Flyers-Hurricanes 10 observations: A look at what happened in 2016-17

Flyers-Hurricanes 10 observations: A look at what happened in 2016-17


The Flyers' 50th anniversary season came to an end Sunday night when the orange and black suffered a 4-3 shootout loss to the Hurricanes at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay).

This was not the conclusion Ron Hextall and company envisioned when training camp finished in early October. For the third time in the past five seasons, there will be no playoffs in Philadelphia.

With that, let's delve into what transpired in 2016-17 with 10 observations.

1. Before we get into the season stuff, let's touch on Bryan Bickell. The Hurricanes' forward played his final NHL game, as he announced Saturday he'll be hanging up the skates. This past November, the 31-year-old was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. As Bickell was announced in the starting lineup, fans cheered heartily. During a stoppage of play in the first period, the Flyers played a video tribute accompanied by a message read by PA announcer Lou Nolan to commemorate Bickell. Fans gave a standing ovation, while players from both teams stick tapped (see video). Bickell scored in the shootout, too. Awesome job, all the way around.

2. The Flyers finished 39-33-10 with 88 points. Last season, they went 41-27-14 with 96 points. Compared to last season, their goal scoring stayed just about the same and in the bottom 10 of the NHL. The power play, after starting so well, dropped a bit. The penalty kill saw minuscule improvement. The biggest difference turned out to be 2.56 goals against last season compared to 2.82 this season. Last month, Hextall said the Flyers "want to get better every year, get younger every year -- that's the goal." They saw some youth infused from start to finish, but they did not get better. This season was one of regression in many, many ways. For Hextall, no one said it would be easy, right?

3. Claude Giroux went scoreless, meaning he set a new career low for goals in a full season at 14. His previous season worst was 16 in 2009-10. Giroux simply didn't look himself this season -- oftentimes, he blended in and star players typically don't. Last month, Giroux admitted offseason hip and abdominal surgeries took some toll, both mentally and physically. Still, he's only 29 years old. And you know next season, his work ethic will have him in tip-top shape physically. Giroux cares and he fuels on motivation. He'll have plenty this offseason.

4. Wayne Simmonds did his part. His energy was there night in and night out when the team didn't always bring the same. He played all 82 games and nearly matched his career-high 32 goals with 31 this season after potting a marker Sunday. He also represented the franchise splendidly at the All-Star Game, earning the MVP honors. Not that many have doubted this, but this guy is a part of the team's future. A lot left for Simmonds.

5. At development camp in July, Robert Hagg said his goal for the year was to make his NHL debut. Well, he accomplished that on the final day of the regular season. The 22-year-old defenseman was called up from AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley and paired with Shayne Gostisbehere in the Flyers' season finale. He also saw time alongside Ivan Provorov. A nice little audition of sorts for Hagg, who marked the third Flyers rookie to make his NHL debut this week. That at least made things interesting. Hagg looked fine and there's a lot to like with his honest game and 6-foot-2 frame.

6. An obvious positive this season: Provorov. He opened the season as a 19-year-old and finished it as a 20-year-old Barry Ashbee Award winner (Flyers' top defenseman). Provorov played all 82 games and led the Flyers in ice time per game at 21:58 -- a franchise rookie record. He will continue to push the team's rebuild forward by spearheading the group of blueliners.

7. Dale Weise netted his seventh and eighth goals of the season. Nonetheless, Weise was disappointing in Year 1 with the Flyers. He played only 64 games because of some healthy scratches. He posted eight goals, seven assists and 39 penalty minutes. Last season, in just 56 games with the Canadiens (he spent 15 with the Blackhawks), Weise had 14 goals, 12 assists and 22 penalty minutes. And, hey, it wasn't long ago when he was a plus-21 (29 points, 10 goals, 19 assists) in 79 games of 2014-15. After signing a four-year, $9.4 million deal with the Flyers last offseason, he will really have to prove himself in 2017-18.

8. Anthony Stolarz didn't put on the best final act, but he's expected to make a serious case for the big club next season. He stoned a breakaway attempt in overtime and converted 32 saves in the finale. The 23-year-old more than held his own in seven games (four starts) this season, stopping 168 shots of 181 faced. For him to take the next step in 2017-18 would be lovely to see for the Flyers.

9. Gostisbehere made a heck of a play to facilitate Simmonds' tally. Sure, he suffered the proverbial sophomore slump, but he'll be just fine. He did finish the season with eight points in his last eight games, a good confidence boost heading into an important offseason for Gostisbehere, who turns 24 on April 20.

10a. Defensemen and soon-to-be unrestricted free agents Michael Del Zotto and Nick Schultz played what was more than likely their final games with the Flyers. For Schultz, possibly his final game of a 15-year career. He reflected on it all earlier this week. The Flyers should have at least two jobs open on the blue line come training camp -- which means more youth on its way.

10b. I'm guessing everyone wants Sean Couturier to shoot the puck more?

Capitals reclaim sole possession of Metro lead

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Capitals reclaim sole possession of Metro lead

WASHINGTON — T.J. Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom and Matt Niskanen scored as the Washington Capitals swept a home-and-home set against the skidding New York Islanders with a 6-3 win on Friday night.

Alex Chiasson had a goal and two assists for the Capitals, who hammered the Islanders 7-3 in New York on Thursday. Jakub Vrana's goal gave Washington a 5-1 lead with 9:04 remaining. Lars Eller added an empty-netter, and Braden Holtby made 22 saves.

Washington broke a tie with the idle Pittsburgh Penguins for sole possession of first place in the Metropolitan Division. The Capitals' four-game winning streak is their longest since taking five in a row from Dec. 28 to Jan. 9.

Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington's second-leading scorer, left in the second period and did not return after sustaining an upper-body injury, according to the team.

Mathew Barzal, Brock Nelson and John Tavares scored for the Islanders, who have lost 10 of 11 (see full recap).

Hoffman lifts Senators over Stars in OT
OTTAWA, Ontario — Mike Hoffman scored at 3:26 of overtime and the Ottawa Senators beat the Dallas Stars 3-2 on Friday night to win their third game in a row for just the second time this season.

Ottawa won on home ice for the first time since Feb. 17.

Marian Gaborik and Matt Duchene also scored for the Senators (26-33-11), and Craig Anderson made 23 saves.

Tyler Seguin and Tyler Pitlick had the goals for the Stars (38-26-8). Ben Bishop, who stopped 22 shots, made his first start since missing five games with a knee injury sustained March 5 against the Senators. Bishop has a 9-0-4 career record against Ottawa.

Dallas has lost four straight, its longest skid of the season (see full recap).

Predators rally past Coyotes
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Nashville Predators keep rolling toward the best regular season in franchise history.

Kevin Fiala and Kyle Turris each had a goal and assist in the third period, leading Nashville to a 3-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night. Ryan Ellis also scored to help the Western Conference-leading Predators get their 21st road win of the season and improve to 12-0-1 in their last 13 games overall. Pekka Rinne finished with 32 saves.

Nashville, which reached the Stanley Cup Final a year ago after earning the second wild card in the West, has 102 points through 70 games, and needs nine more in its final 12 games to set a new franchise record (see full recap).

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.