Flyers

Flyers prospect surprises and disappointments this year

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USA Today Images/Michigan Athletics

Flyers prospect surprises and disappointments this year

With the Christmas break upon us and the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championships getting underway Tuesday, welcome to a special edition of our Future Flyers Report.

Similar to what we did in this space last season, we’ll look at the biggest surprise and disappointment on the prospect front, as well provide a primer for the WJCs.

Biggest surprise: Cooper Marody
This title could go to any one of the Flyers’ three collegiate prospects who are in the top-12 of the nation in scoring, but we’re handing it to Marody, a junior at Michigan.

Marody, after missing parts of his freshman season with mono and then sitting out the first semester of his sophomore campaign because of academic ineligibility, has been the epitome of consistency, as he’s among the best playmakers in college hockey.

The centerman leads Michigan with 20 assists and 24 points in 16 games. Marody’s 20 helpers are second to only Notre Dame senior Jake Evans’ 21 assists, and his 1.5 points per game average are second to only Canisius junior Dylan McLaughlin’s 1.67.

He has nine multi-point games — five two-point contests and four three-point matches. In conference play, Marody has dominated too. His 18 points, 10 assists, and 1.8 points per game average leads the Big Ten. He should be in the Hobey Baker conversation.

As smooth as this season has gone for Marody, it hasn’t exactly been without bumps. According to The Michigan Daily, Marody’s early-season practice habits did not meet the standard of Michigan head coach Mel Pearson. So Pearson and Marody met. That meeting helped spark Marody, who had just one point in the first four games. After Pearson sat him down, Marody has exploded for 23 points in 12 games.

With Marody breaking out, the Flyers have excitement brewing at the collegiate ranks. Marody joins Western Michigan sophomore Wade Allison (14 goals, 25 points) and Ohio State sophomore Tanner Laczynski (15 assists, 23 points) as college prospects worth watching going forward. If there is anything the Penguins have proven over the past two seasons, it’s that college players can be integral pieces to a Cup team.

Biggest disappointment: Alex Lyon
With Anthony Stolarz out with a torn left meniscus and no return in sight, Lyon had a prime opportunity to separate himself from Stolarz on the Flyers’ depth chart this year.

So far, not so good for Lyon, who is actually with the Flyers backing up Brian Elliott while Michal Neuvirth recovers from a lower-body injury. All signs point to Neuvirth returning after the holiday break, which means Lyon should return to the Phantoms this week.

Lyon has struggled mightily in his second professional season, despite having a solid showing with the Flyers during the preseason. In 16 games, Lyon has a .894 save percentage and a 3.31 goals-against average with no shutouts. He does have an 8-6-1 record, but judging goaltenders on wins and losses doesn't do justice for evaluation purposes.

The numbers are an eyesore. He's allowed fewer than three goals just six times. With injuries ravaging the Phantoms' blue line, it might be unfair to pinpoint all of this on Lyon. There have been games in which he's stood on his head or made the saves when it counted most. But for a goalie with a ton to play for, we can write this up as a missed opportunity.

With both Lyon and Stolarz on one-year contracts and at least one of the Flyers' younger goalie prospects turning pro or coming overseas next season, Lyon must establish himself again post-Christmas.

2018 IIHF World Junior Championships 

Flyers prospects: Carter Hart, Team Canada; German Rubtsov, Team Russia; Linus Högberg, Team Sweden; and Maksim Sushko, Team Belarus.

Player to watch: Carter Hart, Team Canada
The Flyers have just four prospects competing in the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championships, which begin Tuesday in Buffalo, New York. Compared to last year’s tournament when the Flyers had nine prospects competing, the tourney might not be as exciting to Flyers fans. But there is still plenty reason to tune in and here’s why.

Hart very well may be the best junior goaltender of this decade, and when it’s all said and done, the 19-year-old could finish his WHL career as one of the best junior goalies ever. While no goalie has ever won the CHL Goaltender of the Year award twice, if Hart misses out on the honor again this season, it would be highway robbery. He should have won it for the second time last season, but the award went elsewhere.

