Tag Archives: Travis Konecny

DTFR Podcast #169- 2019-20 Season Preview: Metropolitan Division

Mitch Marner finally re-signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Boston Bruins announced a couple key extensions, more RFA deals were signed and the NHLPA decided not to re-open the current collective bargaining agreement as DTFR’s season previews continued with the Metropolitan Division.

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Philadelphia Flyers 2019-20 Season Preview

Philadelphia Flyers

37-37-8, 82 points, 6th in the Metropolitan Division

Only misses the postseason in odd years (2013, 2015, 2017, 2019)

Additions: F Andy Andreoff, F Kyle Criscuolo, F Kurtis Gabriel, F Kevin Hayes (acquired from WPG), F Tyler Pitlick (acquired from DAL), D Chris Bigras, D Justin Braun (acquired from SJS), D Matt Niskanen (acquired from WSH), D Nate Prosser, D Andy Welinski, D Tyler Wotherspoon, G Jean-Francois Berube

Subtractions: F Justin Bailey (signed with VAN), F Cole Bardreau (signed with NYI), F Greg Carey (signed with Lehigh Valley, AHL), F Byron Froese (signed with CGY), F Tyrell Goulbourne (signed with VGK), F Ryan Hartman (traded to DAL, signed with MIN), F Corban Knight (KHL), F Jori Lehtera (KHL), F Roman Lyubimov (KHL), F Phil Varone (signed with MTL), F Mike Vecchione (signed with STL), D Radko Gudas (traded to WSH), G Mike McKenna (retired), G Michal Neuvirth (signed a PTO with TOR), G Cam Talbot (signed with CGY)

Still Unsigned: F Travis Konecny, D Jacob Graves, D Ivan Provorov

Re-signed: F Nicolas Aube-Kubel, F Scott Laughton

Offseason Analysis: It’s the dawn of a new age for the Philadelphia Flyers. Gone are the days (hopefully) of the revolving door of goaltenders in a Flyers sweater as Carter Hart’s first full season is about to get underway– and with a stable defense in front of him too.

Last season, Philadelphia set an NHL record for the most goaltenders used in a season with seven different netminders.

This season, Philadelphia’s looking to set a record for the most current/former head coaches to be behind the bench at any given time as Alain Vigneault is the new head coach, while Mike Yeo and Michel Therrien are playing supporting roles as assistants.

General Manager, Chuck Fletcher, nabbed Kevin Hayes in June in a trade with the Winnipeg Jets– sending a 2019 5th round pick to the Jets in return.

Shortly after acquiring Hayes, the Flyers “re-signed” him to a seven-year, $50 million contract worth $7.143 million per season. He’s never scored more than 25 goals in a season and just had a career-high 55 points in 71 games with the New York Rangers and Winnipeg last season.

While Hayes certainly isn’t a standout superstar, he does solidify the top-six forward group and provides a long-term foundation for Philadelphia’s core with his seven-year deal.

Claude Giroux is only 31-years-old and signed through 2021-22 at $8.275 million per season and Jakub Voracek, 30, is signed through 2023-24 at $8.250 million per season.

Any contract with a cap hit under $9 million for your best players is considered a steal in today’s NHL, but not all “steals” are good contracts.

Regardless, Philadelphia has a versatile group of forwards and upgraded their defense over the offseason– something that was badly needed to help lessen the load on a high turnover of goaltenders over recent years.

Radko Gudas was traded to the Washington Capitals in a one-for-one deal that sent Matt Niskanen to the Flyers. Though Philadelphia retained 30% of Gudas’ salary ($1.005 million) in the deal, they did not keep any of his future suspensions in the transaction.

While Niskanen alone isn’t the most impressive thing in the world, adding Justin Braun to the mix that includes Niskanen, Shayne Gostisbehere, Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Robert Hagg and Samuel Morin certainly is.

Provorov is still an unsigned restricted free agent with training camp opening later this week.

Braun was acquired by Philadelphia in a trade with the San Jose Sharks in which Fletcher gave up a 2019 2nd round pick and a 2020 3rd round pick to get the top-four defender while the Sharks were looking to unload salary now that they’ve locked up Erik Karlsson to an eight-year, $92 million extension.

The Flyers have made themselves into serious playoff contenders on paper, but the hard part still remains in front of them– actually making it.

Luckily for them, Vigneault has been to the Stanley Cup Final more recently than Philadelphia has as an organization.

Vigneault made it to the Final behind the bench of the Vancouver Canucks in 2011 and New York Rangers in 2014. His team lost in seven games in 2011 and in five games in 2014.

The Flyers lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games in the 2010 Stanley Cup Final.

To win the Cup– sometimes– it takes a couple of hardships first before the sweet taste of victory.

Philadelphia’s in “win now” mode. Future be damned.

They have $13.417 million in cap space with Travis Konecny and Provorov to re-sign, plus Nolan Patrick in the final year of his entry-level contract this season.

Offseason Grade: A-

Sure Hayes is overpaid and Vigneault, Yeo and Therrien are behind the bench, but Fletcher built a legitimate defense, a mix of youth and quality players in their prime, plus he has a dark horse in net.

How far can Philadelphia go? That remains to be seen, especially as some of the younger players don’t have a lot of playoff experience– if any at all. However, the Flyers are playoff contenders nonetheless and as long as you make the postseason, you have a chance of winning the Cup.

