Flyers

Best of NHL: Bruins win vs. Blackhawks puts Flyers on brink of elimination

Best of NHL: Bruins win vs. Blackhawks puts Flyers on brink of elimination

CHICAGO -- Backup goalie Anton Khudobin made 41 saves and the Boston Bruins held off the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 on Sunday for their fifth straight victory.

Ryan Spooner, Patrice Bergeron and Kevan Miller scored for the Bruins, who jumped over idle Toronto and Ottawa into second place in the Atlantic Division. Boston began the day in wild-card position, four points ahead of Tampa Bay for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Chicago's Artemi Panarin extended his goal-scoring streak to four games with his 29th. Jordin Tootoo also scored for the Blackhawks, who got 26 saves from Corey Crawford in their final regular-season home game.

The Blackhawks clinched first place in the Central Division and Western Conference on Saturday when Minnesota lost at Nashville. Chicago is assured of home-ice advantage through the first three playoff rounds (see full recap).

Jake Allen stops 35 in Blues' win over Predators
ST. LOUIS -- Alexander Steen scored the tiebreaking goal early in the second period, David Perron had a goal and two assists, and the St. Louis Blues beat the Nashville Predators 4-1 Sunday.

Vladimir Tarasenko and Joel Edmundson also scored, and Jake Allen stopped 35 shots as St. Louis earned at least at point for the ninth straight game (7-0-2). Allen improved to 9-1-2 with two shutouts and 16 goals allowed his past 12 starts.

Ryan Johansen scored for Nashville and Juuse Saros finished with 21 saves. The Predators had won four of the last five meetings with St. Louis before taking a loss that kept them from earning a playoff spot. Nashville needed one point in the game to clinch a berth, but can still qualify if Los Angeles doesn't win against Arizona later Sunday.

Lee's two third-period goals keep Islanders in playoff hunt
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Anders Lee scored third-period goals a little more than five minutes apart, and the New York Islanders overcame the absence of captain John Tavares to stay in the playoff hunt with a 4-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday.

Cal Clutterbuck and Joshua Ho-Sang also scored and Jaroslav Halak stopped 35 shots to improve to 3-1 since being recalled from the minors.

With four games left, New York earned its 86th point to inch within five of Ottawa and Toronto, and remain six behind Boston in the race for the Eastern Conference's final three playoff berths.

It was the Islanders' first game since Tavares was sidelined by a left hamstring injury in a 2-1 win over New Jersey on Friday (see full recap).

Nolan Patrick's start reminder of rookie life adjusting to NHL

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Nolan Patrick's start reminder of rookie life adjusting to NHL

VOORHEES, N.J. — If Nolan Patrick is to have a long and storied career in the National Hockey League, then perhaps we shouldn’t get caught up in the prologue - that section of a book you likely skim over before you begin chapter one.

This season is Patrick’s prologue - a short blurb that will likely be passed over when the final chapter is eventually written.  

In fact, Flyers GM Ron Hextall reminded us recently that, as an 18-year-old, Joe Thornton scored three goals and seven points in 55 games during his rookie season with the Boston Bruins in 1997-98. Does anyone remember or discuss Year 1 of the Thornton Era?

“People forget this stuff,” said Hextall. “These guys are young kids. It’s why some players need time in the minors. It’s a process. It’s hard to go out 82 times against 25, 30-year-old men and play. It’s demanding as hell. People don’t realize that.”

Starting the season on the Flyers' second line with Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds, Patrick, the No. 2 overall pick in this past June's entry draft, was consistently logging 13 and a half minutes a game and contributing offensively despite inconsistencies while acclimating and adjusting to playing at a much higher pace. Then came the hit against the Anaheim Ducks on Oct. 24 and the prolonged post-concussion period that lasted for nearly a month.

Recently, the mistakes have piled up with turnovers and poor positional play, and head coach Dave Hakstol has cut Patrick’s ice time. The rookie averaged a little below nine minutes during the recent three-game Western Canadian sweep.

“Patrick’s 19 years old. He’s a kid,” said Hextall. “I know people want more out of him. We want more out of him, but he’s a 19-year-old. People think because a kid’s got a big name, he’s drafted high, he’s going to come into the league and bang, he’s going to make an instant impact.

