Dates, awards finalists, opting out, new faces, exhibition schedule and the Ottawa Senators rebrand.
Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny each had a pair of points, while Joel Farabee scored the only shootout goal in the Philadelphia Flyers’, 3-2, shootout victory over the Boston Bruins at TD Garden Sunday night.
Carter Hart (6-3-1 record, 2.71 goals against average, .893 save percentage in 11 games played) made 26 saves on 28 shots against for a .929 SV% in the shootout win for the Flyers.
Bruins goaltender, Jaroslav Halak (4-1-2, 2.68 GAA, .918 SV% in seven games played) stopped 27 out of 29 shots faced for a .931 SV% in the shootout loss.
The B’s fell to 11-3-3 (25 points) on the season, but remain in control of 1st place in the Atlantic Division, while Philadelphia improved to 10-5-2 (22 points) and rose to 3rd place in the Metropolitan Division.
The Bruins are now 7-0-2 at home this season and are in the midst of a three-game losing streak.
Boston was without Kevan Miller (knee), John Moore (shoulder), Karson Kuhlman (fractured tibia), David Backes (upper body), Jake DeBrusk (lower body) and Brett Ritchie (upper body) on Sunday, but Joakim Nordstrom (infection) and Par Lindholm (upper body) returned to the lineup against Philadelphia.
DeBrusk was ruled out for the upcoming week and not likely to return before next weekend by Bruce Cassidy hours before the game against the Flyers.
Meanwhile, Cassidy inserted Lindholm on the third line, centering Anders Bjork and Zach Senyshyn.
As a result, Peter Cehlarik, was assigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL) and Charlie Coyle was bumped up to the second line right wing with Danton Heinen sliding over to the left of David Krejci.
Nordstrom returned to his usual spot on the left side of Sean Kuraly with Chris Wagner resuming his right wing duties on the fourth line.
Cassidy kept the Bruins defense the same from the last couple of games, leaving Connor Clifton on the first pairing with Zdeno Chara and Boston University alums, Matt Grzelcyk with Charlie McAvoy on the third defensive pairing.
Once more, Steven Kampfer was Boston’s only healthy scratch.
Midway through the opening period, after dominating the game flow, the Flyers finally struck first with a goal by Konecny (8).
Konecny’s goal was assisted by Couturier (7) and Oskar Lindblom (6) at 13:50 of the first period and was marked the first time this season that a visiting team had scored the game’s first goal at TD Garden.
It was also just the 13th shot on net for Philadelphia, while Boston was limited to three shots on goal at the time of Konecny’s goal.
Less than a minute after taking the, 1-0, lead, the Flyers went on the penalty kill thanks to Farabee’s minor infraction for high sticking against Brad Marchand at 14:14.
The Bruins did not convert on the ensuing power play.
Late in the period, Philippe Myers (3) sent a laser past Halak with heavy traffic in front of the net to give Philly a two-goal lead.
Konecny (11) and Travis Sanheim (5) notched the assists on Myers’ goal at 17:56 and the Flyers led, 2-0.
After one period, Philadelphia led, 2-0, on the scoreboard and, 14-5, in shots on goal. The Flyers also held the advantage in takeaways, 2-1.
Meanwhile, the B’s led in blocked shots (4-3), hits (12-11) and faceoff win percentage (75-25).
Both teams had three giveaways each and Boston was 0/1 on the skater advantage heading into the second period.
Early in the middle frame, the Bruins thought they had scored, but the officials on the ice made no clear indication as to what the call was until after video review in Toronto automatically reviewed something they couldn’t review.
See, the on-ice officials decided there was goaltender interference on the play, which, there had been something that happened in the crease– whether it was caused by Philly bumping a Boston forward into the Flyers goaltender or simply a Bruin colliding under his own volition into Hart– and thus, no goal was the call on the ice and it could not be reviewed.
Or something like that.
The fact of the matter is fans at the rink and casual viewers at home would simply like an explanation of what is believed to have happened (a.k.a. “the call on the ice”) and why or why not there was a review (a.k.a. “further review” or lack thereof).
Regardless, Boston trudged on with better possession in the second period than the first period, but committed the only penalty of the period when David Pastrnak hooked Ivan Provorov at 8:11 of the second period.