2019-20 Metropolitan Division Outlook

As the entire hockey world awaits training camp action next month, let’s make some (un)educated guesses about the upcoming season that will totally pan out because everything always goes as expected. (It doesn’t.)

The projected standings below are only a forecast.

They are based on recent indications– as well as the last few seasons of stats– and cannot account for variations in roster construction (a.k.a. trades and free agency moves).

There’s a lot of variables that will turn the tables upside down, including transactions, injuries and otherwise. Anything can happen.

As always, it’s more important to remember 1) the spread and 2) the positioning.

Just how many points separate the projected division winner from the last wild card spot (the spread) and where a team is supposed to finish in the division standings (the position) can imply that things aren’t always what they seem.

A team that’s projected to win it all still has to play an 82-game regular season, qualify for the playoffs and go on to amass 16 wins in the postseason.

Projected Standings After ZERO Months

Metropolitan Division

  1. y-Washington Capitals, 107 points
  2. x-Pittsburgh Penguins, 102 points
  3. x-Columbus Blue Jackets, 93 points
  4. wc1-New York Islanders, 91 points
  5. wc2-Philadelphia Flyers, 91 points
  6. New York Rangers, 89 points
  7. Carolina Hurricanes, 87 points
  8. New Jersey Devils, 84 points

Washington Capitals: Pros and Cons

Year after year, Washington finds themselves at the top of the Metropolitan Division with or without any sort of logical explanation.

The last time the Capitals didn’t finish 1st in the division? It was the 2014-15 season when the New York Rangers followed up a 2014 Stanley Cup Final appearance with 113 points and the President’s Trophy.

Once again, the Caps will find a way to turn things on late into the season and manage the top spot in the Metropolitan Division, but they’ll be doing so without a long list of members from their 2018 Stanley Cup championship roster.

After matching his regular season goal scoring total in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Devante Smith-Pelly wasn’t able to get back to form and subsequently reassigned to the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears during the 2018-19 season.

Now, he’s an unrestricted free agent.

Also departing Washington this summer were the likes of Brett Connolly (signed with Florida), Andre Burakovsky (traded to Colorado for Scott Kosmachuk, a 2nd round pick in 2020 and a 3rd round pick in 2020), Nathan Walker (signed with St. Louis), Matt Niskanen (traded to Philadelphia in exchange for Radko Gudas) and Brooks Orpik (retired)

Madison Bowey was traded to Detroit in February. Jakub Jerabek left via free agency last season and is now playing in the KHL. Philipp Grubauer was traded to the Avalanche last June. Jay Beagle signed with the Vancouver Canucks last July. Alex Chiasson joined the Edmonton Oilers last October.

With such a quick turnover in the makeup of their lineup, the Capitals’ championship window may already be closing– and fast.

At least Garnet Hathaway, Richard Panik and Carl Hagelin all signed four-year contracts with cap hits under $3.000 million.

How would the Capitals fail?

Radko Gudas and Tom Wilson end up suspended for the entire season somehow and get the rest of the Capitals in trouble for something.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Pros and Cons

Phil Kessel is signed through 2021-22 at $6.800 million per season. Alex Galchenyuk is signed through 2019-20 with a cap hit of $4.900 million.

Using the money saved from trading Kessel to Arizona and hoping Galchenyuk will suddenly become a 30 or 40 goal scorer simply because he’s now on the same roster as Sidney Crosby, Penguins General Manager, Jim Rutherford, figured it’d be a smart move to lock up Brandon Tanev in free agency with a six-year contract at $3.500 million per season and a modified no-trade clause one offseason removed from signing Jack Johnson.

If there’s any positives for Pittsburgh, it’s that Crosby still exists and Mike Sullivan remains the head coach. Oh and Evgeni Malkin exists too, though some would find it hard to believe, since he wasn’t included in the top-100 players of the last century list.

As long as Matt Murray and Casey DeSmith can weather the storm of an insufficient defense, injuries and inadequacy from last season, then there’s a good chance the current longest active playoff appearance streak remains alive.

If not, well, just look for Rutherford to continue to move chairs around on the Titanic.

This team is starting to spring a leak. If they’re not careful, they’ll sink in the standings.

But since the season really doesn’t start until January anyway for the Pens, they’ll work their way into a playoff berth as they’ve done for the last dozen years or so.

How would the Penguins fail?

Rutherford trades another goal scorer for a “glue guy” and clones Tanev and/or Johnson. Realistically, Murray continues to cool down from his meteoric rise a couple of seasons ago and won’t cost too much as a pending-RFA.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Pros and Cons

All my ex’s live in… everywhere but Columbus.

The Blue Jackets lost Artemi Panarin to the New York Rangers, Sergei Bobrovsky to the Florida Panthers, Matt Duchene to the Nashville Predators and Ryan Dzingel to the Carolina Hurricanes, but they brought in Gustav Nyquist and brought back Marko Dano via free agency.

Yeah, ok, so it wasn’t a great summer for Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen and Blue Jackets fans– even if they knew at least one of their big names (Bobrovsky) was never going to re-sign.

But while a lot of armchair GMs think the Blue Jackets are destined for a rebuild, there’s a glimmer of optimism if Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins can carry the weight of the crease, while younger players like Alexandre Texier, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Josh Anderson continue to emerge.

Making it as far as they did into the Second Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs was vital to the experience gained by Columbus’ core.

