Flyers

Blue Jackets 4, Flyers 3: OT loss completes futility against Columbus

Blue Jackets 4, Flyers 3: OT loss completes futility against Columbus

BOX SCORE

COLUMBUS, Ohio — It didn't matter which goalie the Flyers had in net against the Blue Jackets, all that mattered was who was in net for Columbus.

Sergei Bobrovsky beat the Flyers for the fourth time this season with a 4-3 overtime decision Thursday night, as the Blue Jackets completed a season sweep of the orange and black.

Brian Elliott was the fourth different goaltender Columbus faced after previously facing Calvin Pickard, Anthony Stolarz and Carter Hart.

Here are my observations from Nationwide Arena:

• The Blue Jackets' penalty kill, ranked third in the NHL, has been so steady this season that it killed off 25 consecutive power-play opportunities over a one-month period. Columbus' forwards get out aggressively and make smart decisions when to pressure.

However, the Flyers scored just 10 seconds into their first power play as they had the Blue Jackets chasing with quick puck movement, something we haven’t seen enough from the Flyers' man advantage this season.

• The problem with the goaltender interference in the NHL is about the context of the rule itself, which has created an enormous grey area to which there is no clear definition.

Rule 69.1 (1) states: “An attacking player, either by his positioning or by contact, impairs the goalkeeper's ability to move freely within his crease or defend his goal.”

That clearly appeared to be the case, but the NHL situation room decided that Radko Gudas pushed Boone Jenner into Elliott, creating the contact.

You be the judge:

• I thought Elliott was very fortunate to get out of the first period with a 2-1 lead. He was fighting the puck and had trouble closing it with his glove.

On the play in which he knocked the net off its moorings, which led to a delay of game penalty, I felt that was Elliott’s recognition of the Evgeni Malkin goal in the Stadium Series win in which the puck got behind him for a fluky marker. He was also a little leaky, evidenced by the Artemi Panarin goal.

• Not only did he score for the second straight game and score twice, but you have to admire some of the defensive positioning and stick work from Travis Sanheim in the second period to break up a pair of odd-man rushes that could have led to go-ahead goals for the Blue Jackets. Sanheim had a beautiful backdoor play to tie the game late in the third period.

• We can’t expect Philippe Myers to continue his upward trajectory with every game he plays. The second period was perhaps his shakiest in the five games he’s played so far. Twice Myers was caught pinching, which led to a Blue Jackets breakout the other way. Thankfully for Myers and the Flyers, Columbus wasn’t able to convert on either occasion. It was important for him to bounce back with a strong third period.

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NHL trade deadline: Flyers acquire Derek Grant in trade with Ducks

NHL trade deadline: Flyers acquire Derek Grant in trade with Ducks

Updated: 1:37 p.m.

VOORHEES, N.J. — General manager Chuck Fletcher has put a focus on adding to his group of forwards to augment the Flyers' playoff push.

Shortly after acquiring Nate Thompson (see story), the Flyers made a much more notable depth acquisition ahead of Monday's 3 p.m. ET trade deadline. Fletcher acquired Derek Grant from the Ducks in exchange for Phantoms forward Kyle Criscuolo and a 2020 fourth-round draft pick. The pick will be the better of the two fourth-round selections the Flyers have — their own pick and the one they acquired from the Predators last deadline.

Grant, a well-traveled forward with positional versatility, already owns a personal-best 14 goals and is five points away from breaking his career high of 24 set in 2017-18.

Head coach Alain Vigneault mentioned how Grant, who can play center or winger, could open on the wing with the Flyers, while Thompson appears to be a fourth-line center type.

The 29-year-old Grant checked a lot of boxes for the Flyers (see story). His cap hit is only $700,000 and he can become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason, so he doesn't block the club's future down the middle or on the wing.

"We’ll have to figure out where he fits in best with our team," Vigneault said Monday after practice. "In doing our homework, the feedback that we got back was that he’s a very versatile player who can play all the positions. I felt that was important. It gives me a little bit more leeway as far as certain nights when some guys are on top of their game or some other guys are a little bit off. We’ll see. We’ll have some decisions to make."

Grant was playing fourth-line center for the Ducks, his sixth NHL team, and was one of their best penalty killers. The move made Connor Bunnaman an odd man out of the lineup as the rookie was loaned to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley after practice. He played well as a rookie, but Grant gives the Flyers experience, size, a boost on special teams and some secondary scoring potential.

"This was obviously the whole staff getting together — pro scouts, management and coaches — analyzing our team, analyzing where we are," Vigneault said. "I think it was an easy conclusion to make that if we could improve our depth, we would do that. So far, that’s what we’ve done. We’ve been able to add a fourth-line centerman that’s going to help us in Thompson on the PK. Grant’s got a little bit more versatility, he can play all three positions, he’s been used in a PK and power play role.

"So we felt that we needed a little bit more depth in this final push here moving forward, and so far that’s what we’ve added."

The Flyers have relied on younger forwards Bunnaman, Joel Farabee and Nicolas Aube-Kubel, all of whom have held their own during the playoff race. Since Jan. 8, the Flyers are 13-5-1 with an NHL-high 68 goals.

However, the Flyers had only 12 healthy forwards with 20 games remaining and competing in the NHL's deepest division (see story). Farabee was also loaned to the Phantoms, but there's a good chance he'll be back with the big club at some point.

"We're pretty comfortable with the group we have, but bringing in some experience always helps. You can't have enough experience down the road," Sean Couturier said. "It's nice to see the confidence from the management. It's just up to us now to go out there and keep doing our job, keep winning games."

Grant is expected to be in the Flyers' lineup Tuesday night against the Sharks (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

"Remembering him, he's a big guy, pretty strong out there, tough to play against," Couturier said. "It's nice to see some addition. I think he's having a great year, too, so we'll definitely need him down the road."

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Flyers NHL trade deadline 2020: A boost from Ducks center Derek Grant

Flyers NHL trade deadline 2020: A boost from Ducks center Derek Grant

Leading up to the Feb. 24 NHL trade deadline, we looked at potential targets on the market and why they may or may not fit the Flyers' plans, including Ducks center Derek Grant.

At 11:30 a.m on deadline day, the Flyers acquired Grant. Below is our original profile of him. 

***

Derek Grant

Age: 29
Height: 6-3
Weight: 206
Team: Anaheim Ducks
2019-20 cap hit: $700,000

Scouting report

The well-traveled center has picked an opportune time for a career year. Grant, who is playing for his sixth NHL team, already owns a personal-best 14 goals and is five points away from breaking his career high of 24 set in 2017-18.

Grant, who has some positional versatility, possesses the characteristics the Flyers targeted last offseason — quality size, good physicality and strength in puck battles.

He's not highly skilled or an active playmaker, but the fourth-line center leads Anaheim's forwards in shorthanded minutes per game and is solid in the faceoff circle.

Projection

This one checks a lot of boxes.

It would make sense for the Ducks, who are in second-to-last place of the Western Conference, to sell high on Grant's stock. He's an older role player putting up career numbers and can become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason.

Grant's cap hit fits the Flyers' plans and he wouldn't block the team's future down the middle given his expiring contract.

The Flyers very well may be happy enough with 21-year-old Connor Bunnaman's play. And if they want more offense, Morgan Frost is heating up at AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley (three goals, two assists in last five games). The 2017 first-round pick could take over third-line center duties, while Scott Laughton would give the Flyers tons of depth at fourth-line center.

But if they want more experience and a player enjoying his best offensive season yet, Grant is a nice option. Adding him would likely only require trading a lower-round draft pick.

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