Flyers

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

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

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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?

Future Flyers Report: Did we overhype Oskar Lindblom?

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Aaron Bell/AP Images

Future Flyers Report: Did we overhype Oskar Lindblom?

Before this week begins, it’s time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers’ prospects playing in the AHL, overseas and at the junior and college levels.

In this edition, we’ll try to make sense of a highly-touted prospect not living up to his hype … and try to answer the question if we, the media, built him up too much.

Oskar Lindblom, LW, 21, 6-1/192, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
I think it’s a fair time to reflect on this question, because coming into this season, there was a ton of noise surrounding Lindblom’s move to North America. Many, including myself, expected Lindblom to crack the Flyers’ lineup immediately and he didn’t.

With prospects, it’s easy to get carried away sometimes. Especially when they dominate their respective leagues, and in Lindblom’s case, he dictated the SHL as a 20-year-old.

Through seven games with the Phantoms, Lindblom's offense has yet to blossom. He scooped up his first assist in the Phantoms' 4-3 win Saturday over Binghamton.

"He's playing hard," Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said of Lindblom last Thursday. "Is he to the level that he can play? No, he's not but that's going to come. …

"Everybody's talking about him. He comes here, there's all this hype. It's unfair, quite frankly, the expectations that some of these kids come in with."

Lindblom came overseas after he scored 61 points in 72 games, including postseason, last season with Brynäs IF. Add in international play, it was even more impressive.

There was a ton of interest around Lindblom during development camp in July. It was clear then he was strong enough to play in the NHL, even in a non-competitive camp. Then came the rookie camp. The strength was there, the compete level was there.

Then came training camp and preseason. Lindblom started strong but fizzled out. The scoring didn't come as naturally as expected and while his skating was visibly improved, there were still times you could see additional work was needed in this atmosphere.

"Oskar did some good things (in preseason)," Hextall said. "Probably not quite at the level that we want him to get to or that he's hoping to. It was pretty obvious — not early, but as we got along, that he wasn't quite ready for this level. That's OK. He didn't fail.”

As easy as it is to get carried away with prospects, it’s just as easy to overreact. Lindblom hasn’t quite performed as projected yet, but it’s easy to dismiss the rink and speed adjustment from playing in Sweden to North America. He remains a top prospect.

And on Saturday against the Devils, Lindblom started to show signs of the player people expected to see. He created chances, rung some posts and was strong on the puck.

Did we overhype Lindblom? I don’t think so. Did we place unfair expectations on him?

Yeah, perhaps we did.

2017 CIBC Canada Russia Series
Last week, Teams WHL, QMJHL and OHL revealed their rosters for this year’s series, which begins Nov. 6 and ends Nov. 16. Team Russia has yet to announce its roster.

Three Flyers prospects are confirmed for the series: Carter Hart (Everett, Team WHL), Pascal Laberge (Victoriaville, Team QMJHL) and Morgan Frost (Sault Ste. Marie, Team OHL). German Rubtsov is not on Team QMJHl but should be on Team Russia.

Hart remains out of action because of mono but appears to be getting closer to a return.

Laberge is enjoying a solid start to his 2017-18 campaign. In three games last week, Laberge, 19, had two assists. He now has 10 points in 10 games this season.

Rubtsov had a goal and two assists last week for Chicoutimi and has six points during his current six-game point streak. He scored his first of the season Saturday night.

Frost, the Flyers’ second 2017 first-round pick, continued to produce for the Greyhounds last week with a goal and three assists in three games. He has 14 points (four goals, 10 assists) in 14 games this season and is a plus-11.

Quick Hits
Mike Vecchione added two more assists last week with the Phantoms. He’s on a four-game assist streak and is a point-per-game play thus far (seven in seven).

Philippe Myers suffered an injury in the second period of the Phantoms’ 5-2 win over Bridgeport Friday night and missed Saturday’s game. There is no update on his status.

Nicolas Aube-Kubel had a two-point weekend, picking up an assist Friday and scoring Saturday night. He’s on a three-game point streak and has five in seven games.

Samuel Morin stuffed the stat sheet on Saturday night, with a goal, assist, three shots and six penalty minutes. He had an assist Friday and has points in three straight. Morin appears in line to be called up to the Flyers after Andrew MacDonald's injury.

• Though not considered a high-end prospect by any means, Danick Martel, 22, is worth mentioning. The 5-foot-8 winger is off to a torrid start with the Phantoms.

Martel had two goals and an assist Friday against Bridgeport. He has seven goals and 10 points in seven games, with three multi-point games, 23 shots and a plus-10 rating.

Wade Allison had a two-assist night in Western Michigan’s 6-4 loss to Michigan State. He has seven assists and nine points, with three multi-point games, in seven games.

• It was a big weekend for sophomore Tanner Laczynski, who had an assist Friday and three assists Saturday night as Ohio State swept Massachusetts.

Carsen Twarynski had a hat trick Saturday night in Kelowna’s 7-2 win over Portland. Watch all three goals here. Twarynski has six goals and 11 points in nine games.

• Guelph winger Isaac Ratcliffe had a two-goal game Saturday night in the Storm’s 2-1 win over Saginaw. He was pointless in two other games last week.

Maksim Sushko followed up a monster six-point weekend with a goal and an assist this past weekend for Owen Sound.

Wyatt Kalynuk recorded his first collegiate point, an assist, in No. 6 Wisconsin’s 4-0 win over Northern Michigan on Saturday night. Kalynuk has one point in seven games.