Though they’re likely not going to a be a dominant force in 2019-20, they should be in contention for what would be a fifth playoff berth in seven years under Kekalainen’s reign.

And if they turn heads again like they did when they swept the President’s Trophy winning Tampa Bay Lightning in the First Round, then there’s sure to be some interest in lacing up the skates for the Blue Jackets in the future.

Then again, it could be tank city until Korpisalo or Merzlikins becomes a legitimate starter and somebody becomes an 80-point scorer again.

It just takes some time… Oh and someone should probably re-sign Zach Werenski while you’re at it.

How would the Blue Jackets fail?

The Union doesn’t lose. Ok, if everybody leaves, then it might.

New York Islanders: Pros and Cons

Having Lou Lamoriello as your General Manager means some players are going to love him (if they’ve already been with him for many years before) and some players are going to be chased out of the city when they are told they are going in a different direction, but then don’t quite land who they think they’re getting, only to leave you once again for… well, Semyon Varlamov isn’t really an upgrade at this point.

But Robin Lehner’s gone after winning the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy with the Rangers Islanders last season after having a remarkable career-year in the face of addiction and other struggles.

New York’s only getting older and Anders Lee took a “hometown discount” to stay on Long Island.

Speaking of Long Island, is it too early to start construction on the Belmont Park arena yet?

Something has to distract everyone from the undercutting of several prospect’s development– whether they’ve rightfully had a chance to prove themselves at the NHL level or not.

Barry Trotz is a great head coach, but how much more can he do with a middle of the road team that gives up on prospects too early?

Get them back to the Second Round only to be crushed by a team that’s mixing youth, speed, skill, grit and actually playing 21st century hockey?

It’s almost as though the Islanders learned nothing from 1995-2006.

How would the Islanders fail?

It’s [the] trap!

Philadelphia Flyers: Pros and Cons

Flyers General Manager, Chuck Fletcher, actually hasn’t had that bad of an offseason– at least when it comes to tweaking his roster.

Sure Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun are both 32-years-old, but they’re decent top-4 defenders that should be able to lead from the back end with Shayne Gostisbehere as Travis Sanheim and Ivan Provorov come into their own.

Speaking of Provorov, he’s still an unsigned-RFA and Philadelphia has more than enough money (about $13.400 million in cap space) to get some sort of a deal done right now. Why wait until the last minute? What’s that? Travis Konecny needs a contract right now too? Oh never mind. Let’s make things complicated!

Besides giving Kevin Hayes a seven-year contract worth $7.143 million per season with a no-movement clause, the Flyers should have– a lot of explaining to do when their experiment doesn’t work out.

The Hayes contract is bad, but just how bad can things get with Hayes back on a team that’s coached by… Alain Vigneault!?!

Vigneault’s the real wild card here as the jury is still out on whether or not his style still fits the game or if the Rangers were just that bad in his final year with New York.

All things considered, Philadelphia should be back into playoff contention. Just not Cup contention in 2019-20.

How much more of this can Claude Giroux take?

How would the Flyers fail?

Alain Vigneault, Mike Yeo and Michel Therrien can’t figure out who is actually the head coach on a night-to-night basis even though Vigneault technically owns the job (Yeo and Therrien are assistant coaches for the Flyers, if you haven’t heard). Oh and goaltending if Carter Hart gets injured.

New York Rangers: Pros and Cons

The Rangers landed the biggest prize in free agency, signing Artemi Panarin to a seven-year contract worth $11.643 million per season.

Though they are still in a rebuild, Panarin’s addition to the roster helps make New York more of an attractive destination and speeds things up in the overall plan.

It doesn’t hurt that GM Jeff Gorton had the 2nd overall pick in this year’s draft too. Kaapo Kakko is ready for the limelight in Manhattan as Henrik Lundqvist’s reign is in its twilight days.

Lundqvist is under contract through the 2020-21 season and at 37-years-old– it’d take a miracle for the Rangers to win him a Cup at this point.

The Rangers only have one forward over the age of 30 (Matt Beleskey’s 31) and two defenders 30 or older as well (Brendan Smith, 30, and Marc Staal, 32).

Beleskey is likely to bounce around the organization between New York and Hartford (AHL), while there’s a good chance Smith could be buried as well.

But their “veteran presence” is valuable to time on ice management among the younger skaters that might not be quite as NHL ready as Kakko and friends.

Jacob Trouba is new to the Rangers and destined to anchor their new-age defense from the top pairing, while Kevin Shattenkirk joins the long list of buyouts in recent years by New York.

The Rangers are short almost $5.400 million in dead cap space thanks to Shattenkirk, Dan Girardi and Ryan Spooner’s buyouts around the league (Shattenkirk and Girardi were Rangers buyouts, but Spooner had retained salary and was bought out by the Vancouver Canucks this offseason).

Next year, New York faces almost $7.500 million in cap penalties from the trio of buyouts before Spooner comes off the books entirely and the number dips down to about $2.544 million from 2021-22 to 2022-23.

Also another Harvard product– Adam Fox– is the new Jimmy Vesey experiment, but on the blue line. And Vesey? He was traded to Buffalo.

Panarin and Kakko are worth watching this season, while the rest of the team remains to be seen.

How would the Rangers fail?

Henrik Lundqvist stops looking so good all of a sudden. That man is stunning.

Carolina Hurricanes: Pros and Cons

Though the forecast says otherwise, Carolina should actually be closer to playoff contention than you may think coming off their 2019 Eastern Conference Final appearance.