Philadelphia didn’t capitalize on their first power play of the night and play resumed even strength with no issue.
Through 40 minutes of play, the Flyers still led, 2-0, and held a, 20-10, advantage in shots on goal– including a, 6-5, advantage in the second period alone.
Philly also led in takeaways (10-4) and hits (21-20), while Boston led in blocked shots (11-8), giveaways (9-7) and faceoff win% (70-30).
Both teams were 0/1 on the power play.
Early in the final frame of regulation, Coyle worked the puck deep into Boston’s attacking zone, then sent a bouncing biscuit to the slot whereby Heinen (4) scooped up the loose puck, spun and wrapped it into the twine from point blank– cutting Philadelphia’s lead in half, 2-1.
Coyle (4) and Chara (4) had the assists on Heinen’s goal at 5:59 of the third period and the Bruins began to surge.
Midway through the third period, Brad Marchand (11) received a pass from Grzelcyk and fired a wrist shot top shelf over Hart’s glove from the faceoff dot to tie the game, 2-2, at 12:22.
Grzelcyk (3) had the only assist on the goal.
Less than a few minutes later, Provorov slashed Pastrnak as the Bruins forward was on a breakaway and yielding a penalty shot to the young Boston winger at 15:04.
Pastrnak was denied by Hart and play resumed as the score remained deadlocked, 2-2.
Almost two minutes later, Lindblom tripped up Marchand and was sent to the penalty box at 16:40.
The B’s did not convert on the resulting skater advantage, despite taking a timeout with 1:36 remaining in regulation to draw up a last ditch effort plan on the advantage.
At the horn, the Bruins and Flyers remained tied, 2-2, and headed for overtime.
Shots on goal were even, 27-27, despite Boston’s, 17-7, advantage in the third period alone. Blocked shots were also tied, 12-12, after regulation.
Meanwhile, Philadelphia held the advantage in takeaways (14-8) and hits (29-26) and Boston led in giveaways (13-9) and faceoff win% (65-35) heading into overtime.
The Flyers were 0/1 on the power play and the B’s were 0/2.
Philadelphia head coach, Alain Vigneault, started Claude Giroux, Lindblom and Provorov in overtime while Cassidy opted for Patrice Bergeron, Marchand and McAvoy.
The Flyers used their timeout after a stoppage with 1:15 remaining in overtime.
Shortly thereafter, in the final seconds of the extra frame, Boston had too many skaters on the ice and was assessed a bench minor penalty.
Krejci was selected to serve the infraction and Philadelphia didn’t capitalize on the skater advantage as overtime wrapped up.
After 65 minutes of action in Boston, the score remained tied, 2-2, with the Flyers leading in shots on goal, 29-28 (2-1 in overtime alone).
Boston finished the night leading in blocked shots (14-13), giveaways (13-9) and faceoff win% (61-39), while Philadelphia finished the action leading in takeaways (16-8).
Both teams had 29 hits aside and went 0/2 on the power play as the shootout commenced.
Boston elected to shoot first in the shootout– leading off with Coyle, who deked backhand, pulled the puck back to his forehand in effort to sneak it around Hart, but was denied by Philadelphia’s netminder with the leg pad.
Farabee shot first for the Flyers and scored on Halak’s glove side while taking it nice and slow into the zone.
Marchand tried to go blocker side to lead off the second round of the shootout, but was stopped with the leg pad as he couldn’t elevate the puck enough.
Giroux shot next for Philly, but was stopped by Halak as the Flyers forward tried to fake a slap shot, then went glove side before catching Halak’s forearm.
Finally, Pastrnak worked his way in on Hart as Boston’s last chance to extend the shootout, but the Philly goaltender broke up the attempt before Pastrnak could complete his shot– winning the game in the process.
Philadelphia improved to 3-2 in shootouts on the season, while Boston fell to 0-2 after overtime this year.
The Flyers also improved to 6-0-0 when leading after the 1st period this season and the Bruins fell to 1-2-2 when trailing after one period, as well as when trailing after two periods thus far.
Boston finished their two-game homestand (0-0-1) Tuesday night against the Florida Panthers before traveling to Toronto to face the Maple Leafs on Friday (Nov. 15th).
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.
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.