shots against for a .929 SV% in the win for Philadelphia.
Meanwhile, Bruins netminder, Jaroslav Halak (13-8-2, 2.46 GAA, .920 SV% in 25 GP) turned aside just 15 out of 19 shots faced for a .789 SV% in the loss and allowed four or more goals in his fourth straight appearance.
With his goal in the first period, Pastrnak surpassed Barry Pederson for the most goals in Bruins franchise history by a player prior to his 23rd birthday.
As a result of the loss, Boston is now 16-4-3 when scoring first this season.
The B’s fell to 26-15-5 (57 points) on the season and remained 3rd in the Atlantic Division, while the Flyers improved to 18-23-6 (42 points) and now trail the New Jersey Devils by one point for 7th in the Metropolitan Division. In other words, Philadelphia is still last in the Metro.
After Colby Cave was claimed off waivers by the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday, the Bruins brass called up 23-year-old, Peter Cehlarik, from the Providence Bruins (AHL).
Boston head coach, Bruce Cassidy, assured reporters prior to Wednesday night’s battle that Cehlarik would be inserted on the second line, sliding in to the left of David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk, with David Backes as the odd forward out of the lineup.
Cassidy made no other changes to his lineup.
Cehlarik riled up the Wells Fargo Center crowd when he boarded Travis Konecny at 1:25 into the first period– even more so when the Flyers weren’t able to score on the ensuing skater advantage.
It only took 15 seconds on the power play for the Bruins to crack the code on Hart as Torey Krug sent a cross-ice pass to Pastrnak (27) for the one-timer from one knee near the side of the goal to give Boston the lead, 1-0.
Pastrnak’s 13th power play goal leads the NHL in that stat category and was assisted by Krug (26) and Brad Marchand (33) at 4:39 of the first period.
Moments later, Cehlarik (1) followed up with his first goal of the season in his 2018-19 debut as Boston entered the zone on a rush led by DeBrusk that began with a pass from Krejci through the neutral zone.
Similar to Pastrnak’s goal, Cehlarik received a pass on the open weak side for the one-timer, but from the opposite side of the ice from where Pastrnak scored his goal from.
DeBrusk (4) and Krejci (27) were credited with the assists on Cehlarik’s first goal of the night and the Bruins led, 2-0, at 9:12.
A few minutes later, Philadelphia answered back on the scoreboard with a similar rush going the opposite way resulting in Lindblom (5) firing a shot past Halak’s blocker side on the short side to cut the lead in half, 2-1.
Entering the first intermission, the Bruins led, 2-1, on the scoreboard and, 12-7, in shots on goal.
Boston also held onto the advantage in blocked shots (6-5) and hits (12-6), while Philly led in takeaways (4-3) and giveaways (7-2). Both teams were 50-50 in face-off win percentage, while the Flyers were 0/1 on the power play and the B’s were 1/1 on the skater advantage through one period.
Early in the second period, with momentum going their way, the Flyers pounced early on a shot by Jakub Voracek that was tipped in by Couturier (17) to tie the game, 2-2, at 5:32 of the middle frame.
Voracek (27) and Travis Sanheim (11) notched the assists on the goal and less than a minute later, Philadelphia had a tremendous opportunity to take advantage of the scoreboard on the power play after Patrice Bergeron tripped up Couturier at 6:10.
Just 37 seconds into the ensuing skater advantage for the Flyers, after Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner failed to convert on a shorthanded bid and were caught up ice, Philadelphia raced back the other way– catching the Bruins lagging behind the play.
With the B’s severely outnumbered, Couturier (18) rocketed home a one-timer goal past Halak to give the Flyers their first lead of the night, 3-2, at 6:47 of the second period.
Wayne Simmonds (8) and Giroux (38) had the assists on Philadelphia’s power play goal and first lead of the night.
Late in the second period, Lehtera hit Ryan Donato from behind and drove Donato’s face into the boards right where the glass meets the dasher, leaving Donato bloodied and headed for the dressing room as per concussion protocol.
Lehtera was given a five-minute major penalty for boarding and a game misconduct at 16:48, resulting in a power play for Boston that would carry into the third period.
The B’s failed to convert on their longest– guaranteed– extra skater advantage of the night.
After 40 minutes of play, Philadelphia held onto the lead, 3-2, despite being outshot by Boston, 29-14 (17-7 in the second period alone for the Bruins).