Hurricanes General Manager, Don Waddell, has weathered the storm this offseason. Actually, his job was made pretty easy when the Montreal Canadiens signed Sebastian Aho to a five-year offer sheet worth $8.454 million per season.

Considering the value Aho brings and the potential that’s still there– that’s a steal.

Though a little more than $21 million in signing bonuses through the first two years is considered a “hefty” price for an owner to pay, let’s remember that we’re talking about professional sports.

If Montreal really wanted to make things difficult for Canes owner, Tom Dundon, then they should’ve offered something with a larger cap hit, but that would’ve meant a steeper price to pay in compensation had Carolina not matched the deal. #AdvantageCarolina

Aho will be 27 by the time his new contract runs out, which means he’ll be a pending-UFA in 2024, but there’s plenty of time to worry about the next contract when the time comes.

Right now, the Hurricanes have added some much needed top-six/top-nine forward depth in Erik Haula (acquired from Vegas) and Ryan Dzingel (signed via free agency), while adding a 1st round pick in 2020 (or 2021 if Toronto’s 2020 1st rounder is a top-10 overall selection) and swapping Calvin de Haan with the Chicago Blackhawks for Gustav Forsling (there were other pieces involved, like Anton Forsberg going to Carolina too).

The average age of Carolina’s skaters? 25.

Considering how far the core went in 2018-19, that’s beyond impressive and it’s a testament to head coach, Rod Brind’Amour.

In July, Petr Mrazek re-signed with the Hurricanes on a two-year deal and James Reimer was acquired in a trade with the Florida Panthers as Curtis McElhinney signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Though Alex Nedeljkovic might be another year out from competing for the starting job, the crease is Mrazek’s to lose once again with Reimer looking to rebound from a dismal time in Florida.

Carolina is poised for another deep run, but how soon will it be given the fact that their emergence as a contender means that every other team wants to beat them that much more from night-to-night?

How would the Hurricanes fail?

The Canes have a strong analytics department, so the only thing that could naturally disrupt their plans? Regression (and no WiFi).

New Jersey Devils: Pros and Cons

The Devils won the draft lottery and procured Jack Hughes with the 1st overall pick in June.

New Jersey was third-to-last in overall standings last season.

Though they added P.K. Subban in a trade with the Nashville Predators in June, drafted Hughes and have Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier and Will Butcher on their roster, the Devils still need a lot of pieces to improve.

Hall’s a pending-UFA at season’s end. His next deal– whether it’s with New Jersey or not– determines the fate of this team.

Cory Schneider’s still under contract through 2021-22 and Mackenzie Blackwood is only 22-years-old.

Goaltenders are rarely superstars when they’re that young, so while Blackwood may be the starter heading into the season and goalie of the future for the organization– it wouldn’t be a surprise to see some ups and downs before the dust settles.

Now for the good news.

Nikita Gusev was acquired in a trade with the Golden Knights and Ray Shero doesn’t have a lot of no-trade clauses to deal with if the Devils look to sell at the trade deadline.

How would the Devils fail?

If they somehow lose the Taylor Hall trade a few years after winning it.

Couturier nets hat trick against Bruins, Flyers win, 4-3

Sean Couturier recorded his first career hat trick in the Philadelphia Flyers’, 4-3, victory Wednesday night over the Boston Bruins on home ice.

Oscar Lindblom had the only other goal for the Flyers, while David Pastrnak and Peter Cehlarik (two goals) did the scoring for Boston.

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.

Pastrnak has 121 career goals, while Pederson notched 120 before turning 23 (3rd-5th, Bobby Orr, 113 goals, Joe Thornton, 101 and Tom Fergus, 98).

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.

Backes joined John Moore and Steven Kampfer as the healthy scratches out of the lineup against Philadelphia, while Joakim Nordstrom remains sidelined with a non-displaced fibula fracture.

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.

A few minutes later, Jori Lehtera took a skate to the sin bin for tripping Boston defender, Brandon Carlo, at 4:14.

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.

Claude Giroux (37) and Ivan Provorov (12) had the assists on Lindblom’s goal for the Flyers at 12:44.

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.

Of note, Bruins captain, Zdeno Chara tied Teemu Selanne for the 3rd most regular season games played by a European born player in league history, reaching his 1,451st career game on Wednesday.

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.

Halak records 2nd shutout this season in Bruins 3-0 win

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.

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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.

David Pastrnak and Gritty’s favorite Flyer, Claude Giroux, were given matching minor penalties 7:11 into the first period as the opening frame featured largely dull action.

Robert Hagg was guilty of slashing Brad Marchand at 11:27 of the first period and the Bruins went on their first power play of the night, but they failed to convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

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.

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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.

Noel Acciari led the B’s in the physical department with three hits and Brandon Carlo led his team in blocked shots with four.

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.

2018 Offseason Preview: Philadelphia Flyers

Our offseason previews for all 31 National Hockey League teams continues with the Philadelphia Flyers and their outlook for the summer.

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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.

Matt Read, 32, and Valtteri Filppula, 34, are the club’s only current NHL roster pending-UFAs.

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.

On defense, the Flyers have two pending-UFAs in Brandon Manning and Johnny Oduya and one pending-RFA in Robert Hagg.

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)

Broad Street Broadsided: In pivotal Game 4, Flyers decimated with ease

 

That one hurt to watch.

