Flyers

Flyers Weekly Observations: Where has this offensive eruption been?

Flyers Weekly Observations: Where has this offensive eruption been?

They're still kicking. Somehow.

The Flyers were red-hot this past week, winning all four games on the slate as they kept their exponentially slim playoff hopes alive.

This past week included win a 6-2 win in Pittsburgh over the rival Penguins on Sunday, a 3-2 shootout win over the visiting Ottawa Senators on Tuesday, a 6-3 triumph over the New York Islanders on Thursday night in South Philly and a 3-0 shutout win over the visiting New Jersey Devils on Saturday evening.

Let's dive a bit further into the week that was for the Flyers.

• Where were these Flyers the last several months? The Flyers erupted for 17 goals this past week, 18, if you count the shootout winner Tuesday vs. the Sens. How monumental, was this offensive eruption for this group of Flyers? For a one-month stretch from Jan. 14 to Feb. 15, it took the Flyers 13 games to score a total of 18 goals. Of course, the first thought it is that maybe if these goals were there earlier in the year, maybe the Flyers wouldn't be in this situation on the outside looking in and with hopes of playing into mid-April on life support. And rightfully so. Wayne Simmonds said it best earlier this week when asked about the Flyers' spot in the standings and the fact they need a lot of help to get in -- this situation was caused by self-inflicted wounds.

• Speaking of lighting up the net, the Flyers' power play rose from the dead this past week. After Sunday's game in Pittsburgh, the Flyers were 3 for their last 46 with the man advantage. Starting with Tuesday's showing against Ottawa, the Flyers' power play is 4 for its last 11. What's been the difference? Look at the blue line, and specifically Shayne Gostisbehere. Ghost has once again discovered his ability to get his booming slapper from the point on net consistently. Brayden Schenn tipped home a Ghost drive Tuesday and Simmonds painfully deflected one home off his knee on Thursday. Ghost is clearly healthy again and it shows. But, more importantly, he's supremely confident again. Both are huge boosts to the Flyers' power play.

• Michal Neuvirth's episode on Saturday against the Devils was frightening. If you somehow missed it, Neuvirth collapsed suddenly in his crease and laid prone on the ice for several moments before he sat up and was wheeled off the ice on a stretcher. This past summer, I wrote a feature story on a charity basketball tournament with NBA players called the Danny Rumph Classic. It's named after a former Philly high school hoops star who died suddenly during a pick-up game from cardiac arrest traced back to a heart ailment. As morbid as this sounds, you can't help but think of things like when you see a healthy athlete such as Neuvirth collapse out of the blue. Fortunately, Neuvirth was released from the hospital Sunday and is home resting as everything seems to be related to a respiratory infection.

• Anthony Stolarz looked solid when pressed into duty in a tough situation on Saturday night. Remember, he didn't take warmups and didn't even arrive at the Wells Fargo Center from Lehigh Valley until 6:55 p.m. Saturday. He stopped all 26 shots he faced. And while the Devils aren't the most offensively gifted team in the league, Stolarz was still challenged at times. New Jersey had a strong flurry toward the end of the second period, but Stolarz stood tall and stopped a couple Devils' chances right on the doorstep. The Flyers' goaltending situation this summer is going to be a tricky one, but that's another story for another day.

• How about Jordan Weal? The kid just keeps delivering as he scored in all four Flyers' wins this past week. But it's not just that he can put the puck in the net. It's how he puts the puck in the net from the dirty areas around the crease. The 24-year-old is just 5-foot-10, but he goes to the gritty areas and he gets rewarded for it. Remember, it's not about how you score them. They all count the same in the end. Weal has been a real nice spark for a team that desperately needed some offensive juice.

• On both Thursday and Saturday, the Flyers had prime chances to move up the standings as the teams they're chasing in the wild-card hunt were all in action. The Flyers took care of business. The problem is that the other teams did, too. Destiny isn't a fun thing when you don't do nearly enough to put it in your own hands.

Coming up this week: Sunday at N.Y. Rangers (7:30 p.m./NBCSN), Tuesday at New Jersey (7 p.m./CSN), Saturday vs. Columbus (12:30 p.m./CSN), Sunday vs. Carolina (7 p.m./CSN)

Capitals regain top spot in Metro as Ovechkin scores NHL-best 35th goal

usa-alex-ovechkin-washington-capitals-celebration.jpg
USA Today Images

Capitals regain top spot in Metro as Ovechkin scores NHL-best 35th goal

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Alex Ovechkin can stop fretting about what the Washington Capitals captain described as the worst game of his career.

He and the Capitals were much better in a 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Monday, two days after a 7-1 meltdown at Chicago.

After being held without a shot against Chicago, Ovechkin responded by scoring his NHL-leading 35th goal, and Washington reclaimed the top spot in the Metropolitan Division

"Yeah, I think the last game I didn't play my game. I think it was the worst play of my career by myself. I take the blame on it," Ovechkin said. "I think we understand the game in Chicago was just forget about it, you know. We moved forward. We got two points."