The Flyers dominated blocked shots (18-7), takeaways (9-7) and giveaways (10-5) through two periods as the Bruins entered the second intermission leading in hits (17-13) and face-off win% (58-42).
Both teams were 1/2 on the power play entering the third period.
Early in the final frame, Philadelphia was caught up in a poor line change, resulting in an automatic bench minor penalty for too many men on the ice.
Flyers head coach, Scott Gordon, sent Konecny to serve the minor penalty at 3:39 and Philadelphia killed off the ensuing shorthanded bid.
Scott Laughton hooked Pastrnak at 12:00 of the third period, but the Bruins did not score on the resulting power play opportunity.
Having killed off Laughton’s minor infraction, the Flyers went for the jugular in the vulnerable minute after a power play.
From the face-off dot to the right of Halak, Couturier (19) unloaded a wrist shot that Halak got a chunk of– but not enough of– as the puck twirled past the Boston goaltender and into the twine for Couturier’s first career hat trick at 13:53 of the third period.
Philadelphia led, 4-2, thanks to Couturier’s three goals and Lindblom (9) and Provorov (13) recorded the assists on his third goal Wednesday night.
With under two minutes to go in regulation, Cassidy pulled Halak for the extra attacker.
Boston was able to bring the game back to within one-goal as Marchand threw the puck towards net from almost the goal line for Cehlarik (2) to redirect for his second goal of the night at 18:54.
Marchand (34) and Krug (27) tallied the assists as the Bruins trailed, 4-3.
While attempting to disrupt an otherwise surefire empty net goal for the Flyers, Krejci interfered with Couturier at 19:44 and was surprisingly handed a two-minute minor penalty instead of automatically awarding Couturier with his fourth goal of the night.
The Bruins finished the game shorthanded as the final horn sounded on Philadelphia’s, 4-3, victory.
Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal (42-19), hits (18-17) and face-off win% (57-43), while the Flyers led in blocked shots (30-8) and giveaways (13-10).
The B’s went 1/4 on the power play Wednesday night, while Philly was 1/3.
For the first time since March 3-8, 1999, a player (Couturier) registered a hat trick in the National Hockey League in six consecutive days.
Boston heads back home to take on the St. Louis Blues on Thursday and finish up three games in four nights with a matchup on Saturday against the New York Rangers at TD Garden.
Saturday’s game is also the last game before the All-Star break for the Bruins. Pastrnak is the lone representative for the B’s that will be heading to SAP Center in San Jose, California for the weekend of festivities.
A bunch of minor trades were made in the last week, the 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Game rosters were released, as well as the 2019-20 outdoor game schedule. Nick and Connor also discuss the legacy that was the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic and the 2019 IIHF World Junior Quarterfinal upsets.
*Editor’s Note: Of course, after recording this week’s episode, the Philadelphia Flyers claimed G Mike McKenna off waivers from the Vancouver Canucks.
Zdeno Chara kicked off Thursday night’s scoring for the Boston Bruins against the Philadelphia Flyers on home ice and Chara ended scoring too. Jake DeBrusk added a power play goal in between Chara’s goals as Jaroslav Halak and the Bruins shutout the Flyers, 3-0, at TD Garden.
Boston improved to 6-2-2 (14 points) on the season with the win– good enough for 2nd in the Atlantic Division, despite being tied with the Toronto Maple Leafs for 1st on points (Toronto has one more regulation-plus-overtime win than the Bruins, yielding the tiebreaker).
Philadelphia fell to 4-6-0 (8 points) through their first 10 games, currently sitting 6th in the Metropolitan Division.
Halak (3-0-2, .945 save percentage, 1.43 goals against average in 6 games played) made 26 saves on 26 shots faced for a 1.000 SV% and his 2nd shutout of the season in the win, while Flyers netminder, Brian Elliott (2-5-0, .912 SV%, 3.38 GAA in 8 GP), stopped 22 out of 24 shots faced for a .917 SV% in the loss.
After ending a three-game losing streak in Ottawa, the Bruins now have back-to-back wins with a chance of extending their current winning streak to three games against their arch-rival– the Montreal Canadiens– Saturday night on home ice.
Boston head coach, Bruce Cassidy, didn’t make any changes to his lineup, save for the National Hockey League debut of Bruins defender, Jeremy Lauzon, out of necessity. Lauzon laced up on the third defensive pair alongside Steven Kampfer in place of the most-recently injured Bruins blue liner, Urho Vaakanainen (concussion).