A game that should have been Philadelphia’s chance to take a stand and show they weren’t going away ended up in a more lopsided loss than even the 5-0 final score would indicate.

Yes, the Flyers were without top center Sean Couturier, who was injured in practice this week in a collision with teammate Radko Gudas (because it’s always Gudas), and the hole he left in the Philly lineup was significant. But the lack of effort shown by the Flyers in the face of adversity was frankly just sad.

In an attempt to indicate to those who didn’t watch just how little the Flyers cared throughout the game, I will attempt to recap the game in accordance with how much effort they were showing in their play at coinciding points in the game.

First period:

Wells Fargo Center is rocking. Sidney Crosby can’t touch the puck without being showered in boos. Philadelphia rookie Nolan Patrick starts the opening shift off by laying a hit on the Pittsburgh captain, much to the delight of the home crowd. Brian Elliott starts the game off strong with a great save on a bang-bang play between Tom Kuhnhackl and Zach Aston-Reese, giving his team some confidence in their goaltender, much like they had in Game 2 when they beat up the Pens.

Then just 4:33 into the frame the wheels came right off when Crosby sent a backhand pass directly between the legs of Brandon Manning to the tape of Evgeni Malkin who buried the easy one-timer on the power play to put the Penguins up 1-0.

But it’s okay, right? Just a one-goal deficit early in the first period. Elliott makes a great glove save on a labeled wrister from Phil Kessel less than two minutes later and the tide starts to turn again. First it’s Michael Raffl nearly scoring on the doorstep after receiving a pass from behind the net, then comes a near-two minute complete domination shift by the Philadelphia top line that creates numerous high-quality chances, but all are answered by Matt Murray.

Then just after that shift ends it would be Malkin jumping on a turnover and leading a breakout with Kessel. Travis Sanheim is unable to match the speed of Kessel, and Malkin gets him the puck in stride allowing him to bury the 2-0 goal just under the arm of Elliott, effectively erasing any positives the Flyers had going for them and completely vacuuming the life out of the arena.

Philadelphia managed to kill off a penalty (a rarity for them in this series) and Claude Giroux finds Travis Konecny right out of the box for a clean breakaway, but Murray calmly blockers the attempt away, leaving Konecny infuriated as he returned to the bench. Olli Maatta accidentally clears the puck over the glass when cleaning up the Konecny rebound, giving the Flyers a power play of their own, that Wayne Simmonds promptly ends with a slash just seven seconds into the man advantage. This basically seemed to kill any idea of a comeback that the Flyers might have had.

Second period:

The first eight minutes are completely meaningless, then at 8:04 Kris Letang fires a wrister off of the stick of Andrew MacDonald and past Elliott, who looked none-too-happy about his own defenseman aiding in his demise. Dave Hakstol decided he had seen enough and pulled Elliott (for the second time in four games) in favor of just-returned Michal Neuvirth, hoping to spark his team. It would be another minute of play before the Flyers even managed their first shot on goal of the frame.

Less than three minutes after the goaltending switch Crosby became the Penguins’ all-time leading playoff scorer, breaking his 172-point tie with Mario Lemieux with a goal scored off of a forced turnover by Jake Guentzel behind the net, who quickly handed it over to Crosby who tucked it in the net before Neuvirth had even realized the puck had been turned over. 30 seconds later Conor Sheary got a breakaway, but Neuvirth decided he should stop it for some reason.

The Flyers closed the period by doing literally nothing of any consequence on a four-minute power play (high sticking on Malkin) and basically showing everyone they’d rather be golfing.

Third period:

Nolan Patrick gets a breakaway on the opening shift, but Murray turns it aside (obviously).

Some hockey things happen for a while.

Riley Sheahan decides he’s bored and would like to score a playoff goal, taking a misplayed puck from Konecny, walking in alone and beating Neuvirth high stick side.

The game ends. Matt Murray posts his sixth shutout in 36 playoff games.

(That third period summary was only slightly lazier than the third period play of the Flyers)

This one is over and done with before the puck drops in Game 5. The Flyers have completely mailed it in at this point, and are being firmly outclassed by the Pens in every measurable aspect. Possibly the craziest thing to me in this series is the almost complete lack of any hint of the Pittsburgh/Philadelphia rivalry. Little physicality, almost no scrums or pushback to speak of. Just the Penguins running through a Flyers team that looks completely undeserving of their playoff spot. Sorry, Florida Panthers, you probably should have been given Philly’s place in the show.

Flyers even series with dominant effort by Elliott

 

No matter how many shots the Pittsburgh Penguins fired at Second Star of the Game G Brian Elliott, he would not yield as he led the Philadelphia Flyers to a 5-1 victory at PPG Paints Arena in Game 2.

When Head Coach Dave Hakstol elected to start his second line at the opening puck drop, C Sidney Crosby and the Penguins took advantage to fire two quick shots on goal. It seemed like the Pens were in line to dominate this game in a similar fashion as Game 1.

However, Elliott was there to make both saves, as well as 32 others. In all, the man known as Moose saved 34-of-35 shots faced, earning an impressive .971 save percentage.

The lone goal Elliott allowed belonged to RW Patric Hornqvist (D Justin Schultz and D Brian Dumoulin) at the 5:27 mark of the third period, then setting the score at 4-1 and not putting the final result of this tilt into question.