Matej Tomek stopped 20 of 21 shots in USHL Waterloo’s 4-1 win over Sioux City.

• A rare clunker from Felix Sandstrom last week. Sandstrom allowed five goals on 36 shots in Brynäs IF’s 5-4 loss to Rögle BK on Thursday.

Olle Lycksell had two goals last week for Linköping HC J20. He has five goals and 10 points in 13 games, one more point in the league than he had in 29 games last season.

Flyers Weekly Observations: Claude Giroux's redemption tour beats on

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USA Today Images

Flyers Weekly Observations: Claude Giroux's redemption tour beats on

It was a busy week on the ice for the team that calls South Philadelphia home.

And that busy week ended with plenty of positive vibes for the Flyers after a 2-1-0 showing.

They kicked things off with a commanding 5-1 victory over the visiting Florida Panthers on Tuesday night, followed that up with a tough 1-0 loss to the Nashville Predators on Thursday evening and wrapped up the week with a hard-earned 2-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday afternoon as the five-game homestand rolled on.

There’s plenty to get to, so, now that the ink is dry, let’s dive right into the week that was for the Flyers.

• In the days and weeks leading up to this season, there were a plethora of questions surrounding the Flyers, and to some extents, there still are as the season is still in its infancy, just eight games in. But the captain is already answering all the questions about him, and there were a lot of them. Claude Giroux played a key role again this week for the Flyers, scoring two goals — a breakaway snipe Tuesday past Roberto Luongo and a power-play slam dunk past Cam Talbot to open the scoring Saturday.

Giroux's tally against the Oilers was his fifth of the season. For comparison’s sake, Giroux didn’t record his fifth goal last season until Nov. 29, the 24th game of the season. Two things are noticeable when it comes to Giroux. Yes, the move to left wing alongside Sean Couturier and Jake Voracek is paying dividends and providing energy, not just for Giroux, but also as a whole for the line, which continues to produce. Couturier scored his fourth of the season Tuesday and Voracek, while still scoreless, is tied for third in the league with 10 assists.

But much more importantly for Giroux, he’s clearly healthy again, which wasn’t the case most of the last season as the effects from hip surgery lingered and anchored him. The fact of the matter is, in many ways, Giroux is still the engine of the Flyers’ offense and the cog that makes it go. The puck is still on his stick a ton and opposing teams still key in on him. It comes as no surprise a healthy, producing Giroux is igniting a Flyers offense that is averaging 3.50 goals. As the captain goes, so do the Flyers. So far, better than so good.

• You can say what you want about Andrew MacDonald and his play and his contract. But that’s a different conversation for a different day. There’s no doubting MacDonald is one tough hombre after blocking a debilitating slap shot off the knee Saturday and fighting through it to continue killing a penalty in the third period. If you’re still wondering why MacDonald wears an “A” on his sweater during road games, wonder no more. He’s a tough, valued veteran who has the respect of the locker room thanks to plays like that. The Flyers announced Sunday he will miss 4-6 weeks with a lower-body injury, presumably from that play. If you’re one of the ones behind a keyboard celebrating his injury on Twitter, grow up.

• There’s really not much shame in the loss to Nashville on Thursday. The defending Western Conference champion Predators, just as good as they were last year when they came within two wins of the Stanley Cup, just smothered the Flyers. And when the Flyers did have chances, Pekka Rinne was there between the pipes to snuff them out. His third-period pad save on Couturier, who had just pulled off a nifty maneuver in the slot, was a dandy that kept the Preds on top. A loss is a loss and it’s frustrating, but the Flyers hung with one of the most complete teams in the league twice in the span of nine days.

• Wayne Simmonds just continues to do Wayne Simmonds things. On Thursday against the Preds, Simmonds took an errant stick to the mouth as he was observing the action on the bench. He left but later returned to the game. Of course, he was right back in the lineup Saturday afternoon, albeit with a mouth protector attached to his helmet.

And of course, he scored Saturday’s game-winner with 2:15 left in regulation off a lovely feed from Valtteri Filppula. Simmonds admitted afterward he was losing pucks in his feet due to the impaired vision from the mouth protector and he would have to get some dead teeth extracted soon. That last part sounds just awful, by the way.

But as far as toughness and results on the ice from Simmonds, it’s gotten to the point where we expect nothing less. No surprise, but he now leads the Flyers with six goals on the young season.

• It was the best and worst this week for prized rookie Nolan Patrick. On Tuesday, he wowed the Panthers, his Flyers teammates and the entire Wells Fargo Center with a dazzling, through-the-legs drop pass to Dale Weise, who then promptly deposited the Flyers’ fourth goal of the evening in the victory over the Panthers (see video). Seriously, what an unreal pass that was. That was uncanny awareness and hockey sense and incredible skill. And remember, he’s just 19 years old.

We got a reminder Saturday afternoon that he is just 19 and the lumps will come along with the highlight reel plays. During the second period against Edmonton, Patrick found himself with the puck in the corner in the defensive zone. He hesitated, perhaps mesmerized by the broken stick on the ice in front of him, and was quickly surrounded by the Oilers’ Patrick Maroon, who picked the rook’s pocket, drove toward the net and beat Brian Elliott to knot the game at 1-1.

A tough learning experience for Patrick, but the teenager will learn from it and get better. It’s the kind of thing you just naturally have to expect from a 19-year-old just eight games into his NHL career.

Coming up this week: Tuesday vs. Anaheim (7 p.m./NBCSP), Thursday at Ottawa (7:30 p.m./NBCSP), Saturday at Toronto (7 p.m./NBCSP+).