David Backes (upper body), Torey Krug (lower body), Charlie McAvoy (upper body) and Kevan Miller (hand) also remained out of the lineup Thursday night, though Krug has begun practicing and should return to action next week.
Meanwhile, Lauzon became the first Bruin to wear No. 79 in a regular season game since current defender in the Colorado Avalanche organization (and Marshfield, Massachusetts native), David Warsofsky, did so in the 2014-15 season.
Late in the first period, Chara sent the puck over the glass and received a delay of game minor. The timing of the penalty came at 18:05 of the first period, so the ensuing Flyers power play would carryover into the first five seconds of the second period (unless Philadelphia scored before the end of the period).
After 20 minutes of play, the score remained tied, 0-0, with both teams amassing seven shots on goal. Boston had the advantage in takeaways (7-4), giveaways (2-1) and hits (6-5) entering the first intermission, while both teams were 0/1 on the power play.
The pace of play picked up in the second period, as both Elliott and Halak found themselves locked into a goaltending battle– in which the Bruins netminder made several impressive saves on 2-on-1 opportunities for the Flyers.
Halak’s strong performance (and eventual shutout) serves as a reminder that while there is no goalie controversy in the Hub (Tuukka Rask is the long-term starter), Cassidy’s decision making in determining which goaltender to play any given night (for now) continues to get tougher. It’s generally advisable to go with the hotter hand until one can’t any longer.
That said, Cassidy remained firm on his plans to start Rask Saturday night against the Canadiens after Thursday’s win.
Time (and stats) will tell after that. A little competition is a healthy thing– especially if the team is still able to put up “W’s” in the “win” column.
A little past midway in the second period, Danton Heinen worked the puck back to the point to Chara. The Bruins captain fired a slap shot– from just about the blue line in Boston’s attacking zone– high glove side past Elliott to give the B’s a 1-0 lead while David Krejci tried to screen the Philadelphia goalie from the slot.
The goal was Chara’s 2nd of the season and assisted by Heinen (3) at 13:00 of the second period.
Shortly thereafter, Philadelphia’s bench bungled a line change and was handed a two-minute minor penalty for too many men at 15:32. Travis Konecny served the penalty.
Late into the ensuing power play, the Bruins extended their lead on the scoreboard as Krejci threw a saucer pass to Jake DeBrusk (3) for the redirection from point blank and a 2-0 lead.
Krejci (7) and Kampfer (1) were credited with the assists on DeBrusk’s goal at 17:28. Kampfer’s assist was his first point for Boston since being re-acquired by the Bruins in September and his first point in a black-and-gold sweater in over six years (he had two assists in 10 games for the Bruins in the 2011-12 season prior to being traded).
Through two periods, Boston led Philadelphia, 2-0. Shots on goal were even, 18-18, while the Flyers led in blocked shots (12-9) and face-off win percentage (65-35). The Bruins held onto the advantage in takeaways (11-8) and hits (12-9) after 40 minutes of play.
Both teams had five giveaways each entering the second intermission, while the Flyers were 0/1 on the power play and the Bruins were 1/2.
Early in the third period, tempers started to flare as they usually do when the Big Bad Bruins square off with the Broad Street Bullies as Steven Kampfer and Scott Laughton got into a kerfuffle. Wayne Simmonds even jumped in as a third-man in and penalties soon followed.
Despite clearly attempting to fight with his gloves off, Kampfer was handed a four-minute double minor penalty for roughing, while Laughton received a two-minute roughing penalty.
Simmonds also received a roughing minor at 6:38 of the third period, resulting in a power play for the Flyers, thanks to Kampfer’s four-minute double minor.
Ryan Donato served one of Kampfer’s penalties in the box.
Late in the penalty kill for Boston, Chara tripped up Konecny and was sent to the box on a minor penalty for tripping (of course) at 8:34. The Flyers would have four seconds on a two-skater advantage before resuming play under a normal 5-on-4 power play scenario.
Philadelphia did not convert on either power play opportunity.
At 14:30 of the third period, Konecny himself was summoned to the sin bin for tripping Bruins forward, David Pastrnak.
Just under two minutes later, while on the power play, DeBrusk got into a shoving match with Flyers defender, Andrew MacDonald.
DeBrusk was going to be penalized for interference, while MacDonald received a slashing minor after a quick conference held by the refs once things settled down after the whistle.
Why did it take so long in comparison to the other penalties? Well, a scrum ensued and a slew of penalties followed in the same stoppage as the original DeBrusk retaliation call based on MacDonald’s infraction.