At the other end of the rink, this game was all about the numerous goals G Matt Murray and his defense allowed – especially when First Star C Sean Couturier, who scored three points, was on the ice.

There were major concerns coming into these playoffs that either Pittsburgh’s defense or goaltending  – and perhaps a combination of both – could be its ultimate demise. Even though Murray quelled some of those worries with his shutout in Game 1, those doubts were fully realized when Philadelphia converted 25 percent of its 20 shots on goal into tallies on the scoreboard.

The first of those belonged to D Shayne Gostisbehere (F Claude Giroux and Couturier), who took advantage of F Zach Aston-Reese sitting in the sin bin for boarding Third Star D Ivan Provorov to redirect a power play shot past Murray with 37 seconds remaining in the first period.

Couturier (Provorov and W Michael Raffl) bounced a shot off D Kris Letang to set the Flyers’ advantage at 2-0 47 seconds into the second period, but Philadelphia did most of its offensive damage in the third frame.

F Travis Konecny (RW Wayne Simmonds and Provorov) needed only 89 seconds of third period play to find the Flyers’ third goal of the game. 2:21 after Konecny’s tally, Hornqvist found a seat in the penalty box for roughing C Nolan Patrick to set up Philly’s final goal against Murray. As luck have it, Patrick (Couturier and RW Jakub Voracek) cashed in on the power play, scoring a wrist shot to set the score at 4-0.

The Flyers’ final goal of the contest belonged to D Andrew MacDonald (C Jori Lehtera), who scored a long-range wrister on an empty net to set the 5-1 final score.

Murray saved only 15-of-19 shots faced (.789 save percentage) in the loss. He’ll obviously need to improve on that mark if Pittsburgh wants any chance of advancing beyond the first round.

After making the quick trip across the commonwealth, Game 3 will take place at Wells Fargo Center on Sunday, April 15 at 3 p.m. Eastern and will be broadcast on CBC, NBC and TVAS.

March 25 – Day 165 – Battle of the Keystone State

Only five games are on the schedule today, but there’s some good ones!

The first puck drop of the day is at 12:30 p.m., featuring Philadelphia at Pittsburgh (NBC/TVAS) as the afternoon’s lone matinee. Two games get underway at 7 p.m. (Vancouver at Dallas and Nashville at Winnipeg [SN360]), followed by Boston at Minnesota (NBCSN) half an hour later. Finally, Anaheim is in Edmonton (SN1) at 9:30 p.m. to close out the weekend’s activity. All times Eastern.

Two games in particular stuck out to me when the schedule was released before the season…

  • Philadelphia at Pittsburgh: Few rivalries get the publicity of this one, so let’s see if this particular contest lives up to the hype.
  • Anaheim at Edmonton: Though rivalry is certainly too strong a word, there’s nothing the Oilers would like to do more than to harm the Ducks’ postseason chances since it was Anaheim that eliminated them in last year’s Western Semifinals.

I know we just featured the Penguins Friday night, but the Battle of the Keystone State is just too big to ignore!

 

After putting together an unsightly 1-6-1 record over the first half of March, the 38-25-12 Flyers have gotten their skates back under them over their last four games to post a much better 3-0-1 mark.

A major reason for Philadelphia’s previous bad luck was its game plan and strategy. With today’s starter 4-2-1 G Alex Lyon and 5-5-1 G Petr Mrazek filling in for 21-11-7 G Brian Elliott and 8-7-3 G Michal Neuvirth, all the skaters were playing back and reacting to opposing offenses.

However, that’s all changed since March 17, and the Flyers are reaping the rewards.

Instead of reacting to the opposition, Philly is now being proactive and keeping pucks in its offensive zone. Results have extended beyond simply a better record, as the Flyers impressive 4.5 goals per game since March 17 has been the best mark in the Eastern Conference in that time, as well as (t)best in the entire NHL. Additionally, this stellar play in the offensive zone has also limited opposing shots on goal, as Philadelphia’s 30 shots allowed per game since March 17 is (t)ninth-best in the league.

An impressive five Flyers are averaging a point per game over their last five showings, with none more impressive than F Claude Giroux‘ 0-7-7 marks to improve his season totals to 26-64-90. Of course, without any goals, he has linemates C Sean Couturier (1-4-5 since March 17) and F Travis Konecny (4-0-4 since March 17) for getting him on the scorecard.

However, Philadelphia’s offensive success does not stop at the first line, as RW Jakub Voracek has found the goal quite often lately on the second line with 3-2-5 totals since March 17. The third line line has also been extremely productive, thanks in large part to W Wayne Simmonds and his 2-2-4 effort in his last four games.

Meanwhile, 42-27-6 Pittsburgh is also rounding into form in preparation for the playoffs, as it has posted a decent 3-1-2 record in its last six showings.

The main reason the Pens are rediscovering their winning ways lately is because of their solid effort on the defensive end. Pittsburgh has allowed only 29.17 shots per game since March 11, the fifth-best mark in the league in that time.

D Brian Dumoulin (two blocks per game since March 11), F Evgeni Malkin (seven takeaways in his last six games) and D Jamie Oleksiak (three hits per game over this run) have played major roles in this defensive success, and they’ll certainly be under pressure this afternoon given the Flyers’ offensive resurgence.

Of course, anything the Penguins’ defense don’t stop will become the responsibility of 23-14-3 G Matt Murray, who will be making his third start since returning from injury. Though he has a .908 save percentage and 2.86 GAA to show for the entire season, he has yet to resume that form, as he’s managed only a .904 save percentage and 3.5 GAA in his last two showings.

