Flyers

Potentially a costly injury to Michael Raffl, but Flyers ride big performances to 2nd straight win

Potentially a costly injury to Michael Raffl, but Flyers ride big performances to 2nd straight win

BOX SCORE

Following two losses that caused some head-scratching, the Flyers have stemmed the tide with two straight wins.

Alain Vigneault's team finished a regular-season series sweep of Chicago by picking up a 4-1 victory Thursday night over the Blackhawks at United Center.

The Flyers (4-3-1) have now won consecutive games for the second time this month. They hadn't done so twice in October over the past three seasons. 

The Blackhawks (2-4-2) have lost three games in a row.

Flyers fans in Chicago enjoyed this one.

• Brian Elliott didn't love the word "mentor" when discussing if he would be back with the Flyers following last season. The 34-year-old wants to help 21-year-old goalie Carter Hart.

But Elliott also wants to compete.

"It's a tough word choice," he said April 7. "I think he needs someone that is going to help him along the way and push him to be better. Hartsy is a great young goalie and is going to be good in this league for a long time."

Elliott re-signed with the Flyers on June 26 and is pushing Hart. The veteran made 23 saves against the Blackhawks and sports a 1.69 goals-against average in three starts thus far. He has been huge in these last two victories.

• The Flyers will hope they didn't suffer a loss in the win. Michael Raffl went down after blocking a shot late in the third period. The role forward left the game and was unable to put weight on his right leg.

The 30-year-old is one of the Flyers' better puck-possession forwards and impacts the penalty kill. The Flyers desperately needed better goal prevention this season and Raffl helps.

If he is to miss any time, Tyler Pitlick will likely insert the lineup. The Flyers could also bring back Carsen Twarynski from AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley. The 21-year-old suits the bottom-six style and the Flyers were not unhappy with his game.

• Poor Joel Farabee.

Playing his second career NHL game, the 19-year-old had an assist and a goal overturned after official review.

Farabee was active, though, notched his first career point and has been a plus. The skill stands out, obviously, but he brings the characteristics in which Vigneault preaches for his system.

The 2018 first-round pick will score his fair share of goals throughout his career.

And Kevin Hayes can buy him dinner soon.

Hayes scored his third goal of the season and his second in as many games. This marker was huge as it came four minutes after the Blackhawks cut the Flyers' lead to one early in the final stanza.

• Travis Konecny got his payday during training camp and, so far, he is rewarding general manager Chuck Fletcher.

Oskar Lindblom is in line for a new deal after this season and he's done everything to help boost his eventual raise.

Lindblom, who will be a restricted free agent in the summer when his entry-level contract expires, has five goals through the Flyers' first eight games. Going back to last season, the 23-year-old winger has nine goals in his last 13 games.

Konecny and Lindblom hooked up for a first-period goal Thursday. The two have a combined 18 points (nine goals, nine assists) after compiling seven points (four goals, three assists) through the first eight games last season. They will have a serious say in the Flyers' fortunes in 2019-20.

• Less than a minute into the second period, Claude Giroux scored his first goal of the season and James van Riemsdyk recorded his first point.

JVR added his first goal of the season in the third period. He had entered tied for 13th in the NHL with 35 shots and was the only player among the top 200 in that category without a point.

The Flyers would love to see those two heat up. Both haven't played poorly but their production is crucial. Giroux and van Riemsdyk entered the game with a total of no goals and four points.

Last season, from Jan. 10 to March 21, van Riemsdyk scored 20 goals in 31 games and the Flyers went 21-8-2 during that stretch.

• The Flyers' defensemen have been very steady over the last two wins, putting up a combined plus-12 rating. Matt Niskanen and Ivan Provorov were a combined plus-6 against the Blackhawks.

• The Flyers return home Saturday to play the Blue Jackets (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

The team then plays three straight road games against the Islanders Sunday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP), the Penguins Tuesday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP) and the Devils Friday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

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2019-20 Flyers season grades: Kevin Hayes

2019-20 Flyers season grades: Kevin Hayes

The 2019-20 NHL regular season has concluded and the next time the puck drops will officially kick off the race to the Stanley Cup. The Flyers are hungry and ready to battle it out, but that is thanks to the hard work from back in October.

In an End to End series, NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Brooke Destra, Katie Emmer, Joe Fordyce and Jordan Hall will be grading players based on individual performances.

Today we will be looking at Kevin Hayes. 

Destra

Man oh man am I thrilled to be giving Hayes the grade he’s getting today. This time last year, Flyers fans were beyond the point of disappointment at the signing of the center — it’s safe to say things have taken a turn for the best. The Hayes signing was instantly justified before the 2019-20 season was even in full swing because of the news about Nolan Patrick and his migraine disorder. Had he not been brought in, the lines down the middle would have been very weak. 

Hayes didn’t miss a single one of the 69 games the Flyers played this season. During that time, he racked up an impressive 41 points (23 goals, 18 assists). He also had a career best in shorthanded goals (four) and game-winning goals (five). 

On top of the player he has been on the ice, Hayes has also helped the Flyers in many other ways. He’s a big personality and jumped into a leadership role almost instantly. I’d say he exceeded expectations on the first year of his contract. 

A+ … not bad for a former ref

Emmer

Kevin “I used to ref” Hayes brought a lot of excitement in his first year with the orange and black.

Because of the shortened season, Hayes recorded 23 goals in under 70 games, just two markers short of his career high. His 200-foot style that was anticipated in the preseason thrived in many ways throughout the year, especially on the penalty kill.

