Flyers

A milestone night for Flyers to end homestand

A milestone night for Flyers to end homestand

BOX SCORE

The Flyers closed out their five-game homestand Wednesday night with a 4-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings.

Claude Giroux assisted on three of the Flyers’ goals. 

Rookie defenseman Robert Hagg scored his first NHL goal.

The Flyers held the Red Wings to one shot on net over the final 10:56 of the third period.

Making his ninth straight start, Brian Elliott turned aside 25 of 28 shots to improve his record to 13-7-6.

The Flyers finished with a 4-1-0 mark on the homestand and are 15-12-7 overall. They play back-to-back road games in Buffalo and Columbus on Friday and Saturday, respectively, as they head into the Christmas break. 

• The Flyers’ defense looked very leaky in the first five and a half minutes. Caught up in a line change, the Red Wings found the Flyers’ defense flat-footed at their own blue line as Gustav Nyquist got behind Travis Sanheim and Radko Gudas. Once again, Elliott was there and bailed out his teammates. 

• Midway through the first period, Anthony Mantha attempted a breakout pass from behind his net, but snapped his stick and the puck dribbled right to Sean Couturier in front of the crease. It was a heads-up play by Jimmy Howard to react as Couturier set up Giroux for a one-timer and that failed to connect as the Flyers had a prime opportunity to score the game’s first goal.

• There was another Flyers’ turnover that saw Hagg’s pass picked off by Andreas Athanasiou in the neutral zone. A few seconds later, Hagg pushed the puck along the boards and it popped out to Athanasiou, who fired a slap shot on Elliott.

• The Flyers had sloppy in the neutral zone again, as Athanasiou jumped on a loose puck. Shayne Gostisbehere jumped up to play his man, Athanasiou and his blazing speed raced past Hagg and broke in on Elliott. However, Athanasiou lost control of the puck and was unable to get off a good shot.  

• Giroux found the soft spot in the high slot and unleashed a one-timer that Howard snared. On the ensuing faceoff, Nolan Patrick won the draw as the puck came out to Gudas, who fired a shot that popped up and over the net. Dale Weise beat Jonathan Ericsson around the net and then wrapped it around for a goal as Howard was late to cover the post.

• Travis Sanheim coughed it up in the neutral zone as he tried to skate the puck over center ice. The Flyers’ neutral zone play was brutal in that opening period. At least a half-dozen turnovers. The Flyers were credited with just three giveaways in the first period, but it certainly felt like a lot more than that.

• The Flyers allowed a brutal goal in the final seconds of the opening period as Dylan Larkin sent a cross-ice saucer through the defense. Andrew MacDonald swiped at it, but came up empty. Martin Frk snapped off a perfectly-placed and timed shot over Elliott’s blocker side shoulder. One way or the other, MacDonald has to prevent that pass so the Flyers get out of the period without allowing goal.

• The Flyers have been very good over the past eight games of eliminating stick penalties. However, Jordan Weal was whistled for a double minor high-sticking penalty after he caught Frans Nielsen up around his face along the Flyers’ bench, and it proved costly. 

• The Red Wings converted on the four-minute power play as Mike Green half-cocked a slap shot and placed it perfectly to Elliott’s blocker side. Elliott was screened on the shot and failed to pick it up off Green’s stick.

• While I still think Travis Konecny tries to do way too much with the puck on his stick in the offensive zone, he drew a holding penalty on Ericsson along the boards that set up the Flyers with their first power-play opportunity of the game.

• The Flyers had some brilliant passing as Giroux sent a puck cross-ice to Jake Voracek, who in turn sent a touch pass down low to Wayne Simmonds for an easy tap-in goal. Howard simply couldn’t react fast enough and the Wings’ PK just couldn’t adjust that quickly.

• The Flyers failed to build any momentum off their game-tying goal, as just 40 seconds later the Wings forced them into another turnover when Valtteri Filppula turned the puck over behind the goal line. Henrik Zetterberg jumped all over it and sent a centering pass to a wide-open Nyquist on a play that Ivan Provorov should have covered.

• Kudos to rookie Hagg, who scored his first NHL goal on a big slap shot that beat blocker side.

"It feels pretty good,” Hagg said after the second period, “I had a few chances earlier this season, so to see that one go in feels pretty damn good."

• The Flyers opened up the scoring in the third period with a play that looked somewhat similar to their power-play goal earlier. It was all set up by Giroux’s thread-the-needle pass to Simmonds, who fed it over to Couturier. Couturier needed a second whack to push it past Howard for the goal. Giroux’s passing in this game was some of the best I’ve seen from any player all season. It was Couturier's 16th goal of the season, a new career-high.

• Aside from Giroux, Dylan Larkin may have been the second-best player in this game. The Wings’ top center was all over the ice, as he forced turnovers and created plays. He nearly made the Flyers pay for their sloppiness in their own end, but Hagg was there to block Larkin’s shot.

• The Flyers had some great pressure late in the third period started by the top line and then continued by the second line. In all, the Flyers spent about 1:15 in the Red Wings’ zone.