Now, Hart goaltends for Team Canada for the second straight year. This time around, the net appears Hart's to lose. Sure, we might see Colton Point in a game or two, but when it matters most, expect Hart to be the goalie of record. It's a great opportunity to watch Hart, who may be the Flyers' best goalie prospect ever.

Where and how to watch
We'll provide the preliminary round schedule and how to watch. If you're in Canada, you can stream the games on TSN GO, but TSN's streaming service only works in Canada.

Team Canada
Dec. 26: vs. Finland, 4 p.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 27: vs. Slovakia, 7 p.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 29: vs. United States, 3 p.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 30: vs. Denmark, 8 p.m. on NHL Network

Team Russia
Dec. 26: vs. Czech Republic, 12 p.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 28: vs. Switzerland, airing Dec. 29 at 6 a.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 29: vs. Belarus, 12 p.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 31: vs. Sweden, 8 p.m. on NHL Network

Team Sweden
Dec. 26: vs. Belarus, airing Dec. 27 at 8 a.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 28: vs. Czech Republic, 4 p.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 30: vs. Switzerland, airing Dec. 31 at 7 a.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 31: vs. Russia, 8 p.m. on NHL Network

Team Belarus
Dec. 26: vs. Sweden; airing Dec. 27 at 8 a.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 27: vs. Switzerland, 3 p.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 29: vs. Russia, 12 p.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 30: vs. Czech Republic, 12 p.m. on NHL Network

Flyers not surprised, but look it on Broadway

Flyers not surprised, but look it on Broadway

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — Flyers players lifted their massive equipment bags onto carts outside the visiting locker room of Madison Square Garden.

There wasn't much energy or zealousness to such a mundane task.

Shortly before doing so, the Flyers made skating in the world's most famous arena seem just as mundane, allowing the New York Rangers to turn Broadway into breakaway on Tuesday night to the tune of a 5-1 loss (see observations).

"We just made too many mistakes that cost us," Jakub Voracek said. "Four goals out of five came off our mistakes, so it's tough."

The Rangers, not once, but twice during the first period, bolted behind the Flyers' slow-reacting coverage for nothing but open ice and Brian Elliott to beat. On both occasions, New York scored easily and took control of the evening.

It was a full exploitation of a Flyers team that had won four straight but wasn't "engaged in this game enough," as head coach Dave Hakstol put it.

With the Flyers holding a 1-0 lead just over six minutes into the contest, Pavel Buchnevich fed a stretch pass to Rick Nash streaking up the middle of the ice, leaving defensemen Radko Gudas and Brandon Manning in the dust. Both the delivery from Buchnevich and the speed of Nash appeared to catch Gudas and Manning by surprise.

"The first one, probably a better read by me and Gudy," Manning said. "We talked before the game, we knew that's what they were going to do, they were going to try and stretch us out. That one we can probably eliminate."

The second was deflating in every way imaginable. As the Flyers sputtered through their first man advantage, a pass behind Jordan Weal bounced off the side boards and right to Peter Holland. With most of the Flyers' second power-play unit pinching on the attack, New York rushed up ice and beat Manning in retreat as Holland hit Paul Carey for a shorthanded marker.

Whatever life the Flyers still had, it was sucked out of them.

At the time, before it unfolded, they seemed to be in OK position. The Flyers were down, 2-1, but vying for an equalizer by turning to their power play, which had been 7 for 14 over the four-game winning streak. However, what transpired was New York taking a surprising 3-1 lead with 10 seconds remaining in the opening frame.

"Those are ones we can prevent," Hakstol said. "They're a good transition team, so when you give them opportunities, whether it's a turnover out of their defensive zone or a turnover entering the zone, they're a good transition team. But our awareness on those plays was not what it needs to be.

"I just thought in the first half of the game, in all the areas of the game that mattered, they were the quicker and hungrier team."

The Rangers showed it some more when they went on another semi-breakaway, this time midway through the second period for a 4-1 edge. Michael Grabner came swooping in to pick Voracek's pocket before quickly flicking a shot past Elliott, who watched another blue jersey barrel down untouched toward his crease.

"We put him in pretty tough spots tonight with the opportunities that we gave up in the first 30 minutes of the game," Hakstol said.

The goalie making his 18th start in the last 19 games still took blame.

