Alex Lyon

Decision time for Hextall as trouble hits Flyers' net

Decision time for Hextall as trouble hits Flyers' net

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall will explore all options, including the possibility of making a deal to acquire a goaltender prior to the NHL’s Feb. 26 trade deadline.

“I can’t say I’ll go with the 23 guys on the roster right now," Hextall said Tuesday. "I’ll repeat what I always say — if I can make our team better at any position, we’ll look at it. The deadline is two weeks away. I guess things could change between now and then.”

Hextall was addressing the media a little over an hour after the Flyers announced starting goalie Brian Elliott would miss five to six weeks following core muscle surgery Tuesday (see story).

The possibility of adding someone outside the organization would likely be as a complement to Michal Neuvirth and not necessarily someone who will step into Elliott’s role as a No. 1 netminder. Hextall would also be looking at a goalie on a short-term contract.

“We believe in Michal Neuvirth. He has showed at times he can be a very good goalie,” Hextall said. “We’re pretty confident that Neuvy is a guy who can carry us through the short term.”

Elliott is expected to be sidelined for the next 17 to 22 games and Neuvirth should start the majority of those games. If Hextall elects to stand pat before the deadline, Alex Lyon will have to see some action, as well.

“Alex has proved capable at the American League Level. Here, he hasn’t proved it,” Hextall said. “Up here, I think he’s been OK. He can play a little better than he’s played for us up here. I have no doubt in my mind he will. Whenever you have your two goalies and you get down to one, you’re nervous no matter what.”  

Elliott underwent the successful core muscle surgery after sustaining the injury during last Saturday’s shootout in Arizona. If the five-to-six week prognosis holds up, Elliott should return to action by the end of March and be ready for the playoffs.

“I’ve got a high level of confidence,” Hextall said of Elliott’s return. “First off, I believe in our training staff. I believe in our doctors. I know Brian Elliott is a warrior and he’ll do everything he can to get back as soon as possible. It won’t be the work or a pain threshold.”   

Dr. William Meyers, renowned core muscle surgeon at the Vincera Institute, performed the surgery at Philadelphia’s Navy Yard. Elliott’s injury was a reaggravation from a previous injury he suffered in January, and the Flyers knew at some point following the season, the problem area would need to be corrected. 

Elliott missed four games sandwiched around the All-Star break and the Flyers struggled in net, giving up 18 goals with an 0-3-1 record during that stretch.   

If the Flyers are forced to dig deeper into the organizational depth chart, Hextall has a certain level of confidence in 28-year-old Dustin Tokarski, who has played 25 games with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms this season. Tokarski’s NHL résumé includes extensive time with the Montreal Canadiens in 2014-15, including five starts in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“He’s got experience. He’s got playoff experience,” Hextall said. “We wanted to add another layer of depth to our goaltending position. Dustin’s been good up there. Would I be comfortable if he came down here to play some games for us? Yes.” 

Brian Elliott injury could mean bad news for Flyers

Brian Elliott injury could mean bad news for Flyers

Updated: 6:32 p.m.

It's never easy for the Flyers in net.

Things got only tougher Tuesday as goalie Brian Elliott underwent core muscle surgery and is expected out five to six weeks.

For the time being, the Flyers will turn to Michal Neuvirth and Alex Lyon. Speaking before tonight's game against the Devils at the Wells Fargo Center, general manager Ron Hextall said the Flyers plan to roll with Neuvirth and Lyon during Elliott's absence, although the team will keep its options open (see story).

The 32-year-old Elliott sustained the injury during last Saturday night's shootout against the Coyotes. Neuvirth won the skills competition in relief and then beat the Western Conference-leading Golden Knights on Sunday night.

“We’ve got confidence with him in net, a lot of confidence,” Wayne Simmonds said Tuesday of Neuvirth (see story). “He gets us that win in a shootout. He comes in in a pinch and does a great job, and then he plays unbelievable against Vegas. Of course we have faith in him.”

Elliott is 21-11-7 with a 2.72 goals-against average and .908 save percentage in his first season with the Flyers after signing a two-year deal in the offseason.

Neuvirth is 7-7-2 with a 2.50 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in 18 games (14 starts). Throughout his time with the Flyers, he's played well when needed to fill in. The key, as usual with Neuvirth, will be staying healthy. Last season, he never quite got right as he battled a left knee injury and sickness. In 2015-16, his first season with the Flyers, Neuvirth went 18-8-4 with a 2.27 goals-against average and .924 save percentage, as well as 2-1-0 with 103 saves on 105 shots in the playoffs.

“Neuvy will go out and do his job,” head coach Dave Hakstol said at Tuesday's morning skate. “He did that in Vegas. There’s no overemphasis on anything. There’s a lot of imperfect situations. You band together and you go do a job and right now Neuvy has a job to do for our team.”

Lyon, a 25-year-old rookie, has just three career NHL games under his belt.

With 26 games to go, the Flyers entered Tuesday in playoff position, holding third place in the Metropolitan Division.

Poor shootout thwarts Flyers' comeback effort

Poor shootout thwarts Flyers' comeback effort

BOX SCORE

Sure, you can call it a comeback … sort of. 

The Flyers erased a two-goal deficit as rookie Nolan Patrick scored the game-tying goal with 2.9 seconds remaining in regulation before Ottawa’s Mike Hoffman scored the only goal in round six of the shootout to give the Senators a 4-3 victory.

Matt Duchene opened the scoring and center Derick Brassard increased Ottawa’s lead to 2-0 just 39 seconds later. It was the third straight game the Flyers had allowed a pair of first period goals.