Lineups, pairings and scratches

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Wayne Simmonds
Michael Raffl-Valtteri Filppula-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Nolan Patrick-Dale Weise
Jori Lehtera-Scott Laughton-Travis Konecny

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald
Robert Hagg-Shayne Gostisbehere
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas

Goalies
Brian Elliott
Alex Lyon

Scratches: Taylor Leier (upper body, day to day) and Mark Alt (healthy).

Flyers' focus shifts toward another busy NHL draft

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USA Today Images

Flyers' focus shifts toward another busy NHL draft

With the Flyers' elimination from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the team's third-round pick in the 2018 NHL draft was officially transferred over to the Red Wings.

What was originally a fourth-round selection in the acquisition of goaltender Petr Mrazek was upgraded to a third-rounder once Mrazek won five regular-season games and the Flyers qualified for the postseason.

The Flyers could potentially still owe the Red Wings a third-round pick in the 2019 NHL draft if Mrazek is re-signed. However, that seems unlikely with Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth already under contract for next season and Mrazek’s poor play over the final five weeks of the regular season.

In all likelihood, the Flyers will have the 19th overall pick in the June draft, which is scheduled for June 22-23 at American Airlines Center in Dallas. If the Blue Jackets are eliminated before the Eastern Conference Finals, then they will select 18th with the Flyers slotted in at the 19th selection.

Once again, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall will be watching intently during Saturday’s NHL draft lottery, where the Flyers could also acquire the St. Louis Blues' first-round selection.

The Flyers have a 95 percent chance of obtaining the Blues' first pick as compensation in the Brayden Schenn trade that was completed at last year’s draft in Chicago. 

The Blues' pick is top-10 protected, but they have only a five percent chance of moving into the top three — 1.5 percent for No. 1 overall, 1.7 for No. 2, 1.8 for No. 3, 91.8 for No. 14 and 3.2 for No. 15. So, either the Blues draft in the top three, they remain at 14 or fall back to 15.

However, as Hextall discovered just a year ago, anything is possible.

Last year, the Flyers made the monumental leap from the 13th-worst record in the league to obtaining the second overall pick — a lottery move that had just a 2.4 percent chance of falling in their favor. With that selection, the Flyers chose Nolan Patrick.

Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin is the consensus No. 1 pick in this year’s draft and a future cornerstone blueliner. 

The NHL draft lottery is held in Toronto.

Now the pressure really picks up for Dave Hakstol, Flyers

Now the pressure really picks up for Dave Hakstol, Flyers

Dave Hakstol lifted his arm effortlessly with his hand steadily inclining toward the ceiling, almost portraying the takeoff of an airplane.

He was discussing the timeline for young hockey players, which his Flyers have a lot of and will gain only more as the blocks are stacked one by one.

And as the head coach digested a topsy-turvy, season-ending loss, his demonstration depicted what he knew wasn't the case.

"You always want development to be this smooth path and this smooth climb; it doesn't work that way," Hakstol said. "It's kind of a jagged climb, and as long as you're seeing a steady push to improve, then you stick with it and keep pushing in that direction."

The Flyers have been allowed to hit those jagged edges on their climb, like Sunday's 8-5 Game 6 defeat to the Penguins (see story). It was the final swing (and miss) in a best-of-seven first-round playoff matchup with the two-time defending champs, another cut along the grand hike for the Flyers.

But with it came a signal.

This is no longer the bottom of the mountain. The trek has been underway for three seasons and the long view should, expectedly, be coming into focus. In 2018-19, Hakstol will enter the fourth year of a five-year contract, according to CapFriendly.com. The Flyers' core, looking at its peak, will be a year older, as will the foundation pieces, already here and being counted on to drive things forward. 

The Flyers played four rookies in the playoffs, while five of their top eight regular-season goal scorers were 25 years old or younger. 

"For the most part, I liked the growth of our young guys," Hakstol said. "I think they had an opportunity to really see some tough points during the year and figure out how to be a part of battling out of them. They had the opportunity to play through and be part of a playoff push that other teams weren't going away, and we knew that with eight to 10 games to go, we knew that we would have to win our way in. So they had the opportunity to be a part of that and gain that experience of understanding and knowing how hard that is. And they were successful in that."

It resulted in 42 wins and 98 points during the regular season, both highs under Hakstol, surpassing the 41 and 96 set in Year 1. It also led to another first-round exit, the second under Hakstol against a topflight opponent. In those series, the Flyers went 1-5 at home, where they were outscored 26-9.

Harsh yet clear reminders the Flyers aren't where they want to be.

The Penguins, no duh, are. 

"We're working to build toward something like that," Wayne Simmonds said. "I thought we took a step in the right direction this year."

Claude Giroux, the 102-point, 30-year-old captain, sees it, too.

"I know for a fact that we got better as the season went on," Giroux said. "Look at our team last year and look at our team this year. We improved a lot."

While patience is always of the essence with general manager Ron Hextall, Year 4 will demand much more, unlike seasons past. This is Hakstol's team — the blocks are in place, both old and now not so new.

"There's going to be a lot of good and a lot of things that we'll say, 'Hey, these are good steps for our team,'" Hakstol said of this season. "End of the day, we didn't come into this playoff series to make steps, though."

That undoubtedly won't be the objective in 2018-19. It can't be, and the Flyers should know it.