Laughton received another roughing minor– this time against DeBrusk– and was sent to the locker room early on a ten-minute misconduct. This additional two-minute penalty against the Flyers resulted in an abbreviated 5-on-3 power play for Boston for about 27 seconds, while Oskar Lindblom served Laughton’s penalty at 16:03 of the third period.
As time expired on Lindblom’s time in the box, the door opened and the puck rolled right by as a Bruins player was chasing it down.
Lindblom tried to play the puck while still in the penalty box. His feet had not set foot on the ice, thereby resulting in an automatic interference penalty and Boston went back on the power play at 18:06.
With less than a minute remaining in regulation, Flyers head coach, Dave Hakstol pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker. Things didn’t go as planned.
Halak sent the puck from the trapezoid to his captain along the boards behind the goal line, where Chara (3) then flung the puck through the air and into the empty net at the other end of the ice for the empty net power play goal at 19:37.
That’s right, Chara scored from the endboards in his own zone for what’s undoubtedly the longest empty net power play goal in NHL history. For all intents and purposes, he could’ve been having a cannoli at Mike’s Pastry in the North End and hit the net.
Halak (1) picked up his first point as a Bruin in the form of an assist on Chara’s goal and Boston secured the 3-0 victory at the final horn.
The Bruins finished the night ahead on the scoreboard, but trailed the Flyers in shots on goal (26-25), blocked shots (14-13), giveaways (9-7), hits (17-16), penalty minutes (26-12) and face-off win% (60-40). Philadelphia went 0/3 on the power play, while the B’s went 2/5 on Thursday.
Among other stats…
Chara (41 years, 221 days) became the third defender in the NHL to score multiple goals in a game at 41 years of age or older, joining Tim Horton (41 years, 277 days) and Nicklas Lidstrom (41 years, 191 days).
Despite winning, 3-0, no Bruins skater was more than a plus-one in plus/minus Thursday night. Heinen, Krejci, DeBrusk, Chara and John Moore were all plus-one, while Chara led the way for Boston in shots on goal with five.
Patrice Bergeron, Pastrnak and DeBrusk were the next highest with three shots on net.
Nolan Patrick, Laughton, Jakub Voracek, MacDonald and Shayne Gostisbehere were all minus-ones for the Flyers, while Claude Giroux led his teammates with five shots on goal. Travis Sanheim was the next closest with four.
Gostisbehere, Hadd and Corban Knight each recorded two hits for Philadelphia and Gostisbehere led his teammates in blocked shots with four.
The Bruins take on the Canadiens Saturday night on home ice for their next matchup before venturing out on the road to visit the Carolina Hurricanes on Oct. 30th and the Nashville Predators on Nov. 3rd as part of a quick, two-game, road trip.
42-26-14, 98 points, 3rd in the Metropolitan Division
Lost in the First Round to Pittsburgh (4-2)
Offseason Analysis: Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The Flyers could be seriously dangerous if they get some solid goaltending.
After a rough 2016-17 campaign, the Flyers struck gold in the draft lottery, snagging the No. 2 overall pick and using it to draft top-ranked prospect Nolan Patrick. This added yet another weapon to one of the more potent offenses in the league, but questions remained about the defense and, particularly, in net.
It took a rotation of four different goaltenders (Brian Elliott, Michal Neuvirth, Petr Mrazek and Alex Lyon) to get it done, but Philly managed to punch their ticket back to the playoffs mostly on the strength of unbelievable seasons from captain Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek, a breakout year from Sean Couturier, a rebound year from Shayne Gostisbehere and a ridiculous 10-1-2 month of February that took them from treading water in the Wild Card picture to solidly in third place in the Metro. A big push from Columbus nearly knocked the Flyers back into the Wild Card spot at the end of the year, but they managed to hang onto the Divisional spot by a single point.
Unfortunately, this only meant that they’d play in-state rival Pittsburgh, and while Philly would manage to take the Pens to six games, it was often a very one-sided series. Only a heroic nine-point-in-six-game effort from Sean Couturier even kept the series as competitive as it was.
With a few notable underperformers coming to the end of their contract and a fairly well-stocked prospect pool, GM Ron Hextall and crew decided to let a host of players walk into free agency, including longtime Flyer Matt Read, along with Valtteri Filppula, Brandon Manning, Johnny Oduya and Petr Mrazek, among others. Using the newly freed up cap space, they brought back former Flyer and perennial 30-goal man James van Riemsdyk, and brought in a solid defenseman in Christian Folin. JVR is certainly a known commodity, while Folin is a quiet, confident defender that has impressed under the radar over the past few years in Minnesota and LA.