With the Capitals owning a five-point advantage on the Penguins, odds are growing increasingly slim that Pittsburgh can win its first division title since 2013-14. However, the Pens would be unwise to take their foot off the gas just yet, as Columbus is sitting only one point behind them in third place. Since this game is Pittsburgh’s current game in hand on the Jackets, it needs to get at least one point to maintain its advantage for home ice in the first round of the playoffs (Pittsburgh has all but clinched the tiebreaker over Columbus should it be necessary at season’s end).

Speaking of Columbus, that’s exactly the team the Flyers are trailing in the playoffs right now, but that can all change with a victory today.  Additionally, a regulation win by Philly can also pull it into a tie with Pittsburgh for second place, but – similar to Columbus – the Pens have all but clinched the necessary regulation+overtime wins tiebreaker, meaning the only way the Flyers can earn home ice in the first round is by beating Pittsburgh outright in the standings.

For those that are of the opinion that this is the best rivalry in the NHL, I regret to inform you that this is the final meeting of the season between these clubs. Flyers fans are not complaining about that fact, as Pittsburgh has dominated this series to score five goals apiece in its three victories.

Game 1 was way back on November 27, and was undoubtedly the most competitive of the series so far as the Pens needed overtime to knock off the Flyers 5-4 (C Sidney Crosby provided the game-winning goal) at PPG Paints Arena.

Since then, the Penguins have hardly broken a sweat in their two trips to the City of Brotherly Love, as they beat the Flyers 5-1 on January 2 (RW Ryan Reaves earned First Star honors with his two-point second period that included potting the game-winning goal) and 5-2 on March 7 (Crosby’s three assists earned him First Star recognition).

Rivalry games are always tough to predict, and both clubs’ winning ways of late make this prediction no easier. However, Murray’s still recent return has me leaning towards the Flyers winning this tilt.


It was an impressive goaltending spectacle in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day, but the Colorado Avalanche escaped with a 2-1 shootout victory over the Vegas Golden Knights at Pepsi Center.

First Star of the Game G Semyon Varlamov and Second Star G Marc-Andre Fleury were both incredible in this game, as – including the shootout – they allowed only a combined three shots past them. Varlamov earned the victory after saving 39-of-40 shots faced (.975 save percentage) – plus another three in the shootout – leaving the shootout loss to Fleury, who saved 29-of-30 (.967).

The Avalanche scored their regulation goal first, due in large part to a F Erik Haula tripping penalty against D Nikita Zadorov with 7:39 remaining in the first period. 1:31 later, Third Star F Carl Soderberg (F J.T. Compher and F Alexander Kerfoot) converted the man-advantage into a power play wrist shot.

That 1-0 advantage lasted through not only the remainder of the first period, but all the way through the second as well. However, F Jon Marchessault (D Shea Theodore) needed only 1:15 of play in the third frame to level the game with a wrister.

With no goals struck in the remaining 18:45 of regulation nor the five-minute three-on-three overtime period, this game advanced into the shootout. As home team, Colorado elected to shoot second.

  1. That sent W David Perron to center ice, but his wrister was saved by Varlamov.
  2. F Nathan MacKinnon failed to get on the scoresheet in 65 minutes of play, and that trend continued in the shootout as his offering sailed over the crossbar. Through one round, the shootout was still tied 0-0.
  3. Being partially responsible for the Avs’ regulation goal, Haula was provided an opportunity to redeem himself. Unfortunately for Vegas, he couldn’t do that as his wrister was saved by Varlamov.
  4. RW Mikko Rantanen has been Colorado’s second-most dynamic scorer this season, but it’s hard to beat a goalpost. Another round complete, the shootout score still read 0-0.
  5. Having already beaten Varlamov once, Head Coach Gerard Gallant turned his team’s fate over to Marchessault to see if he could work his magic again. Apparently, he shouldn’t go to the well twice, as the netminder was able to make his third-straight shootout save.
  6. Only one member of Colorado’s first line remained, so it only makes sense that LW Gabriel Landeskog took the Avalanche’s third shot. He apparently should have been deployed earlier, because he was the lone shooter to beat a netminder, earning the Avs the bonus point.

The Avs’ home victory makes it three-straight games with points for hosts in the DtFR Game of the Day series. Home teams now have a 91-53-21 record in the series, 35 points better than that of the roadies.

Merkle’s Weekly Bumblings: Week 19

Skater of the Week: Nico Hischier

Boy, what a devil of a week for this kid, huh? HUH? (not even crickets chirp for this pun)

In four games, the 19-year-old centerman put up four goals (one in each game) and three assists for seven points, and is currently riding a five-game point streak overall. A +8 through the first three games was marred slightly by a -2 in the final game of the week, but any coach would gladly take a +6 week for any of his players. Perhaps the best stat in all of this, though, is Hischier’s shooting percentage throughout the four-game goal streak. In those four games, Hischier has only fired seven total shots at the net, leaving him with a ridiculous .57 shooting percentage.

With 39 points in 59 games, the league’s most recent first-overall pick is having himself a very solid year. With his Devils entrenched in the knock-down, drag-out dogfight that is the Metropolitan playoff race, he’ll need to continue his strong play to help New Jersey go from the basement to the playoffs.

