Flyers' concerns in net don't waste time showing up

Flyers' concerns in net don't waste time showing up


WASHINGTON — Suddenly, the second period has become a disastrous 20 minutes for the Flyers.

After the Flyers took a 2-0 lead in a strong opening period, the Washington Capitals exploded for a three-goal second period and never looked back in a 5-3 win Wednesday night at Capital One Arena. 

The Flyers have now surrendered six second-period goals over their last two games after they gave up three goals to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the final matchup leading up to the All-Star break.

Caps winger Chandler Stephenson erased the Flyers’ 2-0 lead with a pair of goals in a span of 47 seconds. Andre Burakovsky, T.J. Oshie and Devante Smith-Pelley also added goals for Washington.

Prior to Wednesday’s game, Dave Hakstol elected to change up his lines. Rookie Nolan Patrick made his coach look brilliant as he scored a beautiful backhanded goal to beat Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby to give the Flyers the early 1-0 lead. Patrick also assisted on Jakub Voracek’s goal for the first multi-point game of his career.

Flyers winger Travis Konecny remained red hot scoring his 11th goal of the season, matching his goal total from his rookie season. Konecny now has a goal in five straight games. 

Michal Neuvirth stopped all six shots in the first period, but looked shaky doing so. It proved to be foreshadowing as Neuvirth, who was battling a stomach bug, was pulled for Alex Lyon in the third period after stopping 15 of 20 shots. Lyon was able to save all five shots he saw in relief duty.

• It didn’t take long for the Flyers to strike. They negotiated a perfectly executed breakout as Robert Hagg tossed it along the boards, which led to a 2-on-1 break the other way. The Flyers took advantage of Caps defenseman John Carlson stepping up to play the puck in their zone and Patrick simply outskated Alex Ovechkin in getting the pass from Wayne Simmonds. Patrick’s speed has been questioned this season, but clearly he can turn on the jets when needed as witnessed on his fourth goal of the season.

“It was a great breakout and a great play by Jake,” Patrick said during the first intermission. “He redirected it through his legs and then it was an unbelievable pass by Simmer and luckily enough it went in.”

• The Caps came at the Flyers hard with a deep forecheck. The Flyers took advantage as Konecny took the pass from Sean Couturier. If it wasn’t for a brilliant glove save from Holtby, Konecny would have had two first-period goals.

• Good things happen when Couturier drives to the net. He blew past Capitals defenseman Christian Djoos, who in turn barreled into Holtby in net, and all Konecny had to do was clean up the mess in front. Couturier plays such a power game and has increasingly improved his skating over the years, but his presence opens up opportunities for him linemates, and right now, Konecny took full advantage.

• You might expect Ovechkin to score two goals in 47 seconds, but not Stephenson. The first goal was a mind-boggling play by Neuvirth, who was standing straight up and definitely not in a ready position to stop a shot. Perhaps he wasn’t expecting a sharp-angled shot, but regardless, it’s inexcusable as Stephenson came in and tapped it home. The Capitals gained the momentum with their first score of the night.

• Just 47 seconds later, Stephenson got behind the Flyers’ defense for a breakaway on Neuvirth and simply slid his backhand through the five-hole. I’m not sure how the Flyers defensively got so discombobulated out there with the Brandon Manning and Radko Gudas pairing on the ice. With Gudas playing near the offensive blue line, Manning drifted toward Gudas, which left the right side of the ice wide open. Just a bad read all the way around. That disaster led to a goal and tied the game at 2-2. 

• With Andrew MacDonald in the box for slashing Ovechkin, the Capitals’ second power-play unit went to work. Burakovsky got inside position on Manning and simply redirected a pass from Lars Eller that got through Neuvirth for a 3-2 Capitals lead. Manning with a bad game at this point, which has to leave Hakstol considering playing Mark Alt Thursday in New Jersey.

• The Capitals scored their fourth unanswered goal when their power play came through for the second time in this game. The Flyers were forced to change up their PK unit, which left Valtteri Filppula, Jori Lehtera, Hagg and MacDonald out there against the Caps’ lethal No. 1 power-play unit. Hagg lost his stick, which created an even bigger disaster and Lehtera failed to close the gap as Oshie settled into the soft spot in the Flyers’ PK box. NBC Sports Washington Capitals insider, Tariq El-Bashir, said Oshie hasn’t had that much room to operate on the power play all season.

• Manning may have chosen to drop the gloves with Alex Chiasson in an effort to release some frustration from a horrible night. Chiasson came in hard on the forecheck and may have clipped the back of Manning’s leg, but regardless, Manning felt he needed to retaliate.

• Jordan Weal doesn’t seem to have the confidence to drive to the net like Konecny does right now. With the puck on his stick and only one man between himself and the goal, Weal elected to pull up and look for the open man. That was his choice instead of creating an open shooting lane or driving hard to the net in the hopes of drawing a penalty. Last season, Weal had that determination, but it’s been a missing element this season.

• The Capitals helped the Flyers out in the first period by looking for that perfect pass instead of just shooting the puck and driving to the net when the opportunity presented itself. Give the Flyers credit as they were able to cut off passing lanes with defensemen blocking a handful of shots. Washington had the edge in possession time in the offensive zone, but give the Flyers credit as they were more opportunistic and even outshot the Caps, 11-6, in the opening period.

• Manning had a risky backhanded play behind his net to MacDonald, who couldn’t handle it either and nearly led to a Capitals’ power-play goal. MacDonald will risk his body in blocking shots, but his positioning and ability to get twisted like a pretzel is a recipe for a disaster on the penalty kill. Outside of Ivan Provorov and Hagg, the Flyers’ PK is thin on the back end.