“He’s shown enough of signs that he can compete at this level and be a factor, and that’s what you want with a young kid. I don’t like putting young kids on a team that aren’t a factor. Why would he even be on your team? Nolan has shown at times he can be a factor and he needs to get better as the year goes on.”

Patrick’s season is more than anything a by-product of last year in juniors with the WHL's Brandon Wheat Kings when he suffered a muscle tear in the midsection area that went misdiagnosed. Admittedly, he was never performing at 100 percent while fighting through pain and discomfort. 

While the majority of non-playoff NHLers begin their offseason regimen sometime in May, Patrick barely did anything. He worked out prior to combine testing in June leading up to the draft, and only after meeting with renowned core muscle surgeon Dr. William Meyers in Philadelphia did Patrick realize his injuries were career-threatening. 

Had Patrick gone through an injury-free season with the Wheat Kings and a full offseason to recover from normal nagging injuries all players go through, he would have been back in the gym before the first round of the NHL playoffs had commenced.  

“I think [Brandon] lost out in April, so obviously I would have liked to have that whole time to train and work on my game, but my body had other ideas for me,” said Patrick. “The big thing for me was I was hoping I was in good enough shape to do well with fitness testing and all of that. I only had a month to train. That was kind of the main thing I was worried about.”

A second surgery followed with a 4-to-6 week recovery and then came a bizarre abscess/boil that prevented him from skating in late July. By the time Patrick started working out in August, he was a good two months behind even the most experienced veterans. 

“He didn’t have a regular offseason, didn’t play a lot last year," Hextall said of Patrick. "It’s not an excuse, but those are things you got to look at. This is where he’s at right now, and Nolan has done some goods things for us. Does he need to do better? Yeah, he does.”

Just about every player would like to re-write their rookie season, especially those who came into the league as a teenager. Prior to Patrick, Sean Couturier was the last Flyer to play in the NHL the same year he was drafted. In Couturier’s case, he had the luxury of playing on a talented in 2011-12 team while focusing on his role as a fourth-line defensive center.

“It’s all about getting adapted to a new lifestyle,” Couturier said of transitioning to the NHL as a teenager. “Everything’s new. You’re going from juniors, being with a bunch of 17 and 18-year-olds, and all of a sudden, you’re with men. It’s definitely a big change in your life. Offseason training, nutrition -- a lot of little details matter.

“I think Nolan’s figuring it out, but you can see he’s got all the potential to succeed. I’m not too worried about him to be honest."

Eventually Patrick will turn the page on his career. It just might not come this season.

Flyers goalie Brian Elliott named NHL's third star of the week

Flyers goalie Brian Elliott named NHL's third star of the week

Netminder Brian Elliott was a major key to the Flyers' three-game sweep of the daunting Western Canada. 

And now he's being recognized by the league for his stellar efforts.

The Flyers' goalie on Monday was named third star of the week by the NHL after going 3-0-0 in the team's three games last week and posting a 1.67 goals-against average and a.954 save percentage in the process. He stopped 103 of 108 shots he was peppered with.

Elliott's best effort last week came against his old teammates in Calgary on Monday when he stopped 43 of the Flames' 45 shots on net in a 5-2 victory that snapped the Flyers' ugly 10-game losing streak. He then went on to stop 24 Oilers shots on Wednesday in a 4-2 win and then 36 Canucks shots on Thursday in a 4-1 triumph.

Elliott has been a steadying presence in net all season long for a sputtering Flyers team. In 22 appearances this season, Elliott is 9-6-6 with a 2.79 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage.

With Michal Neuvirth still on the shelf with a lower-body injury, all signs point to Elliott getting the start in net Tuesday night when the Flyers return home to face the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Blues center Brayden Schenn was named the league's first star of the week. The former Flyer scored six goals last week, including a hat trick in a win over Montreal last Tuesday. Netminder Jake Allen, Schenn's Blues teammate, was named second star after posting a 4-0-0 record, 1.50 goals-against average and .944 save percentage last week.