Flyers

Logical choices for Vegas as Flyers prepare to lose player in expansion draft

Logical choices for Vegas as Flyers prepare to lose player in expansion draft

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Michael Raffl, Matt Read, Taylor Leier or maybe an offer for unrestricted free agent Jordan Weal?
 
Or perhaps 27-year-old defenseman Michael Del Zotto, who will not be re-signed by the Flyers.
 
Those are the logical Flyers choices for the Vegas Golden Knights, whose expansion draft list will be publicly unveiled Wednesday night as part of the NHL Awards gala in Vegas.

And while the Golden Knights will select Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury as their starting goalie, they still need to draft two more, per the rules of the draft.
 
Vegas general manager George McPhee is obviously familiar with Michal Neuvirth, whom the Flyers left unprotected. McPhee was Washington's general manager when the Capitals selected Neuvirth in the second round (34th overall) of the 2006 NHL draft.  McPhee, however, also knows how injury-prone Neuvirth is and admits that has kept Neuvirth from becoming an elite goalie in the league.
 
Given the other goalies available who don’t have a history of injuries, it doesn’t make sense for Vegas to select Neuvirth.
 
If any of the Flyers coveted, young defensive prospects were draft eligible, you can bet the Golden Knights would be taking one of them. Fortunately for the Flyers, that’s not the case under the expansion draft rules.
 
Del Zotto is interesting because of his age, his experience – eight seasons in the league – and, despite his defensive deficiencies, is a puck-moving defenseman who can assist on the power play.
 
Bellemare was a Flyers assistant captain last season and in terms of line play, like Raffl, can move up and down the lineup.
 
Vegas must select one player from the other 30 NHL rosters.
 
“We’re in a reasonable position,” Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said last week. “We’re gonna lose a good player, make no mistake. Whoever we lose, we’re gonna lose a good player.”
 
McPhee told reporters on Tuesday, he had at least six deals already in place with teams. He also said some picks won’t stick around very long.
 
“We knew that from the start that we were going to claim 30 players,” McPhee said. “But, your roster can only be 23. ... We understand and I don't know that the terminology is the right terminology, but people call it 'throwaway picks.'
 
“There are some teams where there isn't a whole lot to do and you're going to make a throwaway pick rather than taking on a contract that you don't like.  So, there will be some of those claims, people that won't be qualified, and that sort of thing.”

With new identity, Flyers need to use Leafs win as home turning point

With new identity, Flyers need to use Leafs win as home turning point

When the Flyers last skated off the ice at the Wells Fargo Center 11 days ago, they did so while being serenaded with boos from above, after losing their 10th straight game. This time, to the Bruins with another lethargic effort. The game prior, on Nov. 28 against the Sharks, the fans, like the angry mob from The Simpsons, were calling for the firing of the head coach with “Fire Hakstol” chants. The only thing missing were the pitchforks. (Public service announcement: Leave the pitchforks at home.)

On Tuesday night, the Flyers returned home from a three-game Western Canada road gauntlet with their fortunes changed and beginning a five-game homestand. They had won their previous three games and entered Tuesday’s showdown with the NHL’s hottest team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, six points behind the New York Rangers for the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot.

For a team in a competitive rebuild that, at times, looked like one waiting for its coach to get fired, the Flyers returned home having stopped the bleeding away from their own building. Now, they had to bandage it there.

The Flyers did just that, with one of their most complete, 60-minute efforts of the season (see story). They dispatched the Maple Leafs, 4-2, to win their fourth straight and end a six-game home losing streak. It was their first home win since Nov. 9.

They took one penalty, albeit a costly one that would have sunk this team 11 days ago.

They outshot Toronto, 39-22, and threw 32 shots on net in the final 40 minutes.

They dominated puck possession and every metric proves it.

“We were playing some good hockey and I think our identity changed a little bit with that road trip,” Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. “We’re excited right now in the room. We played a lot of good hockey games when we lost, but we didn’t get the results and now we're playing some good hockey and we’re getting the results so we gotta keep building on this."

Now they’re getting the results.

The Flyers are on their longest winning streak of the season. They twice faced adversity Tuesday against the Maple Leafs and didn’t buckle.

