Flyers

Wins by Metro rivals adds to Flyers' bad day

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Wins by Metro rivals adds to Flyers' bad day

NEW YORK -- T.J. Oshie scored twice, Dmitry Orlov and Nicklas Backstrom each had a goal and two assists, and the first-place Washington Capitals beat the New York Islanders 7-3 Thursday night.

Andrei Burakovsky added a goal and an assist, and Lars Eller and John Carlson also scored to help Washington improve to 10-4-3 in its last 17 games against the Islanders. Evgeny Kuznetsov had three assists and Philipp Grubauer finished with 35 saves for his 11th win of the season.

Brock Nelson, Andrew Ladd and Ryan Pulock scored for the Islanders, who lost for the ninth time in 10 games. Christopher Gibson started and gave up five goals on 12 shots before he was pulled midway through the second period. Jaroslav Halak came on and finished with eight saves.

Orlov gave the Capitals a 3-2 lead with 2:43 left in the first as he beat Gibson for his ninth of the season.

Burakovsky extended Washington's lead at 3:12 of the second, and Backstrom made it 5-2 with his 18th with 9:38 remaining in the middle period, ending Gibson's night (see full recap).

Hornqvist, Penguins top Canadiens
MONTREAL -- Patric Hornqvist's second goal of the game gave Pittsburgh the lead in the third period, and the Penguins went on to beat the Montreal Canadiens 5-3 Thursday night.

Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin and Bryan Rust also scored for Pittsburgh, which remain tied with Washington in points atop the Metropolitan Division. The Capitals, however, currently hold the tiebreaker with two games in hand.

Tristan Jarry made 17 saves for his 14th win of the season while starter Matt Murray remains sidelined with a concussion.

Artturi Lehkonen, Paul Byron and Nicolas Deslauriers scored for Montreal, and Antti Niemi stopped 34 shots in his first regulation loss since Feb. 14.

Hornqvist put Pittsburgh in front for good with 7:36 remaining in the third period by deflecting Carl Hagelin's shot past Niemi.

Rust added some insurance with an empty-netter with 1:53 left (see full recap).

Reiner makes 46 saves in shutout
SUNRISE, Fla. -- James Reimer tied a season high with 46 saves to lead the Florida Panthers over the Boston Bruins 3-0 on Thursday night.

Making his first start in six games, Reimer earned his third shutout of the season. Nick Bjugstad had a goal and an assist, and Vincent Trocheck and Aaron Ekblad also scored. Evgenii Dadonov added two assists.

Florida moved within three points of idle New Jersey for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Panthers, who have won 11 of their last 13 home games, have two games in hand on the Devils.

Anton Khudobin stopped 25 shots for the Bruins, shut out for the first time since their second game of the season, a 4-0 loss to Colorado on Oct. 9. The Bruins are four points behind Atlantic Division leader Tampa Bay, with one game in hand on the Lightning.

The Panthers stretched their lead to 3-0 on a power-play goal by Trocheck with 5:53 left in the second period. Trocheck's shot from the right circle went top shelf shot over Khudobin. Trocheck leads the team with 27 goals.

Aleksander Barkov's assist gave him 70 points, making him the first Panthers player since Olli Jokinen (71) in 2007-08 with 70 points in a season (see full recap).

Flyers' focus shifts toward another busy NHL draft

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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.