Flyers

Flyers acquire defenseman Justin Braun in trade with Sharks

Flyers acquire defenseman Justin Braun in trade with Sharks

After doing heavy work to the Flyers' defense last weekend, general manager Chuck Fletcher said the team was going to continue to look at "every available option" to improve its blue line.

He wasn't kidding.

Fletcher on Tuesday traded for Sharks defenseman Justin Braun, sending San Jose a 2019 second-round draft pick and a 2020 third-round selection.

The Flyers now have eight selections in this weekend's draft. The move comes after the Flyers traded Radko Gudas on Friday in exchange for defenseman Matt Niskanen and parted ways with Andrew MacDonald on Saturday via unconditional waivers/contract buyout.

Braun is 32 years old and on the final year of a five-year, $19 million deal with a cap hit of $3.8 million. He has appeared in 84 career playoff games and has played 20-plus minutes a night over San Jose's last five postseason runs. He is a stay-at-home righty shot with a 6-foot-2, 205-pound frame. Braun shares the same agent as Niskanen and knows James van Riemsdyk, who texted him after the trade.

"We are excited to add Justin to our group of defensemen," Fletcher said in a release by the team. "He is a high character, quality defender who will bring a steadying presence to our team."

Fletcher is clearly putting an emphasis on players with experience in winning environments, guys who can influence the Flyers' young group of defensemen. Similar to Niskanen, Braun logs minutes and understands goal prevention. Over the past six seasons, Niskanen and Braun are a combined plus-123. Niskanen has 125 games of playoff experience. Before the additions of these two defensemen, Claude Giroux had played the most postseason games on the Flyers' roster with 69.

"I always try to play defense first and then out," Braun said Tuesday in a conference call. "Good gap, break pucks out quick. Not afraid to go back for pucks and get there first. Take a hit every now and again. I think the boys in San Jose like to laugh at me about that, going back and taking too many hits. You've just got to do what you've got to do to get the puck out."

Despite playing out on the West Coast, Braun was well aware of 20-year-old goalie Carter Hart.

"He looks like the real deal," Braun said. "It'll be exciting to play in front of him. That's good stuff going forward."

So what does this mean for the Flyers' defense? More experience, more depth. For now, it looks like Robert Hagg is the odd-man out. A big 24-year-old coming off an 82-game season is not a bad option for a seventh defenseman.

Does it mean the Flyers are suddenly looking to trade a young defenseman? No. Anything is possible, but Braun has the look of a one-year rental who can help immediately, be that positive influence to help change the way the Flyers play and take some pressure off of a young defense.

"[Fletcher] said I don't want you to be a mentor, I want you to be a player," Braun said. "That's important. I'm there to play, not just take care of guys. Whatever I can teach them."

The potential pairs for now:

Ivan Provorov-Matt Niskanen

Travis Sanheim-Justin Braun

Shayne Gostisbehere-Philippe Myers

"Between Ghost and Provorov, those are the two I probably know the most," Braun said when asked about the Flyers' youthfulness on the blue line. "Played against them the last two years. They're dynamic, they create a lot. They're jumping in the play a lot. You've got to have those guys out there pushing the pace. You're not going to get much offense if you're just taking 3-on-3 rushes. You've got to get that fourth guy on the rush. Hopefully I can help with that. Those guys seem to be elite at it."

When Fletcher took the job, he talked about the Flyers' cap space and slew of draft picks. He's starting to use both and it's only June 18.

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'You know that word that starts with B?' — Alain Vigneault makes his point after frustrating Flyers loss

'You know that word that starts with B?' — Alain Vigneault makes his point after frustrating Flyers loss

Every so often, ever since training camp in mid-September, Alain Vigneault will remind everyone he wasn't here last year or the years prior.

He'll do so amicably when questions arise about a past season or trend with the club he now coaches. Vigneault likes to focus on the present and what's ahead.

After all, he doesn't want to act as if he's openly criticizing what happened before him. 

"It's the start of a new era, a new group," he said Sept. 13, Day 1 of training camp.

If he didn't know, the type of loss the Flyers suffered Thursday night has become a recurring theme in recent years, the kind that drives the fan base up a wall. One night, the Flyers will look like world-beaters against the NHL's elite. Another night, they'll lose a game that had victory written all over it, leaving fans scratching their heads.

Except, Flyers fans are no longer dumbfounded by those types of losses because, quite frankly, their team has tended to suffer them predictably.

On Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center, the Flyers lost, 4-1, to the Canadiens, who are on the outside looking in at the playoff picture and had lost nine of their previous 11 games. What made the defeat particularly maddening was that the Flyers had just made a significant statement by beating the league's three best teams — the Capitals, Bruins and Blues — in the past four games.