Tendy of the Week: Antti Raanta

The Arizona Coyotes have won four consecutive games. This is not a drill.

For the first time since January of 2016, the ‘Yotes have strung together four straight, and Raanta is arguably the entire reason for it. In three starts and one relief appearance throughout the week, Raanta managed to string together a 3-0-0 record with a .976 save percentage and 0.91 GAA. The Finnish netminder started the week stopping 37-of-38 against Chicago, before stopping all 12 shots he faced against San Jose, turned aside 34-of-36 attempts by Montreal, and capped the week with a 40-save blanking of Edmonton.

Obviously Arizona is in no position to even entertain the idea of a playoff run, but they can at least have some confidence in the performance of Raanta this year. He currently holds a .924 save percentage and 2.45 GAA on the season, and is two wins under .500 on a very bad team.

Game of the Week: New Jersey Devils 5 @ Philadelphia Flyers 4 (SO), Tuesday February 13th, 2018

Who would have guessed that two bitter rivals fighting for position in the division standings would produce a fun game?

71 shots and 51 hits in a game that saw no major penalties looks a lot like a playoff stat line. Just good, hard hockey.

Things would get rolling shortly into the opening frame, as Claude Giroux fed a speeding Travis Konecny with a beautiful backhand stretch pass, allowing Konecny to steam past Will Butcher across the New Jersey blueline before firing a beautiful wrister past the blocker of Keith Kinkaid and putting the Flyers up 1-0 just 1:54 into the game.

The rest of the first and first few minutes of the second would pass scoreless, due in part to solid netminding, and arguably moreso to a symphony of goalposts. But 4:06 into the second the Devils finally knotted the scored, as Taylor Hall streaked down the left wing side and found just enough daylight between Michal Neuvirth and the post to squeak in the 1-1 tally. Hall would get absolutely buried by Radko Gudas just as the puck was finding its way into the net, but the hit was clean and Hall shoo’d away the tweetie birds in short order and looked none the worse for wear. Just 43 seconds later the Flyers would reestablish their lead as Michael Raffl took an indirect pass off the end boards from Andrew MacDonald and fed a turnaround pass to Scott Laughton in the slot, who managed to get just enough of it to get it past the pad of Kinkaid and across the goal line. Then about six minutes later a Radko Gudas point shot would redirect off of a New Jersey stick past Kinkaid to put the Flyers up 3-1, before John Moore would answer at the 13:17 mark with a bomb from the point that blurred past the glove of Neuvirth and drew the Devils back within one. Just under three minutes later it would be Philly captain Claude Giroux firing home a power-play goal from the left circle, but just 10 seconds later Nico Hischier would again cut the lead to one heading into the third.

Neuvirth and co. held the fort for nearly the entire third period, but a jam play in front would create a loose puck for a circling Taylor Hall who would pounce and send the game to overtime. The extra frame saw a pair of dazzling glove stops (Neuvirth on Hall just seconds in, and Kinkaid on a Voracek redirect with just over a minute remaining), but no more pucks would find twine until Drew Stafford continued his shootout mastery in the second round of the skills competition, and a Kinkaid stop on Voracek would end the game and give the Devils the victory.

News, Notes, & Nonsense:

Four ‘Blackhawks fans’ (I use the term loosely, as no one I’ve ever encountered that roots for the Hawks deserves to be lumped in with these lowlifes) were booted from the arena and later issued a permanent ban by the organization for shouting racial taunts at Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly as he was serving a penalty. Personally, I think they should have been invited into the penalty box with DSP as part of their punishment, but that’s just my opinion.

Speaking of the Blackhawks and Capitals, the two teams made a deal that sees defenseman Michal Kempny head to D.C., while a third round pick finds its way back to the Windy City, likely to be turned into a superstar player because Stan Bowman is a wizard.

Also on the trade front are rumors of Petr Mrazek being dealt to Philadelphia, who are currently relying upon third-stringer Alex Lyon after injuries to Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth. As someone who owned Mrazek on their fantasy team at one point this season, I feel I am qualified to ask the Flyers why in the name of all that is holy they would want to do such a thing.

Editor’s note: Pete’s crystal ball was on point Monday night. Mrazek was shipped to Philadelphia in return for two draft picks: a conditional fourth-round pick in 2018 and a conditional third-round pick in 2019. Detroit retained half of the goaltender’s salary. Read our recap here.

Nick Foligno is out for what looks to be a couple of weeks, and I’m not crying, you’re crying.

The Olympic men’s hockey tournament has been even weirder than we could have predicted, but after an early hiccup it looks like the Artists Formerly Known as Russia are set to steamroll everything in their path just as it appeared they should on paper.

Barry Trotz became just the fifth coach in league history to coach 1,500 games. Don’t let his ‘angry Russian mob boss’ looks fool you, Trotz is one of the nicest humans I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet, and I’d like to extend a sincere congratulations to him.

Dion Phaneuf and Marian Gaborik changed places, in a move that would have been landscape-shifting in the NHL in about 2008. Phaneuf did score in his first game as a King, because the hockey gods are just having all sorts of fun at Ottawa’s expense this year.

 

It’s looking more and more likely (depending on who you ask, anyway) that we could see Erik Karlsson dealt at the deadline. I’m not sure what sort of return that would yield, but considering some believe Jack Johnson is worth a first round pick, I’d have to assume that the Sens would legally own the first-born child of the other involved GM.