Armed with yet another potent offensive weapon, and with improved depth on defense, the Flyers (yet again) look to the net in hopes of improvement. Though they boast on of the best pools of goaltending prospects in the league, they don’t want to rush the development of any of the youngsters, and will likely again turn to the tandem of Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth. While neither is a world-beating goaltender, they’re both more than capable of quality play.
Well…at least they would be outside of the goalie-hell of Philadelphia. Not sure what it is about that city, but it seems capable of ruining the reputation of basically any goaltender that dons the orange and black. So, maybe hope to win every game 5-4, Philly fans?
Speaking of 5-4 victories, let’s take a look at that dangerous forward corps.
While the top-six are pretty well all shoe-ins, the bottom-six does have a few positions that are definitely up in the air. Down the middle there’s likely to be strong competition for the No. 3 and 4 center spots, as Jordan Weal, Scott Laughton, Jori Lehtera and former Union College standout Mike Vecchione will battle it out with youngsters German Rubtsov and Morgan Frost (Flyers’ first round picks in 2016 and 2017, respectively). Rubtsov and Frost have yet to play North American pro hockey, so they’ll have the steepest hill to climb to try and nab a spot, and will likely head back to Juniors or to Lehigh Valley for the year. While Vecchione has only two NHL games to his credit, and isn’t nearly as well-known to Flyers fans as the remaining three, he’s a very interesting option. Boasting a strong two-way game, as well as the ability to play center or right wing, he put up terrific rookie numbers in the AHL last year and could be a strong camp away from grabbing himself an NHL roster spot.
On the wings you’ll have veterans Michael Raffl and Dale Weise competing with some young talent in guys like Oskar Lindblom, Taylor Leier, Danick Martel, and Isaac Ratcliffe. Lindblom scored some time with the Flyers last year after impressing in the AHL. Martel is undersized but not afraid to play with an edge, and does bring some decent offensive skill with him. Ratcliffe is possibly the most intriguing option. At just 19-years-old, he can still continue to hone his game in Juniors, where he’s found his offensive stride over the past two seasons. But a 6-foot-6, sub-200 pound winger with some scoring touch and a mean streak might be hard to overlook for the big club.
My projected depth chart shakes out like this:
Giroux – Couturier – Konecny
JVR – Patrick – Voracek
Lindblom – Lehtera – Simmonds
Raffl – Laughton – Vecchione
Extra forwards Weise and Weal
On defense, the biggest problem facing the Flyers to start the season is injuries to veteran Andrew MacDonald (should only miss a few weeks of the season) and promising youngster Samuel Morin (likely out until February). Until MacDonald returns they’ll lack a true top pair reliable defender to partner Gostisbehere, so that could be of concern at least in the opening weeks. While the defense corps looks to be fairly set (particularly after MacDonald returns), there are a handful of names who could challenge for a depth spot. Philippe Myers was an undrafted signing out of Juniors, who blossomed late to catch the eyes of Flyers brass. At 6-foot-5 and approximately 210 pounds, he’s got no shortage of size, but also put up respectable offensive numbers as a rookie in the AHL last season. He’s also a right handed shot, something the Flyers are a tad short on. Veteran T.J. Brennan is definitely a reliable option to fill some minutes in MacDonald’s absence, as well.
Once MacDonald makes his return, I have the Flyers defense corps shaping up as:
MacDonald – Gostisbehere
Provorov – Gudas
Sanheim – Folin
Extra defender Hagg
In net, as previously mentioned, it’s likely the Flyers will head into the season with the Elliott/Neuvirth tandem. With both vets in contract years, Philly will likely give the trio of Alex Lyon, Carter Hart and Anthony Stolarz another full year of development if possible before potentially calling upon two of them to take the reigns as a tandem in the near future. Felix Sandstrom is a sleeper pick to find his way into the picture next year as well, after what will be his fourth season of SHL action in Sweden.
Offseason Grade: B-
On paper, it looks like the Flyers lost much more than they gained this year. But although there were some household names that departed, most had underperformed greatly in recent years. Hextall cleared cap space, grabbed a big fish in van Riemsdyk, and used the depth of his organization to fill the remaining holes.