Last season, the Flyers' PK ranked 26th in the league, operating at 78.5 percent. This season, the PK ranked 11th at 81.8 percent — Hayes had a lot to do with it. He also led the team with four shorthanded goals — the most in his career.

Offensively, you could argue his consistency could have been stronger. He had a stretch in early November during which he went 10 games without a point and another six-game drought in early February, but when he did end up making it on the score sheet, he was a game-changer. The Flyers were 19-0-1 when Hayes scored a goal during the regular season; he was a spark plug out there. He loved big-game situations, as well — five game-winning goals can attest to that.

Away from his skill, Hayes brought energy, fun off the ice and extremely creative nicknames (very important). 

A- for Hayes.

Fordyce 

Hayes began his Flyers tenure with a big contract and big expectations. Last offseason, Hayes signed a seven-year, $50 million deal, which raised some eyebrows. At that time, Hayes had eclipsed the 20-goal plateau only one time in his career. However, through 69 games this season he had 23 goals, just two short of his career high, and he almost certainly would have bested that if the Flyers had played a full 82 games. 

Hayes delivered the full package to a team that desperately needed that when it signed him after trading for his contractual rights ahead of free agency. His two-way game is his most valuable asset and this season we’ve seen Hayes single-handedly kill penalties by keeping possession of the puck. It’s one thing to sign a big-time deal, it’s another to deliver on the expectations set forth by said deal. Additionally, Hayes is an invaluable member of the team in terms of locker room chemistry.

Hayes gets an A.

Hall

During his first regular season with the Flyers, Hayes more than lived up to the hype and pressure of signing a seven-year, $50 million deal in this city.

While we tend to fixate on offensive production in this game, especially for higher-paid players, Hayes had an immeasurable impact on the Flyers in the locker room, which can be just as important as any statistic.

But statistically speaking, he also did plenty of good things. Not only did the 28-year-old center make the Flyers tougher to play against, but he was also on pace to break his career high of 25 goals (he finished with 23 in 69 games) and did wonders for the team's penalty kill. In fact, Hayes scored four shorthanded goals, the same number the Flyers put up as a team in 2018-19 over a full 82-game season.

An A- for Hayes because his impact has already been felt in a multitude of ways.

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Will Flyers re-sign Justin Braun, Derek Grant when NHL free agency rolls around?

Will Flyers re-sign Justin Braun, Derek Grant when NHL free agency rolls around?

July 1 came and went rather quietly in the hockey world. Annually, the day is filled with players signing new contracts and joining new teams as the free agency period officially opens.

This year, that was obviously not the case. As the NHL and NHLPA continue to work toward a resumption and eventual conclusion of the 2019-20 season, the entry draft and free agency must wait.

According to a report by TSN's Bob McKenzie, both sides are looking at Nov. 1 being the new July 1.

The offseason will be different and challenging considering the times. The salary cap floor, which typically climbs each year, is expected to remain flat at $81.5 million. In an excellent article published Wednesday, TSN's Frank Seravalli highlighted the key questions and challenges facing free agency, while outlining his top 50 pending unrestricted free agents.

On Seravalli's list were two current Flyers: Justin Braun at No. 19 and Derek Grant at No. 41. Will the Flyers re-sign them? With the league's return-to-play 24-team tournament still to be held, a lot can change from now until Nov. 1, but let's break down the Flyers' outlook for both of these players.

Braun

The case for Braun is interesting and the chances of the Flyers re-signing the experienced defenseman feel like 50-50. Braun, a stay-at-home blueliner who specializes in killing plays, helped stabilize the Flyers on the back end and improved their goal-prevention efforts (which were a major problem last season).

However, the Flyers will be cognizant of his age. Braun is 33 years old and made $3.8 million this season. At the current stage of his career, what will Braun be eyeing for his next deal? One would think he'd have to look for a cheaper price if he wants more years on his new contract, something that can be attractive to a veteran player eyeing job security.

The Flyers, though, have solid youth and depth at his position, along with a nice stable of blue-line prospects in the system. Understandably, for those reasons the Flyers might be wary of dedicating years to an older defenseman.

If Braun is willing to be pretty flexible in his terms, the Flyers shouldn't be opposed to bringing him back. He has made them better in 2019-20. But if push comes to shove a bit, especially in a tighter offseason, the Flyers may have to say thank you and move forward with their youngsters or another option.

Grant

The initial impression of the Grant trade deadline acquisition was good rental for cheap.

What made Grant such a cost-effective move by general manager Chuck Fletcher? Grant, 29 years old at the time, could help the playoff-hungry Flyers down the stretch with only a $700,000 cap hit and no years left on his contract.

Grant made such a positive impact in his seven-game regular-season audition with the Flyers that they'll absolutely consider re-signing him. The 6-foot-3, 206-pound center also delivered a timely career year of 15 goals and 25 points between his time with the Ducks and Flyers, setting himself up for a nice pay increase.

Grant should be appealing to bring back for the Flyers because he can play down the middle and on the wing; his ability to move around makes him less likely to block a Flyers prospect at a specific position. If Nolan Patrick (migraine disorder) is healthy in 2020-21 and the Flyers are deeper at center, Grant can help on the wing. If Patrick's situation remains uncertain and the Flyers lack depth, Grant can bolster things by playing his natural position.

The 24-team tournament could really factor into the Grant equation. If the 30-year-old has an influential tourney and the Flyers go on a run, he could win over the club. He's a quality bottom-six guy who won't require a hefty contract that severely handcuffs the Flyers next season or down the line.

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