Lines, pairings and scratches

Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Travis Konecny
Jakub Voracek-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Jordan Weal-Valtteri Filppula-Michael Raffl
Tyrell Goulbourne-Scott Laughton-Jori Lehtera

Ivan Provorov-Shayne Gostisbehere
Robert Hagg-Andrew MacDonald
Brandon Manning-Radko Gudas

Michal Neuvirth
Alex Lyon

Scratches: Forwards Dale Weise (healthy) and Taylor Leier (healthy), and defenseman Mark Alt (healthy).

Flyers need to find needle in haystack on Day 2 of NHL draft

Jordan Hall | NBC Sports Philadelphia

Flyers need to find needle in haystack on Day 2 of NHL draft

Ron Hextall is determined to find that needle in the haystack.

While the Flyers' general manager has had very good success with his first-round picks throughout his four-year tenure, uncovering that diamond in the rough can be a crapshoot. A hockey organization can languish for many years if they come up with a first-round bust, but it’s the mid-to-late round picks that can elevate a franchise into championship stratosphere. 

Take 2014 in Philadelphia — Hextall’s first draft as Flyers GM. So far, the majority of prospects still haven’t come close to reaching their potential, but the few teams that were able to hit a home run (Tampa Bay, Brayden Point, 79th overall; Nashville, Viktor Arvidsson, 112th overall; Anaheim, Ondrej Kase, 205th overall) have benefitted greatly for their early-career success.

“We always look for one really good NHL quality,” Hextall said. “When you’re talking about third or fourth round, first of all, don’t minimize it. I’m saying like us, for our staff. We need to still try and pick a hockey player, it’s important. Pulling guys out of late rounds is important. When you look at the cycle of a hockey team and depth and everything that we need, it’s important.”

While the attention has centered around the Flyers' two first-round selections, Hextall considers the team’s two fifth-round selections and two more in the seventh round to be equally vital to the Flyers' success.

“We have two seventh-round picks, they’re friggin important,” Hextall said. “We need to do our best to try to get the best guy and try and hit on a guy. Whether we will or not, I don’t know what the odds say, I think it’s 2.3 percent, whatever it is. They’re low odds, we know that, but we’re going to try to do the best we can to try and hit on those guys because eventually, you’re going to hit on some of those guys.”

To further Hextall’s point, 29 of the 30 first-round picks in 2014 have NHL experience. Of the next 180 players to go off the board in Rounds 2-7, you’ll find roughly that same number who have played more than just one NHL game. Oskar Lindblom (138th overall) could eventually pan out to be the late-round gem Hextall has tried to uncover.

After sorting out his first four drafts, where might Hextall search to find that next promising prospect?

The Flyers GM has selected at least one player from the USHL in each of his first four drafts with Phantoms defenseman Mark Friedman as the highest drafted USHL prospect, 86th overall in 2014.

Who might Hextall draft

Jack Drury, C, Waterloo, USHL
A slightly undersized center listed at 5-foot-11, 180 pounds, Drury is the nephew of former NHLer Chris Drury and has acquired some of the same attributes. Drury has been complemented with a tremendous work ethic and plays the game much like his uncle with a grit and determination of contributing in the clutch. Set a new USHL record with a 23-game point streak and has committed to play at Harvard University next season.    

Under Hextall, the Flyers have also tapped into Sweden’s top junior league over the past four seasons drafting Lindblom, goaltender Felix Sandstrom and defenseman Linus Hogberg to name a few, and 2018 appears to be a good depth draft for the young Swedes especially among defense.

Nils Lundkvist, D, Lulea, Sweden Jrs.
While I really admire the size and reliability of Filip Johansson, there may be some value with Lundkvist who’s not quite as highly rated as Johnasson. Lundkvist is more of a defensive defenseman who plays bigger than his 5-foot-11, 175-pound frame. Both defensemen are right handed and if the Flyers can’t land a righty blueliner in the first round, they may have to wait until Round 2 or trade back into the third round after surrendering that pick to Detroit as part of the Petr Mrazek trade.

There’s a general overall belief Hextall prefers to select a center capable of converting into a winger, and while he’s admitted that many centers have that versatility, it hasn’t defined Hextall who has drafted just as many pure wingers as centers, including five in last year’s entry draft.

Niklas Nordgren, RW, Finnish Jrs.
Nordgren is small (5-9), tremendously skilled and is willing to get his nose dirty. He was one of the most impressionable players at the U-18 world juniors with a tournament-leading eight goals for Team Finland. Preferably you would like a player of Nordgren’s size to be a lightning-quick skater, but it has improved.

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It looks like the Flyers are headed to Vegas to open 2018-19 season

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It looks like the Flyers are headed to Vegas to open 2018-19 season

In typical NHL fashion, the 2018-19 schedule release is a two-day event.

That means we won't know the entire schedule until around 5 p.m. Thursday, but we know enough today to put together some of the pieces.

It looks like the Flyers will open up their season out West for the third straight season.

The Flyers will play the Golden Knights in Vegas' home opener Oct. 4 at T-Mobile Arena. Their own home opener is Oct. 9 against the San Jose Sharks at the Wells Fargo Center.

After looking at other teams’ home openers, it appears the season starts Oct. 3 with Capitals hosting the Bruins, the Maple Leafs entertaining the Canadiens and the Canucks facing the Flames at home. Last season began Oct. 4, 2017.

While the Golden Knights made it to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season, the Flyers won their first game in Vegas with a 4-1 win Feb. 11.

The 2018-19 season will be the fourth straight year the Flyers begin on the road. Last season, they opened up with a 5-3 win over the Sharks in San Jose.

The last time they opened at home was 2013-14, a 3-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. They’ve won their last two season openers. They’re 5-4-1 in their last 10 season openers.

They won their home opener last year, crushing the Capitals, 8-2.

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