However, the turning point came when Duchene’s potential 4-1 goal was disallowed in the final minute of the second period after video review had determined he was offsides on the play.

Goaltender Alex Lyon started his second straight game, but was pulled after 40 minutes and replaced by Michal Neuvirth. Lyon stopped 20 of the 23 shots he faced.

Sean Couturier (27) and Scott Laughton also scored for the Flyers.

The Flyers have allowed 17 goals over their last four games, the most they’ve allowed in regulation during a four-game stretch this season.

•Patrick was all over the ice in the offensive zone and he was finally rewarded as he scored one of the biggest goals of the season, tying the game with 2.9 seconds remaining, earning the Flyers a point and sending the game into overtime. You could see Patrick intently searching for the loose puck in what was a mad scramble in the final moments of regulation.

•Despite the Flyers dominating the action in the opening 10 minutes, the Senators grabbed the early 1-0 lead as they had a clean breakout from their own zone which led to a 3-on-2 which eventually became a 4-on-3 with Duchene as the trailer. Duchene wheeled around Scott Laughton and simply flipped a beautiful wrist shot over Lyon’s glove-side shoulder. The play all started with Laughton getting caught too low in the Senators' zone as the Flyers didn’t have the numbers to slow down their speed. I thought Lyon gave up the near post a little too quickly as well.  

•Less than a minute later the Senators doubled their lead to 2-0 and this goal I pin on Lyon, who made the initial save from the point and as he went to save the shot from Brassard, his momentum carried him onto his stomach and from that moment he was in scramble mode. He lost track of where the puck was on the ice and failed to protect the near-side post as Brassard continued to jam away until the puck eventually crossed the line. 

•The Flyers' top line was relentless in their first two shifts of the second period and their effort resulted in the Flyers first goal of the game. Defenseman Brandon Manning started the sequence as he fed a streaking Claude Giroux up the middle of the ice which led to a sequence that saw Konecny fire a snap shot on net and Senators goalie Craig Anderson was in pure scramble mode. Like Lyon previously, Anderson fell to his stomach and by the time Gudas backhanded a pass to Couturier Anderson was in no position to make a save.   

•The Senators grabbed a 3-1 lead on a play that all started on their blue line. Giroux was skating with the puck along the blue line and as he attempted to reverse course he lost an edge which led to a 2-on-1 for the Senators with Robert Hägg as the only man back on defense. Hägg has to ensure that pass isn’t there and leave Dzingel to shoot on Lyon who should be squared up and ready for the save, instead Hägg broke early which left an easy tap in goal for Ottawa’s Chris Didomenico.  

•As much as I like Jake Voracek and his relentlessness with the puck, he simply tries to overdo it by forcing plays and skating into traffic which is why he leads all Flyers forwards in giveaways. Voracek had a couple of instances where he was guilty of this and one came on the power play which burned about 15 seconds of powerplay time. 

•The Flyers caught a tremendous break as Ottawa’s potential 4-1 goal was overturned as Duchene was ruled offsides and thus his goal was disallowed. However, it should be concerning that the Flyers had a pair of defenders around Duchene, who simply outworked Laughton and Andrew MacDonald as MacDonald was completely turnaround. Duchene also beat Lyon in almost the same area as his first goal. If you’re Lyon you have to be mindful of this pattern or teams will start exploiting certain weak spots.

•The Flyers came at the Senators hard and heavy in the third period with multiple scoring chances from up close from the Couturier and Patrick lines, but Craig Anderson had an answer every time. Overall, the Flyers outplayed the Senators in this game, but their handful of breakdowns are proving to be too costly. 

•Sure enough, the Flyers' persistence paid off as Laughton scored, deflecting Brandon Manning’s point shot and cutting the Senators' lead to 3-2. 

•Some good early work by the fourth line as they outworked the Senators' fourth line, which culminated with a couple of Jori Lehtera shots on goal. To say Lehtera is due would be an overstatement. For a player that was on the Blues' top line at times last season, Lehtera has failed to score in 34 games played for the Flyers this season.

•Valtteri Filppula had a terrible penalty just seconds after the Flyers killed off the Senators' first power play opportunity. Filppula pursued Erik Karlsson and for whatever reason raised his stick, catching Karlsson. A terrible momentum crusher after the Flyers had just killed Manning’s tripping call, which was a weak call in itself.
 
•Shayne Gostisbehere laid a big hit on Senators fourth line center Nate Thompson, which led to Thompson’s retaliation. Out of the melee, Ottawa’s Mark Borowiecki and Wayne Simmonds earned matching roughing minors, but overall, it was promising to see Ghost display a rare physical side to his game.

•Ghost again stepped up and delivered another shoulder-to-shoulder shot, this time to Sens penalty killer Zack Smith, as Smith attempted to handle the puck between the two benches.  

•Patrick came so close to scoring for the second time in three games as he had a potential give-and-go with Voracek just slide off his stick. If the Flyers score first, the complexion of that first period changes. 

Notes
•Prior to the game, the Flyers ran a video montage of their best clips spliced in with clips from the Eagles' season with the phrase “One More Game” on the Wells Fargo Center ice.

•Dave Leonardi, aka “Sign Man”, was inducted into the newly-created Flyers season ticket Hall of Fame, and as a reward for his commitment and dedication, Leonardi dropped the ceremonial first puck at center ice. Saturday’s game also marked season-ticket appreciation night. Afterwards, the players removed their sweaters and gave them to a select number of season-ticket holders.