The offense is deadly. The defense is young, but quite promising (particularly once it gets back to full strength). The goaltending is…well, Philadelphia goaltending. But the future in net looks incredibly bright, and Philly would be wise to not rush that future unless absolutely necessary.
A likely fringe playoff team this year, but in the next two or three years, we could see the orange and black making serious noise once again. Because the depth doesn’t stop in net, and I only mentioned about half of the recent first round picks still waiting in the wings.
Our offseason previews for all 31 National Hockey League teams continues with the Philadelphia Flyers and their outlook for the summer.
The 2017-18 Philadelphia Flyers pulled themselves into 3rd place in the Metropolitan Division with a late season surge ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets and New Jersey Devils by one point.
Philadelphia’s 42-46-14 record lauded them 98 points on the season under the guidance of head coach, Dave Hakstol, and in a First Round matchup with their intrastate rival Pittsburgh Penguins.
Despite a breakout performance in the postseason by Sean Couturier and back-and-forth offense all series long (in games that weren’t lopsided), the Flyers succumbed to Pittsburgh in six games on home ice in their first playoff appearance since 2016 and first postseason meeting with the Penguins since the 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
As usual, goaltending was an issue with Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth sustaining injuries late in the season, leading General Manager Ron Hextall to acquire Petr Mrazek as an insurance policy down the stretch from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for a conditional 2018 third round pick and a conditional 2019 fourth round pick.
2018 NHL Entry Draft
Hextall has two first round picks at his disposal with the 14th overall selection via the St. Louis Blues (thanks to last June’s Brayden Schenn deal for Jori Lehtera, a 2017 first round pick (Morgan Frost) and a conditional 2018 first round pick) and their own 19th overall selection in the 2018 Draft.
With two mid-round picks in the first round, Hextall can lay claim to two of the best available picks or go off the board in accordance with however his scouting department values talent– I’m not the expert here. Then again, he could flip one or both first round picks for assets.
But if you’re a Flyers fan, you likely could see Ty Smith, Bode Wilde, Barrett Hayton, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Joseph Veleno, Jack McBain, Grigori Denisenko, Serron Noel, Jared McIsaac or Ryan Merkley walking up the draft stage in Dallas in less than a week grabbing a hold of Philadelphia’s classic orange-and-black sweater.
Pending free agents
Philly has about $17.200 million to spend on free agents this summer and only a handful of pending UFAs and RFAs.
Read only appeared in 19 games for the Flyers this season, scoring one goal and recording 16 shots on net. After reaching the 40-point plateau twice in his career with Philadelphia in 2011-12 and 2013-14, his offensive production has only declined since 2014, yielding 30 points in 2014-15, 26 points in 2015-16 and 19 in 2016-17.
Filppula was traded to the Flyers by the Tampa Bay Lightning at last year’s trade deadline, served as an alternate captain this season and had 11-22–33 totals in 81 games. His numbers are respectable, though he hasn’t replicated his 58-point season with the Lightning in 2013-14.
A third round pick (95th overall) of the Red Wings in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, Filppula should see more time in the City of Brotherly Love if there’s a mutual attraction. Just maybe not at the $5.000 million cap hit he had on his five-year contract he signed with Tampa in July 2013.
24-year-old Taylor Leier makes up the only pending-RFA forward on Philadelphia’s roster and played in 39 games with the Flyers this season (the most he’s been a part of since breaking into the league in 2015-16). Leier had one goal and four assists (five points) and is not an offensive threat by any means.
Hextall could let Leier walk without tendering a qualifying offer and that’d be fine.
It’s not so much about what the Flyers do this summer, but rather what Hextall and his front office is proactively planning to do next summer that makes a world of a difference (glancing at the current NHL roster alone and ignoring any potential additions via trade or free agency).
There’s six players currently on Philadelphia’s NHL club that could test the open market in July 2019, including Lehtera, Wayne Simmonds, Michael Raffl, Jordan Weal, Scott Laughton and Travis Konecny.
The obvious standouts of those names are Simmonds (who’ll be in the midst of his prime and entering his 30s) and Konecny (who will be coming off of his entry-level contract). Both are sure to expect a raise and long term deals if they see themselves attached to the city for a while.
And with only two roster players signed past the 2021-22 season in Jakub Voracek (2023-24) and Shayne Gostisbehere (2022-23), Hextall will soon have to start navigating the future of the new core in Konecny, Nolan Patrick and crew.
