Flyers call up defenseman Robert Hagg for Sunday's finale vs. Carolina

Flyers call up defenseman Robert Hagg for Sunday's finale vs. Carolina

The Flyers' season finale against the Hurricanes on Sunday evening just got a bit more interesting, as another of the Flyers' touted defensive prospects will make his NHL debut.

This time, it's Robert Hagg's turn.

Hagg on Sunday was recalled from AHL Lehigh Valley and will be available to play Sunday against the 'Canes.

The 22-year-old Swede was a second-round pick (41st overall) of the Flyers in the 2013 entry draft, the same draft the Flyers selected fellow defenseman Sam Morin in the first round at pick No. 11.

Hagg is near the end of his third full AHL season with the Phantoms. He has seven goals and eight assists for 15 points this season. He did miss some time in early March with an upper-body injury.

But scouts say the 6-foot-2, 201-pound Hagg has made tremendous strides over the last several months. Flyers developmental coach Kjell Samuelsson told NHL reporter Chuck Gormley in late March that Hagg was ready to make the leap to the NHL level. Turns out Samuelsson's premonition was true.

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall and assistant general manager Chris Pryor have made similar comments in recent months.

Over his three AHL seasons, Hagg has 16 goals and 34 assists for 50 points.

Hagg will be the third of the Flyers' heralded defensive prospects to debut this season. The first, of course, was Ivan Provorov, who on Saturday took home the Barry Ashbee Trophy as the team's top defenseman this season. Morin made his debut last Tuesday in the 1-0 OT loss to New Jersey and played well before he was sent back down the following day.

Prior to joining the Flyers' organization, Hagg played two years for MODO of the Swedish Hockey League.

Hagg will wear No. 48 for the Flyers. A good showing Sunday in front of Hextall and the Flyers' brass certainly won't hurt Hagg's chances of making big club come the fall.

Alex Lyon can save the Flyers' season

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Alex Lyon can save the Flyers' season

Lost amid the Flyers’ 5-3 defeat at the hands Blue Jackets on Thursday was yet another stellar relief appearance in goal from Alex Lyon.

Lyon was sensational after replacing Petr Mrazek between the pipes early in the second period, stopping all 18 shots that came his way. Flyers coach Dave Hakstol praised the rookie netminder for giving his team an opportunity to come from behind.

“He’s a battler, and that’s what we asked from him last night going into that situation,” Hakstol said following Friday’s practice.

“You need to have a mindset of going in there and absolutely slamming the door to give your team a chance to win. In order to do that, you have to have a real battling mentality, and I thought he had that right from when he stepped in the net.”

Success in a sort of stopper role has become increasingly commonplace for Lyon since joining the Flyers.

Lyon came off the bench to make five saves during the final eight minutes of a 5-3 loss to the Capitals in his January debut. The 25-year-old later earned his first NHL win against the Rangers in February, blocking 25 of 26 shots over the second and third periods to help procure a 7-4 victory.

His play has been on the rise ever since. Lyon appears to be improving with experience, posting a 2-1-0 record with a .939 save percentage in his last four games.

“I don’t know if I’d say confidence so much as comfortability,” Lyon said of his growth. “I think I always had the confidence in myself that I could do it. It’s just you have to get comfortable enough to kind of believe that.”

He shined as a substitute goaltender all along. Including his performance against the Blue Jackets, Lyon has amassed a .980 save percentage in three relief appearances — a number emblematic of his season.

Lyon began 2017-18 as the emergency-goalie-in-waiting at Lehigh Valley. He earned the call-up to the Flyers’ main roster after the injury to Brian Elliott, then saw an uptick in ice time due to Michal Neuvirth’s subsequent maladies.

The club traded for Petr Mrazek after Neuvirth went down, but Lyon still finds himself in the mix. He’s expected to start against the Hurricanes on Saturday — a pivotal contest for the Flyers’ bid to make the playoffs.

“It’s extremely exciting,” Lyon said. “This is what you think about when you’re a little kid.

“It’s not quite the same, but down in Allentown we were in a pretty hot playoff race last year and always at the top of the standings, so I’m going to draw on my past experiences.”

Elliott returned to the ice this week and could be back in uniform soon, at which time Lyon will be sent back to the minor leagues. But if the Flyers do manage to reach the postseason, his fill-in contributions will have played a big part.

Perhaps Lyon will even warrant a closer look for a full-time spot on the Flyers’ roster next season.

Rob's Rants —The Flyers might really miss the playoffs

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Rob's Rants —The Flyers might really miss the playoffs

Question: What’s been worse, the weather in the month of March in the Delaware Valley or the Flyers' play this month?

Tough one, but I’d have to go with the Flyers. At least you can go inside to escape Mother Nature. There’s been no escaping the storm clouds forming of late around the Flyers. They say timing in life is everything and right now time could be running out on the orange and black’s playoff chances. They are 1-6-1 in the month of March. Teams that appeared to have no chance of catching the Flyers in the playoff race are now right on their bumper.

The Flyers had won ten of eleven after beating the Canadiens, 1-0, on Feb. 26. Since then, they’ve lost games in a myriad of ways. Late in games (Boston, Vegas). Poor starts; the Flyers have been outscored in the first period during this stretch, 11-5. The power play has not been good enough. The penalty kill has been a major issue all season. They have not gotten nearly enough secondary scoring.

And players not named Claude Giroux who have been studs all year have not been producing goals. Sean Couturier does a ton for this hockey team. But the way they are built, he needs to put the puck in the net. He‘s gone without a goal in thirteen straight games.  

But more troubling is the pattern of late where they are being outworked. 50-50 battles are being lost. Careless clears, turnovers you may get away with against Montreal, cost you against Vegas.

Head coach Dave Hakstol said this after Thursday’s loss to Columbus: “I thought their team was a little bit more ready to play, and that squarely comes to me.”

Excuse me? More ready to play? This time of year? That’s a stark indictment of both him and his team. Mid-March, game No. 71 of the season at home vs. a team that is right on your heels and they were more ready than your club? His players echoed the same sentiment after the game. Inexcusable. This would be a colossal collapse if they don’t make the postseason. The fans are owed more. 

Columbus has won six straight and is now tied with the Flyers at 81 points. The Florida Panthers, who at 77 points are three out of the final wildcard spot, were 16 points behind the Flyers on Feb. 26. They now trail them by just four points with three games in hand. The Flyers are currently the sixth seed, they have eleven games left — five at home, five are against Metropolitan Division opponents, all but two are against the Eastern Conference. So they very much control their own fate. But if they don’t find a sense of urgency, it will be two straight seasons of tee times in early April.