Capitals coach Barry Trotz noticed how much more involved Ovechkin was against Buffalo, particularly after a few early exchanges with Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen (see full recap.)

Marchand's OT goal gives Bruins win over Flames 
CALGARY, Alberta — Brad Marchand scored his 22nd goal 3:36 into overtime to give the Boston Bruins a 2-1 victory over the Calgary Flames on Monday.

After a turnover deep in the Flames end, Riley Nash sprung the Bruins' leading scorer on a breakaway and Marchand made no mistake, slipping the puck through the pads of David Rittich.

David Pastrnak also scored for Boston (36-13-8), which moved within one point of Tampa Bay for first place in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference. Boston has two games in hand.

Matthew Tkachuk scored for the Flames (30-21-9), who fell to 1-3-4 in their last eight home games.

With the teams meeting for the second time in six days, Calgary was territorially outplayed by a wide margin in the first period but Rittich kept the Flames in it (see full recap.)

Cullen, Ennis star in Wild win against Islanders 
NEW YORK — Minnesota knows it needs to play better on the road to strengthen its push for a playoff spot. The Wild also want to do a better job of holding third-period leads than they have lately.

They accomplished both Monday against the New York Islanders.

Matt Cullen and Tyler Ennis scored in Minnesota's three-goal second period, and the Wild beat the Islanders 5-3. Jason Zucker added two goals, Joel Eriksson Ek also scored, and Devan Dubnyk stopped 32 shots as Minnesota improved to 4-1-2 in its past seven games.

The Wild just lost three of five on their homestand, including twice when they gave up the tying goal in the third period before falling after regulation.

"Having the lead in the second and keeping it is really good for us," Zucker said (see full recap.)

Arvidsson scores twice in Predators' win vs. Senators 
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Viktor Arvidsson scored twice to reach 20 goals this season, and the Nashville Predators beat the Ottawa Senators 5-2 on Monday night.

Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Craig Smith also scored for Nashville, which ended a two-game skid and tied Winnipeg for first place in the Central Division.

The Predators recorded two power-play goals and scored on the man advantage in their second straight game after going six games without converting on the power play.

Pekka Rinne made 36 saves to earn his 30th win of the season.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Max McCormick scored for the Senators, who played catch-up most of the game. Craig Anderson stopped 36 shots (see full recap.)

Goaltending help is on the way for the Flyers

ap-petr-mrazek-red-wings-flyers.jpg
AP Images

Goaltending help is on the way for the Flyers

With injuries to Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth, the Flyers wasted no time in finding a competent goaltender.

General manager Ron Hextall acquired Petr Mrazek from the Detroit Red Wings late Monday night in exchange for a conditional fourth-round pick in 2018 and a conditional third-round pick in 2019. According to sources, the Flyers were also in discussions with Toronto regarding Calvin Pickard but ultimately settled for Mrazek.

“We’re excited to have obtained Petr Mrazek. Petr is a proven NHL goaltender and given the situation we’re in, we needed a proven goaltender and we got one,” said Hextall. 

Hextall confirmed if the Flyers make the playoffs and Mrazek wins five regular season games, the 2018 fourth-round pick becomes a third rounder. If the Flyers advance to the Eastern Conference Finals and Mrazek wins six playoff games, the third-round pick then becomes a second rounder.

If the Flyers re-sign Mrazek for next season, then the Red Wings would also get the Flyers' third-round selection in 2019.

“Quite frankly when I look at this deal, I think it’s a fair and reasonable deal for both sides,” Hextall said. “If Petr performs, we pay more and Detroit gets more. I like the makeup of this deal. I think it’s a fair deal and I think both teams got what they wanted.”

Hextall had reportedly turned down Mrazek for a third-round pick last week, according to Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press, but that was prior to Neuvirth’s injury Sunday against the Rangers. Hextall also announced that Neuvirth is out “long term” meaning weeks and not days, and quite possibly the remainder of the regular season.

As a backup to Jimmy Howard, Mrazek has appeared in 18 games this season with an 8-7-3 record, a 2.89 GAA and a .910 save percentage. In January, Mrazek posted back-to-back shutouts against the Blackhawks and the Devils before the Flyers snapped Mrazek’s shutout streak at 145 minutes and five seconds in a 3-2 overtime loss. 

The Red Wings will retain half of Mrazek’s $4 million salary in the deal, leaving the Flyers with a reasonable $2 million cap hit. He’s a restricted free agent at the end of this season.

Since Dec. 4, the Flyers are 21-8-3 and have jettisoned up the Metropolitan Division standings where they’re currently tied with the New Jersey Devils for third place with 70 points.

“This is a sign that our players have done a really good job,” Hextall said. “They’ve worked extremely hard. We’re in a tough situation. You lose your two goalies when you’re fighting for a playoff spot and our players have worked hard for a long time now. I didn’t feel like it was fair to not have a proven NHL goaltender for this team.” 

Mrazek is expected to join the Flyers for Tuesday's morning skate.