Perhaps Hextall would float the idea of moving 29-year-old forward, Dale Weise, and his $2.350 million cap hit through the 2019-20 season with the future in mind.
Manning, 28, had his best season with 7-12–19 totals in 65 games played, while Oduya, 36, signed with the Ottawa Senators last July as a free agent and was claimed off waivers by Philadelphia on February 26th. The Swedish defender recorded four goals and four assists with Ottawa this season and played in one game for the Flyers.
Hagg, 23, played his first full-season with Philadelphia in 2017-18, amassing 3-6–9 totals in 70 games played in his rookie season.
Both Manning and Hagg are part of the solution on Philly’s blueline, while Oduya will more than likely test the waters of free agency once more in the NHL.
In goal, Elliott, 33, Neuvirth, 30, and Mrazek, 26, are currently listed on the NHL roster.
Elliott had one-year left on his two-year deal with a $2.750 million cap hit, while Neuvirth also has one-year remaining on his current contract at $2.500 million.
For the second year in a row, Elliott’s goals against average increased and his save percentage worsened as a starting goalie. In 43 games this season, he had a 2.66 GAA and .909 SV%.
Neuvirth improved from 2016-17 to 2017-18 in six fewer games as Philadelphia’s backup, finishing the year with a 2.60 GAA and .915 SV%.
Mrazek is a pending-RFA coming off his worst season. In 22 games with Detroit this season, the Czech goaltender had a 2.89 GAA and .910 SV%. That’s less than ideal, but considering the Red Wings ongoing rebuild… Mrazek didn’t do himself any favors with a playoff bound team in the Flyers, amassing a 3.22 GAA and .891 SV% in 17 games.
On the surface it may appear as though the annual revolving door of goaltenders in Philadelphia may continue, but there’s some promise in their goaltending prospects.
Philly could have a situation very much like their rival in Pittsburgh currently has where Matt Murray is the starter and Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith constantly battle for the backup role while all being close in age.
The Flyers should make Neuvirth their starter– in the meantime, as the search continues for a legitimate starter– with Alex Lyon and Anthony Stolarz (both pending-RFAs this July) competing for the backup role.
Other pending free agents throughout the organization include:
Reece Wilcox (RFA), Colin McDonald (UFA), Samuel Morin (RFA), Tyrell Goulbourne (RFA), Alex Lyon (RFA), John Muse (UFA), Dustin Tokarski (UFA), Danick Martel (RFA), Anthony Stolarz (RFA), Will O’Neill (UFA)
Even though the Philadelphia Flyers were out-shot 32-25, they held on to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-2 at PPG Paints Arena in Game 5 of their first round series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs to force Game 6 back at Wells Fargo Center.
After 7-0, 5-1, 5-1 and 5-0 final scores in the first four contests, this rivalry series was more than due for a competitive, back-and-forth game.
Though Philly takes credit for one of those lopsided victories, Game 5 was easily the Metropolitan’s third-place team’s best effort of the postseason so far, and that might be due in large part to the stellar play of G Michal Neuvirth. Earning his first start of the series, he stopped 30-of-32 shots faced (.938 save percentage), including a dazzling glove save against C Sidney Crosby with 51 seconds remaining in regulation to preserve the Flyers’ then 3-2 lead.
Another Flyer that put it all on the line was First Star of the Game C Sean Couturier. After sitting out Game 4 with an injury suffered in practice at the hands of D Radko Gudas, Couturier (W Wayne Simmonds) scored the game-winning goal with 75 seconds remaining in regulation.
In G Matt Murray‘s defense, Couturier’s goal was a bit of a fluke. However, luck counts just as much as snipes do when they reach the back of the net, so Couturier’s wrister bouncing off D Brian Dumoulin‘s left skate and past the netminder’s glove was what proved to be the deciding tally.
Murray departed the ice for the extra attacker with one minute remaining on the clock (nine seconds before Neuvirth robbed Crosby), and W Matt Read (Second Star F Valtteri Filppula) took advantage with 18 ticks left in the game to score an empty-netter for his first playoff goal since April 25, 2014.
However, all this talk about the Flyers implies they dominated this contest. That is as far from the truth as it gets, as Pittsburgh certainly had its fair share of scoring opportunities. That was no more true than the first period, but the solid play by Neuvirth meant Philly was the only side to register a marker in the frame.
