Flyers

Brian Elliott or Carter Hart? It might not matter as Flyers are seeing grim reality of their situation

Brian Elliott or Carter Hart? It might not matter as Flyers are seeing grim reality of their situation

While there was some debate over which game interim head coach Scott Gordon should have put Carter Hart in net, the fact is, it didn't matter who was between the pipes Thursday night.

None of the team's three goalies were slowing down the Capitals at the Wells Fargo Center, not with how the defending champions sliced and diced the Flyers in a 5-2 decision (see observations).

Hart saw his first game action since injuring his ankle Feb. 21. He actually made 27 saves and kept the Flyers within striking distance.

"He looked pretty sharp after getting settled in," Scott Laughton said. "Not too many rebounds coming off of him. I thought he did a good job for us, gave us a chance, but we made a couple of too many mistakes that ended up in the back of our net."

No, these were not ideal circumstances to ease your 20-year-old goalie back into action, but nothing is ideal right now for the Flyers. They are in no position to pick and choose spots for their goalies or to get too cute in decision-making.

Sure, you can look back at Monday night's 3-2 win and wonder if a matchup against the NHL-worst Senators would have been best for Hart to get a feel for things again before stiffer matchups ahead.

But a so-called tune-up wouldn't have made a difference against Washington, which has turned into the Flyers' biggest nightmare in 2018-19. The NHL schedule-makers did the Flyers no favors by giving them three matchups with the Capitals in March.

The Flyers also did themselves no favors by having a league-worst 38 points on the morning of Jan. 13, 45 games into their 82-game schedule.

And they've done themselves no favors by going a combined 0-5-2 against the Blue Jackets (0-2-2), who they're battling for the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot, and the Capitals (0-3-0), who they play once more on March 24 in Washington, D.C.

In the three matchups with the Capitals, the Flyers have been outscored 13-4 through the first and second periods. Overall, Washington has outscored the Flyers 15-8. All three games were lopsided as the Capitals look like they're on another level.

After all, Washington is in first place of the Metropolitan Division, while the Flyers are clinging to feeble playoff hopes. They're five points back of Columbus for the East's final playoff berth with 12 games remaining.

They must play the second game of a back-to-back set against the Maple Leafs Friday night in Toronto, where the Flyers were ambushed, 6-0, back on Nov. 24.

"Guys know what position we're in right now," Claude Giroux said. "Can't afford to lose two games in a row. I strongly believe that we're not out of it. We're playing two teams right now that were basically contenders this year, so it's going to be a good test for us. We need to challenge ourselves."

Through three meetings, the Capitals have posed too big of a challenge.

Now John Tavares, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner await the Flyers in Toronto.

Brian Elliott will get the net. At least he'll be rested.

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Report: Flyers, Kevin Hayes closing in on 7-year contract

Report: Flyers, Kevin Hayes closing in on 7-year contract

It appears Kevin Hayes is nearing a payday and Chuck Fletcher is close to getting his guy.

Hayes and the Flyers are closing in on a seven-year, $50 million contract, according to a report Tuesday night by TSN's Bob McKenzie. That would be an average of $7.14 million per season.

Per Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Fletcher said Tuesday night: "We are still working on things. I'm hopeful we'll get it done."

If it gets done under the reported terms, it's a hefty contract.

It shows you how much the Flyers' general manager wants Hayes, who projects to be the team's second-line center. For some context, Sean Couturier is making $4.3 million a season. James van Riemsdyk, a two-time 30-goal scorer, is making $7 million a season.

But when you have $30 million in cap space and you're looking to get better significantly and quickly, you make a splash and this would qualify as one.

Hayes, a 6-foot-5, 216-pound forward, is 27 years old, scored a career-high 25 goals in 2017-18 and a career-best 55 points this past season. That doesn't exactly meet or warrant the reported terms of the contract, but the Flyers are clearly projecting and believe his prime years are ahead. They also wanted to do their best in preventing Hayes from testing the free-agent market, starting June 23.

The Flyers traded for his rights on June 3, sending a 2019 fifth-round pick to the Jets. Without a deal, Hayes will become an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

Hayes, who played under Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault from 2014-18 in New York, is a smart and responsible two-way forward. The Flyers want more of those qualities after putting up a minus-37 goal differential and allowing the NHL's third-most goals per game at 3.41 in 2018-19.

"There are not a lot of centermen in the marketplace and Kevin is a quality hockey player," Fletcher said last week. "He plays a strong 200-foot game. He's a guy who can play both specialty teams. He's familiar with our coach and our coach is familiar with him. So, we just thought it made sense to try to get ahead of it.

"He plays well away from the puck. He understands the game. He has hockey sense. He can contribute offensively. We gave up 281 goals last year, we have to get better. We have to have more players that play a strong 200-foot game. I'd like to improve the penalty kill. Having depth through the middle of the ice will make us harder to play against."

Fletcher has been busy, reshaping the Flyers' defense. Now it's time to lock up Hayes, his strategy all along.

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2019 NHL draft profile: 'Elite skater' Philip Broberg could help Flyers restock on defense

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2019 NHL draft profile: 'Elite skater' Philip Broberg could help Flyers restock on defense

The 2019 NHL entry draft is Friday and Saturday in Vancouver, British Columbia. General manager Chuck Fletcher, assistant general manager Brent Flahr and the Flyers hold the 11th overall pick and eight selections in total.

"This draft's a little unique," Flahr said last week. "Especially in the top 15, there are a number of different types of players, which is interesting — some power wingers, some smaller scoring wingers, some centermen, there's a number of D, a goaltender.

"We've identified probably five or six guys that we think have a chance to be there at 11 and probably some of the other teams in front of us will dictate that. But we're really confident we're going to get a good player."

This week, we are breaking down options for the Flyers at No. 11.

Philip Broberg

Position: Defenseman
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 200
Shoots: Left
Team: AIK

Scouting report

Watch video clips of Broberg and he will wow you with his skating. He looks like an NHL forward the way he uses his powerful stride to singlehandedly push the puck up ice and create plays in the offensive zone.

The Swede is considered a top-three defenseman in the draft because of his impressive size and polished skating. He has a super high ceiling and played 41 games at the pro level in his home country, scoring nine points (two goals, seven assists).

"Good size, elite skater, played with men all year, so I don't think he had the best year statistically when you watch him, but he had a real strong April tournament," Flahr said. "He has a physical package that's really intriguing for a lot of teams. He's an NHL player, for sure. Whether he has the upside offensively as some of the others, maybe not, but he's going to be a terrific player."

Fit with Flyers

If Broberg is available at No. 11, don't be surprised to see the Flyers take him. Flahr and Fletcher emphasized drafting upside over anything else in the first round, while the Flyers have goals to replenish the organizational depth at defensemen.

With a forward-heavy top half of the first round, there's a good chance the Flyers will have an opportunity to take the second or third defenseman in the draft. Flahr said the Flyers have a couple of blueliners ranked in their top 10.

Broberg's upside would be a welcomed addition to the Flyers' prospect pool, which has steadily seen a promising crop of defensemen graduate to the big club.

More on the 2019 NHL draft

• Flyers take one of draft's best D-men in this 1st-round mock

Trading No. 11 pick? Draft dynamic? That and more here

• Flyers like 'unique' winger Boldy as option for No. 11 overall pick

• Impressive playmaking center Krebs could be there for Flyers at No. 11

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