The win over defending champion St. Louis came Wednesday night on the road. So on Thursday night, the Flyers were facing the second game of a back-to-back set, coming off the high of beating the champs in their building, and playing without either of their regular two goalies (see observations).

When "emotional letdown" was brought up at his postgame press conference, Vigneault wouldn't even tiptoe the line.

“You know that word that starts with B?" Vigneault asked.

Begins with bull and ends in ... ?

"I mean, these are big games," Vigneault said. "There’s almost nothing separating teams. And tonight, it’s a couple plays. I understand emotionally, but points are the same. This game was worth two. Last game was worth two. You’ve got to get up for it, you’ve got to get yourself ready, it’s going to be a battle.

"You do know the word I’m talking about, right?”

Sure do.

And his Flyers know those losses can't become a theme.

Vigneault will call out that bulls--t if he sees it.

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Flyers upended by Canadiens for the type of loss that always seems to anger fans

Flyers upended by Canadiens for the type of loss that always seems to anger fans

BOX SCORE

These ones irritate Flyers fans the most.

After playing up to the competition for four straight games and generating bona-fide excitement, the Flyers played down to the competition in a 4-1 loss Thursday night to the Canadiens at the Wells Fargo Center.

Sure, Montreal boasts a big-named goalie, but it had lost nine of its last 11 games before upending the Flyers, who had just won three games over the top three teams in the NHL.

This was a letdown any way you slice it for the Flyers (25-17-6) following victories over the Capitals, Bruins and Blues.

The Canadiens (21-21-7) salvaged the final game of the three-game regular-season series with the Flyers after dropping the first two matchups in overtime.

• The Flyers were coming off an emotional high of beating the defending champs on the road and playing the second game of a back-to-back set, but everyone should expect more than losing by three goals on home ice to a team outside of the playoff picture (see story).

On Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center, the Flyers should come out like gangbusters against the Kings, who are near the basement of the West.

• With Carter Hart (right lower abdominal strain) out two to three weeks and Brian Elliott playing an overtime game on the road Wednesday night, Alex Lyon made his first start of the season for the Flyers.

The 27-year-old has played well in his fourth season with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

“Alex has put in a lot of time,” Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said before the game. “He spent the summer here in Philly to work out. I thought he had a good camp and he's been playing well. This is his best start in Lehigh Valley. He is just coming off a shutout and he deserved a chance to play.”

Lyon became the third goalie to suit up for the Flyers. At this date last season, the Flyers had already played seven goalies.

He was strong until he allowed a goal with 55 seconds left in the first period. From the end of the opening stanza to the beginning of the second frame, Lyon allowed three goals in a span of three minutes, 14 seconds.

The tallies weren’t all on Lyon. The Flyers were a step behind on all three. The second was a power play goal in which the Flyers allowed Shea Weber all kinds of room to wind up a slap shot and create a rebound in front (see highlights).

Lyon made 35 saves.

Montreal goalie Carey Price, who won his previous two games with 72 saves on 73 shots, enjoyed the lead and finished with 40 stops to beat the Flyers for the 16th time in his career.

• In the wins over the Capitals, Bruins and Blues, the Flyers were forced to kill 14 of 15 power plays. That’s a lot of work for the PK and it felt like the rising number of trips to the box would eventually burn the Flyers.

They allowed Ilya Kovalchuk’s go-ahead power play goal early in the second period and then the Canadiens scored another marker 11 seconds later to seize a 3-1 lead.

It was a momentum-changing sequence all started by a penalty, albeit a cheap hooking call on Kevin Hayes.

The Flyers also hurt themselves by going 0 for 4 on the power play.

• Kovalchuk, who signed a one-year, $700,000 deal with the Canadiens two weeks ago, gave Montreal a 2-1 lead on the second-period power play goal. He tacked on the fourth and final goal.

The 36-year-old winger has seven points (three goals, four assists) in seven games with the Canadiens.

Should the Flyers have been interested?

• Recalled a day after being loaned to the Phantoms for the purpose of creating space for Lyon, Joel Farabee scored a big goal to open the game’s scoring.

The marker was Farabee’s first in 16 games. The 19-year-old has offense to add to the Flyers — and if he can show it on the fourth line, his role will grow as the games grow bigger.

“I'd like him to get a little bit more than nine or 10 minutes but we've seen that go up and down, and my expectation is that that’ll come back,” Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said Tuesday.

With the addition of Connor Bunnaman, the Flyers’ fourth line has been a positive over the past three games.

• Before the game, Vigneault said he was very optimistic about defenseman Justin Braun’s return Saturday from a groin injury.

• The Flyers play two more games, both at home, before their NHL-mandated Jan. 22-30 bye week — Saturday vs. the Kings (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP) and Tuesday vs. the Penguins (7:30 p.m. ET/NBCSN).

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