Flyers

Flyers-Sharks thoughts: The Nolan Patrick-led youth movement begins tonight

Flyers-Sharks thoughts: The Nolan Patrick-led youth movement begins tonight

Flyers at Sharks
10:30 p.m. on NBCSN, NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 10
 
Ready for the real thing?
 
The Flyers' 2017-18 regular season gets underway tonight with a visit to the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center, opening up a four-game road trip to commence the new campaign.
 
Thanks to a Nolan Patrick-led youth movement and a current core starting to fight the proverbial clock, this Flyers' season brings a fascinating dynamic to the table (see Fearless Forecast).
 
How it all unfolds begins now (see predictions).
 
So, without further ado, here are some thoughts for the season opener:
 
• Let's enjoy Patrick's NHL debut, regardless of how he fares tonight. The fact he's here is still sort of hard to comprehend. Remember when the No. 2 overall pick in the June entry draft just fell into the Flyers' lap courtesy of immense lottery luck? A little over five months ago, the chances of Patrick wearing orange and black were slim to none.
 
Now it's actually here.
 
It sure will be a treat to watch the 19-year-old center night in and night out. He's expected to center the second line between Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds. One quote that encapsulates Patrick comes from his uncle, James, in June. "If he's playing with some skilled guys, he will get them the puck, he will make plays," James said. "Put the best players on the ice with him and they will get chances, and chances all night. I think that's what his offensive upside is."
 
• Claude Giroux to the left wing will always be worth watching, and especially now when the games start to matter. It looks like the Flyers' captain will start the season in the new spot, next to Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek. Giroux put up four assists but no goals in four preseason games of playing left winger. Still, there were tons of positives and it will be interesting to see how long this change sticks. A quick start certainly won't hurt.
 
“It's different with ‘G’ on the left plank. I think he can risk a little bit more than when he was at center,” Voracek said last week. “For his advantage, I think it’s real important that he can use the boards because he’s a very smart player. If you know how to use the boards, it’s a big advantage. I think we’ve been very good and we’ve just got to keep going."
 
• The Flyers are carrying eight defensemen, including three rookies. Two very well may be healthy scratches in the opener, before one of them could be sent back to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley soon. Robert Hagg is the only rookie defenseman playing tonight, while Sam Morin and Travis Sanheim will serve as extras provided Shayne Gostisbehere (upper-body injury) is able to go. Hagg will be paired with Gostisbehere. Nonetheless, the defense will be key in both ends. The Flyers are hoping a lot of their offense can come from the blueliners joining the rush and making plays.
 
• Last season, the Sharks surrendered the fourth-fewest goals at 2.44 per game, which helped outweigh them scoring just 2.67 per game, only two spots ahead of the Flyers. Goalie Martin Jones was strong at 35-23-6 with a 2.40 goals-against average and .912 save percentage. San Jose, which was just in the Stanley Cup Final two years ago, is top heavy with formidable names in Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture and Joe Thornton.
 
• The Sharks went 26-11-4 at home last season, while the Flyers went 14-22-5 on the road. The Flyers have lost four of their last five season openers and 17 of their last 21 matchups to San Jose.
 
• Keep an eye on the power play, which never found great rhythm or consistency during the preseason and is under new instruction from first-year assistant coach Kris Knoblauch. The man advantage wasn't of great emphasis early in training camp, so some patience may be required.
 
• Brian Elliott will make his Flyers debut tonight. Elliott was 26-18-3 with a 2.55 goals-against average and .910 save percentage in 49 games last season with the Flames.

Monday's trade deadline no sweat for Flyers

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AP Images

Monday's trade deadline no sweat for Flyers

MONTREAL — They’re watching it. They’re following it. But the Flyers don’t appear to be sweating it too much as the NHL’s 3 p.m. Monday trade deadline fast approaches.

As they wrapped up an abbreviated practice Sunday afternoon at the Bell Centre in Montreal, the team had just learned that Canadiens center Tomas Plekanec had been dealt to the Maple Leafs, and the rumors are swirling regarding Montreal captain Max Pacioretty. 

“I know what’s going on,” said Jake Voracek. “It’s different. I haven’t been in this situation since my first year here (2011-12). Obviously it feels pretty good, but you never know what’s going to happen no matter what position you are in.”

It’s the first time the Flyers, sitting pretty in second in the Metropolitan Division as of Sunday morning and owners of a five-game win streak and points in their last 10 games, have been a potential buyer since Ron Hextall took over as general manager in 2014, and consequently, there’s no real threat of trading players to Cup-contending teams like we’ve seen in previous seasons. 

Still, Hextall elected to stay behind in Voorhees fielding phone calls and performing his due diligence as the Flyers prepare to face the Canadiens Monday night. He’s already given up conditional draft pick(s) to acquire goaltender Petr Mrazek from Detroit, and he may consider adding depth to a team with a solid nucleus.