F Claude Giroux (RW Jakub Voracek and Filppula) took credit for the tally with a slap shot from between the face-off circles with 2:31 remaining in the period. It was an opportunistic goal for the Flyers, as the stoppage of play before Giroux’ tally was to allow F Evgeni Malkin to get off the ice after C Jori Lehtera landed awkwardly on his left leg.
Malkin would return to action following the first intermission, but was not able to score even one point to help Pittsburgh’s predicament.
Though PPG Paints Arena never fell fully silent, Rust’s goal brought the crowd roaring back to life, and that positive energy translated to the ice 4:45 later when F Jake Guentzel (Crosby and F Dominik Simon) buried a wrister on Neuvirth to give Pittsburgh a one-goal advantage.
However, that excitement was sucked out of the building just as fast, as Guentzel’s tally was not the final one of the frame. Even though Gudas’ holding penalty against F Zach Aston-Reese with 2:58 remaining in the period had given the Penguins the man-advantage, a sloppy giveaway by RW Phil Kessel ended with Filppula flying towards Murray’s crease. The 2008 Stanley Cup Champion dropped a pass to Lehtera, but he ended up being the one scoring the shorthanded goal by scrapping out a wrister from within the crease.
Still facing elimination, the Flyers will host Game 6 in Philadelphia on Sunday, April 22. Puck drop is scheduled for 3 p.m. Eastern, and fans not in attendance can catch the action on CBC, NBC and TVAS.
Having spoiled the opportunity to clinch a spot in the Eastern Semifinals on home, the Penguins will surely be a bit angry when they travel east this weekend. However, they have the luxury of knowing they’ve won four-straight games at Wells Fargo Center and will continue to play with the confidence expected from a reigning back-to-back Stanley Cup champion.
The Penguins stars were out in full effect during Game 3 in Philadelphia. Sidney Crosby had a four-point night with one goal and three assists. Evgeni Malkin wasn’t too far behind Crosby with a goal and assist as well. Matt Murray also had a great game, stopping 26-of-27 on the night. It was all Pittsburgh in Philadelphia.
The first period saw the Flyers feeding off the home crowd, as they were moving their feet well and getting into dangerous positions. They had a majority of the chances early on with the Penguins’ netminder Murray standing tall. Nolan Patrick had a great chance when he blew by the Penguins defensemen, but couldn’t find the net.
The Penguins were struggling to get chances or even establish pressure on the Flyers. About halfway through the first, the Penguins forced a turnover off the forecheck and Sidney Crosby capitalized with his fourth goal of the playoffs on a wraparound goal. Patric Hornqvist, a new linemate to Crobsy, picked up the lone assist on the goal.
The goal didn’t seem to faze Philly’s momentum however, as they continued to battle and look to beat the stellar Murray. They ended the period without the goal but clearly dominating them with an 11-4 shot lead.
The second period started with the Flyers hoping to continue the strong play and finally beat Murray. But they came out undisciplined and took a penalty just over a minute into the period. The penalty proved to be costly as Derick Brassard took a nice pass from Phil Kessel and beat Brian Elliott bar down. It was Brassard’s first goal of the playoffs, giving Pittsburgh a 2-0 lead.
The Penguins took over from there and after a coincidental penalty to both teams, Jakub Voracek took a high sticking penalty for some good ole fashion four-on-three power play for the Penguins. The Penguins had the big guns out as Crosby got in the zone and dropped it to Kris Letang. Letang slid the puck over to Evgeni Malkin for a one timer slapper past Elliott. It was Malkin’s second goal of the playoffs seven minutes into the second period.
It got worse from there. In the opening face-off after the goal, Crosby won in forward, got into the zone and hit a drop pass to Brian Dumolin, who scored the biggest five-hole since goalies started using butterfly style. The Penguins scored both goals five seconds apart, giving them a 4-0 lead.
The Flyers did finally beat Murray, as Travis Sanheim let a wrister go from the point, and the puck had eyes finding the back of the net. It was Sanheim’s first career playoff goal and Nolan Patrick and Voracek picked up the assists on the goal with just six minutes left in the second period.
The third period saw similar outcomes as Philly continued to take bad penalties and again Pittsburgh took advantage. Justin Schultz hammered a one-time by Elliott on the power play. Malkin and Crosby picked up the assist on the third power play goal of the game. Pittsburgh turned on cruise control and proceeded to get the puck in deep and be defensively sound to see out the end of the game.
Game four will be Wednesday, April 18th in Philadelphia on CBC, NBCSN and TVAS at 7:00 pm EDT.