"It's not the easiest way, but that's my job," Elliott, who was yanked ahead of the third period, said. "I didn't have them tonight. Go back to work and try to feel good about my game. That's not where I wanted to be tonight. I didn't really give ourselves a chance to win and I've got to own a lot of that."

Tuesday marked the Flyers' first outing against the Rangers this season.

Were they surprised by the opposition's transition game?

"No," Hakstol said.

Manning sounded like he will be far more ready when the Flyers come back to Madison Square Garden on Feb. 18 for the second of four meetings.

"I don't know if surprising is the right word, they have some guys who can skate and I think we were expecting that," Manning said. "We haven't played them this year, it's the first time. When you see it for the first time, it's something a little different."

The Flyers on Thursday night will see the Maple Leafs for the third time. The previous two matchups were won by the Flyers. Interestingly enough, Manning had his best game of the season with a goal, an assist and three hits in the October victory, while rookie blueliner Travis Sanheim played in the December win.

Hakstol will have to decide between the two for Thursday.

One will be an extra, the other will want to make sure breakaways are at a minimum.

Devils finally put an end to 6-game skid

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USA Today Images

Devils finally put an end to 6-game skid

NEW YORK -- Damon Severson scored twice 1:26 apart in New Jersey's three-goal second period, and the Devils ended a six-game skid with a 4-1 victory over the New York Islanders on Tuesday night.

Kyle Palmieri and Taylor Hall also scored for New Jersey, which was 0-3-3 since beating Detroit at home on Dec. 27. Keith Kinkaid, getting the start after Cory Schneider was a late scratch due to illness, stopped 25 shots.

Anders Lee scored and Jaroslav Halak made 38 saves as the Islanders snapped a three-game winning streak that started with a 5-4 shootout victory over the Devils here on Jan. 7.

New Jersey trailed less than two minutes in but got four straight goals starting with Palmieri's score late in the first period.

Halak, who faced more than 35 shots on goal for his 10th straight start, made nice stops on in-close tries by Brian Boyle and Brian Gibbons with about 7 1/2 minutes left in the middle period to keep the score tied.

However, Severson gave the Devils the lead about 30 seconds later as he got the rebound of a shot by Gibbons and beat Halak from the right circle. It was the defenseman's fifth goal of the season and first in 12 games (see full recap).

Spezza scores 2 after benching in Stars’ win
DETROIT -- Jason Spezza responded to being benched by scoring two tiebreaking goals on power plays, helping the Dallas Stars beat the Detroit Red Wings 4-2 on Tuesday night.

Spezza scored on a lunging, one-timer below the left circle with 5:52 left in the second period. His first goal came on a redirected shot midway through the first.

The 33-year-old forward was a healthy scratch on Monday when Dallas won at Boston in overtime. He bounced back by ending his 14-game goal drought, scoring twice in a game for the first time since March 12, 2016. Spezza scored 33 goals just two years ago and has 323 career goals.

Dallas' Radek Faksa and Martin Hanzal also scored. Ben Bishop stopped 13 shots for the Stars, who have won six of eight.

Trevor Daley put Detroit ahead in the opening minute, but Faksa redirected a shot past Jimmy Howard at 2:48. Andreas Athanasiou pulled the Red Wings into a 2-all tie midway through the second period and Spezza's second goal 2:25 later put Dallas ahead 3-2.

Howard had 22 saves for the Red Wings, who had won five of their previous seven games (see full recap).

Blues rally late for overtime victory
TORONTO -- Alexander Steen tied it with 57 seconds left and Vince Dunn scored 1:43 into overtime, lifting the St. Louis Blues over the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1 on Tuesday night.

Connor Brown put Toronto ahead on a short-handed breakaway midway through the third period, but Steen scored with goalie Carter Hutton pulled for an extra attacker by backhanding Alex Pieterangelo's rebound past Frederik Andersen.

Dunn snapped a low shot past Andersen after choosing to keep the puck on a 2-on-1.

Andersen stopped 40 shots and Hutton had 30 saves.

It was the Maple Leafs' first game back after the bye week. Their last game was a 4-3 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Jan. 10 (see full recap).