And, keep in mind, they have reserves on the way when goalies Michal Nuevirth and Brian Elliott get healthy and Wayne Simmonds returns from his injury in the coming weeks.

“We have good chemistry inside that locker room,” said head coach Dave Hakstol. “From my standpoint our whole focus has been finding ways to get better from within — from within our dressing room and from within our own organization. If there’s a move or a decision that has to be made that Hex feels will make us better, I’m sure he’ll look at that in every way, but our job is to take care of our own business.”

Right now, that’s the perplexity of a playoff team that could benefit from adding experience. At the same time, there’s a risk tinkering with the chemistry that has developed over the past three months — a team that has endured and bonded following a ten-game winless streak to become one of the top six teams in the Eastern Conference with a 25-8-3 record and 53 points since Dec 4. 

“We’ve done a good job of playing as a team and sticking together, especially when you lose ten in a row,” said captain Claude Giroux. “I think you see the true colors of players and we didn’t have any negative things with this group. It’s definitely a positive. We like where this team is headed. Whatever Hexy decides at the deadline, that’s his decision, but we like who we have in this room.”

Hextall has stated previously that he believes major deadline deals don’t usually yield the desired playoff results, and he’s definitely not looking to mortgage the future by giving up prized prospects.

So don’t hold your breath that Hextall joins the likes of the Penguins, who dealt for Derrick Brassard, and Bruins, who acquired Rick Nash on Sunday morning, who are taking an “all-in” approach with the postseason nearing. 

As for the Flyers, they’re breathing a little easier as well. 

Dadonov's hat trick helps Panthers beat Penguins

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USA Today Images

Dadonov's hat trick helps Panthers beat Penguins

SUNRISE, Fla. — Evgenii Dadonov scored with 1:53 to play to complete a hat trick and give the Florida Panthers a 6-5 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night.

Dadonov beat goalie Matt Murray on a one-timer off Aleksander Barkov's pass for the winner. Dadonov has 18 goals this season.

Vincent Trocheck, Jamie McGinn and Derek MacKenzie also scored. Barkov had three assists, Keith Yandle added two, and Roberto Luongo made 24 saves.

Evgeni Malkin had two goals and an assist for the Penguins, and Carl Hagelin, Patric Hornqvist and Bryan Rust added goals. Tristan Jarry made 13 saves for Pittsburgh before he was replaced in the second period. Murray had 11 saves in relief.

Trocheck finished a 2-on-1 cross-ice pass from Malgin after a breakout pass from Yandle early in the first period. Trocheck tapped in the pass at 3:44 for his team-leading 24th goal (see full recap.)

Maple Leafs win ninth straight at home
TORONTO — Ron Hainsey broke a tie with 1:23 left to give the Toronto Maple Leafs their franchise record-tying ninth straight home victory, 4-3 over the Boston Bruins on Saturday night.

Hainsey's one-timed William Nylander's pass past goalie Tuuka Rask for his fourth goal of the season.

Toronto moved a point ahead of Boston for the second seed in the Atlantic Division.

Nazem Kadri scored twice, Mitch Marner had a goal and three assists, and Nylander had two assists. Frederik Andersen made 23 saves to improve to 10-1-0 against the Bruins.

Brad Marchand scored twice, and Jake DeBrusk also connected for Boston. Rask made 32 saves (see full recap.)

Point leads Lightning to shootout win over Canadiens
MONTREAL — Brayden Point scored in regulation and added the shootout winner and the Tampa Bay Lightning regained the top spot in the NHL with a 4-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night.

Nikita Kucherov and Ryan Callahan also scored in regulation to help the Lightning (42-17-3) win their third straight and move a point ahead of idle Vegas for the overall NHL lead.

Andrei Vasilevskiy made 29 saves for his league-leading 36th victory of the season.

Byron Froese, Joe Morrow and Max Pacioretty scored for Montreal. Antti Niemi, making his second straight start in relief of the injured Carey Price, stopped 36 shots. Price is sidelined indefinitely with a concussion (see full recap.)

Ovechkin scores twice in Capitals victory 
WASHINGTON — Alex Ovechkin added to his NHL lead with two goals on the night he tied the Washington record for most games played, and the Capitals beat the Buffalo Sabres 5-1 on Saturday.

Evgeny Kuznetsov scored 50 seconds into the game and had two assists. Andre Burakovsky and Lars Eller also had goals for Washington, which leapfrogged Pittsburgh and moved back into first place in the Metropolitan Division. The Capitals had lost two in a row and five of seven.

Ovechkin's 37th goal came on the power play with 9:47 remaining after Buffalo closed to 2-1 on Sam Reinhart's goal 14 seconds into the third period. Ovechkin redirected a shot past Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner with 1:24 left for his 38th goal.

The 32-year-old Ovechkin played in his 983rd NHL game, tying Calle Johansson for most in Capitals history. Ovechkin holds franchise records for goals (596) and points (1,105) (see full recap.)