Giroux scored the game’s first goal at 9:21 of the first period, but Patrick Marleau answered back for the Leafs just 27 seconds later. Eleven days ago, that would be game over.

Instead, the Flyers kept playing and closed out the period strong. Then, after dominating the second period, Jakub Voracek was whistled for a tripping penalty at 16:11, and James van Riemsdyk tallied his 15th goal of the season to give the Leafs a 2-1 lead. It was a potential killer goal, one that would have deflated the Flyers 11 days ago, no questions asked. It came late in a period that they dominated. It felt like typical Flyers.

But the Flyers survived it. They escaped the period, went into the locker room and came back out in the third period right where they left off. Travis Konecny, who played just 7:20 through two periods, tied it at 2-2 at 5:36. The Flyers kept pushing and pushing. They were rewarded too. Sean Couturier tied his career-high with his 15th goal at 17:05 for the game-winner and then Scott Laughton iced it with an empty-netter at 19:44. It was the Flyers’ first third-period comeback of the season.

“We’re working hard and we haven’t stopped working hard,” Konecny, who scored his second goal in his last 20 games, said, “even through [that] tough stretch of games and it’s finally paying off.”

This Flyers team is a lot looser right now. Winning does that. During their 10-game freefall into irrelevance, they swore they weren't playing poorly.

And once more, they echoed that Tuesday night, even after a win. Now, they're just taking advantage of the breaks, getting the bounces, insert tired cliché here.

“I don’t think there’s much difference at all,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “If you want to look back, I thought there were one or two nights where we looked tight. I thought on the last night here at home, I thought we looked like a tired and a little bit tight hockey team.

“We've taken advantage of a break or two, but I think most importantly, guys just kept their foot on the gas and found ways to win games here over the past few games."

Credit goes to the Flyers, the coaching staff and general manager Ron Hextall. They didn't panic when things were falling apart. Hakstol remained positive, harped on the positives. He promised they would get through it.

Hextall did the same. The GM, on several occasions, praised the way the Flyers were playing during their losing streak. For as much heat as Hakstol and Hextall caught at the time, they deserve recognition for their managing styles in times of dismay.

The Flyers' win Tuesday kicked off a five-game homestand that features three games against Eastern Conference opponents, and perhaps set the tone for the home swing.

The homestand continues Thursday when the Buffalo Sabres visit. If the Flyers play with the same effort they did Tuesday, the winning streak will reach five.

They’re taking fewer penalties, averaging 1.75 penalties during their current four-game winning streak. That’s a good thing for a team that’s penalty kill ranks 29th.

But what might matters most, is they're not chasing the game anymore. They're owning the puck and they're spending more time on the attack, and that’s a recipe for success.

“We’ve had the puck a little bit more,” Hakstol said,” and that’s probably the first place to look. We had a stretch there where stick penalties were getting us.

“Those kinds of penalties happen when you’re chasing a game when you’re defending a little bit too much. It’s not necessarily the discipline side of it. We’ve had the puck a little bit more. We haven’t had to defend as much in our own zone.”

Former Flyers defenseman Zarley Zalapski dies at 49

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Former Flyers defenseman Zarley Zalapski dies at 49

CALGARY, Alberta — Former NHL defenseman Zarley Zalapski has died at age 49, according to the Calgary Flames. No cause of death was given.

Zalapski, a native of Edmonton, played 637 NHL games for Calgary, Pittsburgh, Hartford, Montreal and the Flyers from 1987 to 2000.

He was with the Flames from 1993 to 1998.

"We are proud that Zarley wore the Flames jersey, made Calgary his home following his playing career, represented our alumni executive and we will always remember him as a member of the Flames family," Flames president and chief executive officer Ken King said Tuesday in a statement.

"This is a terrible loss of a man with great character who truly loved the game of hockey. We express our sincere condolences to the Zalapski family."

Zalapski was a member of the Canadian team that finished fourth in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.

He had 99 goals, 285 assists and 684 penalty minutes in the NHL. Zalapski was named to the all-rookie team in 1989 and participated in the NHL All-Star Game in 1993.

Zalapski played stints in Austria and Switzerland after his NHL career and appeared in 11 games for the United Hockey League's Kalamazoo Wings in 2004-05.

He was the fourth overall pick by the Penguins in the 1986 entry draft.