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Capitals' 2017-18 Metropolitan Division Preview: Philadelphia Flyers

Capitals' 2017-18 Metropolitan Division Preview: Philadelphia Flyers

Last season, the Metropolitan Division was the toughest in the NHL, producing the Stanley Cup champ, the regular season champ and three of the top four teams in the overall standings.

How’s the division shaping up for 2017-18 after a summer of change for a few of its eight teams? 

This week, CSN is taking a look at each club's offseason moves and predicting how they’ll do this winter.


Team: Philadelphia Flyers

2016-17 Results: 39-33-10 (88 points). Sixth in division, 11th in conference. Missed playoffs for second time in three years.

Notable acquisitions: C Nolan Patrick, G Brian Elliott and C Jori Lehtera.

Notable departures: G Steve Mason, F Brayden Schenn, D Michael Del Zotto, F Nick Cousins, F Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, D Nick Schultz and F Chris VandeVelde.

When they will play the Caps: At Philadelphia Oct. 14, at Washington Jan. 21 and Jan 23, and at Philadelphia March 18.  


2017-18 Flyers Analysis: 

The Flyers will sport a different, younger look this fall, with a new goaltender, a new second line center and a handful of prospects vying for significant roles.

What’s less clear is whether they’re any better than the 2016-17 edition, which enjoyed a ten-game winning streak but still finished seven points out of the playoffs.   

The answer to that question likely will be determined by their ability (or inability) to improve in two critical areas: stopping pucks and 5-on-5 scoring.

In an effort to improve the former, GM Ron Hextall signed goalie Brian Elliott to a two-year, $5.5 million contract on July 1. Although Elliott figures to split time with Michal Neuvirth, the hope is that the well-traveled 32-year-old will be better than Steve Mason and can help Philadelphia improve upon its 26th ranked team save percentage from a year ago (.901).

Elliott had some solid seasons in St. Louis, but he struggled with consistency last season in Calgary, finishing with a .909 save percentage (25th among goalies who appeared in at least 40 games). Neuvirth, meanwhile, posted a .891 save percentage—the worst mark for a goalie who appeared in at least 15 games.

The Flyers are in need of a big boost at the other end of the ice, as well.

They were tied for 20th in goals per game (2.59) and tied for 26th in goals scored 5-on-5.

Although there were many culprits for Philly’s offensive woes, Claude Giroux’s subpar season underscored the problem. The 29-year-old captain, who is also the team’s highest paid player with a cap hit of $8.275 million per, finished with 14 goals and 58 points in 82 games, marking a third straight year of declines for the first line center. In 2013-14, Giroux was the NHL’s third leading scorer with 86 points.

If Giroux rebounds, second overall pick Nolan Patrick produces as a rookie, wingers Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds do their thing and Shayne Gostisbehere also bounces back, it’s not unreasonable to expect the Flyers to pack a more formidable offensive punch.

That, of course, is a lot of ‘ifs’.  

2017-18 Flyers Season prediction: 

You’ve got imagine the goaltending will be better than it was last year, particularly if they get the Brian Elliott who posted a .936 save percentage in March for the Flames, not the one who scuffled so mightily early in the year. And there’s no way Neuvirth is that bad again, right?

Assuming they get what they need in net, and a few of the youngsters manage to outperform expectations the way Ivan Provorov did as a rookie last year, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Dave Hakstol and a youthful Flyers’ lineup loitering on the edge of the playoff race late in the season.

If they get in, it’ll accelerate the organization’s youth movement and keep Hakstol off the hot seat. If they don’t, Flyers fans will at least be able to take solace in the fact that the infusion of youth means brighter days are ahead.  

More Metro Division previews:

• Pittsburgh Penguins

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Can Pittsburgh's past be a goalie rotation blueprint?


Can Pittsburgh's past be a goalie rotation blueprint?

It’s happened. The Caps no longer seem to have a No. 1 goalie anymore, they have a No. 1 and 1a.

That’s right, we have a goalie rotation in Washington.

“There's no sense riding one,” Barry Trotz said after practice on Monday. “[Braden Holtby] is coming back and looking better every game and [Philipp Grubauer] played pretty well for a long stretch so why not have both of them going?”

Grubauer got the start Sunday in Philadelphia and Holtby is slated to get the start Tuesday against the Dallas Stars. After that we will have to wait and see.


Trotz has no layout for which goalie he wants to start and when in the remaining ten games. He is not thinking about each goalie splitting five games or which one he wants to use more.

Nope. Trotz has just one thing on his mind. It is all about who starts the next game, that’s it.

“I think you just go with a guy that's hot at the time and your team feels comfortable with and go from there,” Trotz said.

So where does this leave the goaltending situation when it comes to the playoffs? A goalie rotation is all well and good in the regular season, but he has to have one starter for the postseason, right?

Not necessarily.


When Trotz was asked if he philosophically believed in having one starter for the playoffs, Trotz initially said he would not answer, but then said, “Why don't you ask Mike Sullivan what he thinks.”

Sullivan, of course, is the head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins who has led his team to a Stanley Cup in each of the past two seasons despite turning to both goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray in both seasons.

While Pittsburgh’s goalie rotation was largely based on injury, however, it still provides an example of how using both goalies can work in the playoffs and that seems to be the path the Caps are headed on at the moment.

Said Trotz, “You just have to go with your gut who you think is going to get the job done.”

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NHL Power Rankings: The home stretch

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NHL Power Rankings: The home stretch

We are down to the home stretch. Only 10 games remain in the Capitals' regular season. Those 10 games will ultimately decide if the Caps finish in first place in the Metropolitan Division and who they will play in the first round of the playoffs.

Washington currently sits in first place in the division, two points ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins and four points ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers. Of those 10 remaining games, only three come against teams currently in playoff position. The most critical of these comes on April 1 when the Caps travel to Pittsburgh in a game that could ultimately decide the division.

The Caps still hold a narrow lead in the standings, but where do they stand in the rankings? See this week's updated NHL Power Rankings here.