ron hextall

Flyers dealt with 1st real dose of adversity

Flyers dealt with 1st real dose of adversity

It’s the flu season, and for the most part, even the Flyers have avoided the most contagious strains.

And when they do acquire what’s going around, it doesn’t remotely seem to slow them down, as evidenced by Claude Giroux’s performance this past weekend. The Flyers' captain was fighting something nasty and then delivered a healthy dose of goals (three in four days) that resulted in him being named the NHL's First Star of the week.

If that’s the cause and effect of getting sick, then perhaps the entire team should start eating their meals off a Petri dish.

Now that we’re four months into the season, the Flyers should be knocking on wood until their knuckles begin to bleed. Their only real affliction had been self-inflicted — a 10-game winless streak that started in mid-November and lasted three weeks. However, they’ve completely sweated that out of their system as they’ve bounced back with an impressive 20-8-3 mark.   

Tuesday night the Flyers played their 57th game of the season, and Dave Hakstol has been extremely fortunate he hasn’t had to replace Sean Couturier, Jake Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Travis Konecny, Ivan Provorov or Giroux in his lineup.

Not one time. 

The Flyers have suited up 10 regulars who have played in all 57 games, and the majority of the rest have been healthy scratches. 

Entering their game with the Devils on Tuesday, the Flyers had been dealt just 61 man games lost because of injury. Comparatively, the Anaheim Ducks, who have nearly an identical record as the Flyers, were sitting at 262 games lost with injuries to key contributors, mainly Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler.

The Flyers realize just how fortunate they are. 

They haven’t needed to build an immunity to injuries and have somehow managed to fight off the injury bug as if spraying off throughout the dressing room was the way to go about it. 

Their most significant loss came in October when defenseman Andrew MacDonald missed 15 games with a leg injury, and at one point, the blue line had gone 10 deep on the depth chart with AHL journeyman Will O’Neill making his NHL debut. Whether you value MacDonald or not, the Flyers' record was 3-6-6 in the games he missed.

Now with Brian Elliott out of action for the next five-to-six weeks, the organization is dealing with a real dose of adversity. With Elliott in net, the Flyers own a .630 winning percentage. Without him, that number dips to .470. 

“I think whenever you get down to two goalies and you’re down to one, I think you’re a little bit nervous no matter what,” general manager Ron Hextall said. “There’s a great example, Vegas. They get two guys down, three guys down and everyone is like, ‘Oh Vegas is done.’ You know what, they’re not done. What are they, second in the league? So it can be done, with a fourth guy, so we’re pretty confident (Michal Neuvirth) is a guy that can carry out for the short-term future.”

While also hoping Neuvirth has a short-term memory. Tuesday night against the Devils, Neuvirth allowed another one of those brutal goals on Taylor Hall’s sharp-angled shot. A healthy Elliott may have been the difference in regulation and a two-point turnaround in the Flyers' favor. 

Either Hextall needs to start crossing his fingers or start making phone calls. In an ideal world, the Flyers benefit from the addition of another goaltender, some defensive depth and arguably one more forward who could effectively kill penalties.

But that all comes at a cost with a trade deadline now less than two weeks away. 

Hextall is facing his biggest dilemma since taking over as GM nearly four years ago. This Flyers team is the deepest, most competitive roster he’s assembled since taking over in May of 2014 with nine double-digit scorers. They may not be Stanley Cup contenders, but then again, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them win their first postseason series since 2012.

Deal or no deal, how the team deals with its most significant setback of the season will determine where it goes and how it feels in April.

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.