Flyers

NHL's latest realignment proposal will intensify rivalries

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NHL's latest realignment proposal will intensify rivalries

Be prepared to hear the words “Flyers” and “wild card” in the same sentence.

The NHL and NHLPA are working on a proposed realignment plan that would keep the current two-conference model but split those conferences -- Eastern and Western -- into just two divisions. The top three teams from each division would qualify for the playoffs, while two wild cards teams from each conference would be introduced into the league’s new playoff format.

Unless the league expands by two more teams, the Flyers (and every other team in the proposed Eastern Conference) will be at a competitive disadvantage from their Western Conference counterparts. Under the proposal, the East would be a 16-team conference, co-opting Detroit and Columbus from the 14-team West.

The current Atlantic Division would adopt three new members -- the Washington Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets -- to form a new seven-team division, with the top three teams receiving automatic playoffs bids. Using last season as an example, the Rangers would have been the No. 1 seed, the Penguins the No. 2 seed and the Flyers the No. 3 seed.

The No. 2 and No. 3 seeds in each division would always play one another in the opening round of the playoffs and it’s practical to think that the two Eastern Conference wild-card spots could both come out of the Atlantic Division. However, assuming the point totals were identical, the last time the Atlantic Division could have produced five playoff teams under this model would have been the 2008-09 season. In this scenario, it’s inevitable that one wild-card team will have to start a first-round series against a Central Division team (i.e. Detroit, Boston).

All of the above requires approval from the NHLPA and the NHL’s Board of Governors, but the proposed realignment appears to have eased the travel concerns the players had when they shot down the previous four-conference plan a year ago.

But what does it mean for the Flyers? It seems the hatred between the Flyers and their divisional rivals -- specifically, the Penguins -- will only intensify when the postseason rolls around. Using the point totals from the previous five seasons and assuming the Red Wings/Blue Jackets finish with very similar point totals, here’s how the Flyers would have fared over the past five years:

2011-2012: Third in the Atlantic Division, would have played Pittsburgh in the first round (no different)

2010-2011: Second in the Atlantic Division qualifier, would have played Pittsburgh in the first round instead of Buffalo

2009-2010: Second wild-card team, would have played Washington in the first round instead of New Jersey

2008-2009: First wild-card team, would have played New Jersey in the first round instead of Pittsburgh

2007-2008: First wild-card team, would have played Pittsburgh in the first round instead of Washington

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

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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+).

Injury to Andrew MacDonald could clear way for Flyers' top prospect

Injury to Andrew MacDonald could clear way for Flyers' top prospect

A roster spot for Samuel Morin appears to have opened up.

Andrew MacDonald will miss 4-6 weeks with a lower-body injury, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall announced Sunday. MacDonald will likely land on injured reserve.

The injury likely occurred midway through the third period against the Oilers on Saturday, when MacDonald blocked a Mark Letestu slap shot with 10:48 left in regulation and 1:44 left on an Edmonton power play.

MacDonald hobbled around on basically on one leg before being able to clear the puck and make it to the bench after 44 seconds. MacDonald blocked a game-high six shots Saturday.

“You just got to get up,” MacDonald said after the Flyers’ 2-1 win. “If you don’t get up, it’s 5-on-3. There are other opportunities that can arise from it. Do your best and try to hang in there. Wait for some help. Wait until you clear it. Everyone battles through it.

“You take a shot. You just get up, get back in there and help your guys.”

With MacDonald injured, the Flyers now have six defensemen. Brandon Manning has been a healthy scratch the past two games as Travis Sanheim drew back into the lineup.

The Flyers have yet to make a corresponding roster move, but considering Morin nearly made the team out of training camp and hung around for the four-game season-opening West Coast trip, it’s a safe assumption that Morin will find his way back to the NHL.

Morin had a goal and an assist for the Phantoms on Saturday night, an assist Friday night and points in all his three games in Lehigh Valley.

If Morin does come back up, the question is will he play?

The Flyers were reluctant to play three rookie defensemen on their season-opening trip and scratched both Sanheim and Morin for the season opener.

Things have changed now, though. MacDonald is third on the Flyers in ice time, averaging 19:36 while playing with Ivan Provorov, who will now find himself with a new partner.

Dave Hakstol could insert Manning into the lineup, which is a strong possibility. How Hakstol draws up his pairings remains to be seen, though it’s unlikely he’ll break up Shayne Gostisbehere and rookie Robert Hagg. It’s possible Provorov finds himself with Manning or Morin, or perhaps Radko Gudas. We’ll know more after Monday’s practice.

Calling up Morin is not Hextall’s only option. The Flyers also have T.J. Brennan in the AHL, who is a better fit as a seventh defenseman but he's currently injured. Mark Alt could be another option for the Flyers.