Flyers

Flyers have clear path to postseason but ...

Flyers have clear path to postseason but ...

It’s about to get real for the Philadelphia Flyers.

Real serious and potentially really hard. The Flyers have played the fewest divisional games of any team in the NHL.

That might be beneficial if the team located about 40 minutes off the shores of the Atlantic Ocean actually played in the Atlantic Division. The Flyers have hammered Atlantic teams this season: an 8-4-0 record including a win in Tampa and their most recent three-game series sweep of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Whereas the Atlantic houses a collection of domesticated poodles and Pomeranians, the Metropolitan Division is more a breeding ground for vicious Dobermans and pit bulls.

And the Flyers are about to enter the teeth of that beast.

Dave Hakstol’s club plays 19 of their remaining 37 games against the rock-solid Metropolitan, the only 8-team division in hockey without a legitimate doormat or two. 

“It’s good or bad depending on whether you’re winning or not,” general manager Ron Hextall said.“It’s great taking points from other teams and adding to your total. It does put a higher importance on those games for sure. Every game is important, but certain games are just a little more important. Your lows can’t be too low. That’s the bottom line.

“They’re divisional games. They’re huge games for us, especially with how tight it is with that wild card spot,” center Sean Couturier said. “We’ve got to step up and be ready for the challenge.”

Unfortunately for the Flyers, their sore spot over their past two-plus seasons has been their play against the Metropolitan elites — the teams they’re typically chasing in the standings.

4-4-1 vs. Capitals
3-5-2 vs. Rangers
3-6-1 vs. Penguins
2-3-4 vs. Blue Jackets

Collectively, that’s a 12-18-8 record in the Dave Hakstol era with just a 4-9-6 mark on the road. Interestingly, defenseman Brandon Manning believes roster formation has been part of the reason behind the success of the Flyers' opponents.  

“Credit to them, I think they’ve done a good job of getting better every year,” Manning said. “You look at what Pittsburgh does with their turnover and still finding a way to win. Columbus is so much better and you look at Jersey, which hasn’t been the greatest team the past couple of years, but this year they have a really good hockey team. I think credit to those teams for finding a way to get better.” 

And if there’s a direct path to the postseason, then winning these crucial divisional games has to be the way to get there. Since the formation of the NHL’s current four-division alignment in 2013-14, the Metropolitan has sent 17 teams to the playoffs and only once has a team reached the postseason without a winning record within the division — the Pittsburgh Penguins finished 9-17-4 in the Metro in 2014-15. 

The Capitals, Rangers and Blue Jackets also have the luxury of rostering a Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender in crucial divisional games, whereas, Hakstol will rely more on a platoon based on Elliott’s first-half workload and Neuvirth attempting to regain his early season form.  

“I haven’t studied the schedule that much in depth, but considering Moose started a stretch of 25 out of 30 games, that’s a real heavy workload,” Hakstol said. “I would expect the workload to be more spread out than that. We’ll find the best rhythm to be able and have both of them help our team.

“You need two goalies. I don’t care who you are,” Hextall said. “Look around the league. I said it before, there’s no Marty Brodeurs.”

Maybe not, but Saturday it all starts with Brodeur’s former team and with a back-to-back against the Devils and the Capitals this weekend. The Flyers' position within the division can change very drastically one direction or the other.

2018 NHL draft position preview — Left wingers

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AP Images

2018 NHL draft position preview — Left wingers

We began our 2018 NHL draft position previews with a look at the top draft-eligible centers. This draft is top-heavy at wing and defense. We continue our previews with a look at left wingers.

Filip Zadina, 6-0/195, Halifax (QMJHL)
Zadina, who finished as the third-best North American skater by NHL Central Scouting, led all QMJHL rookies and was tied for seventh among all players in 2017-18 with 82 points. He won the Mike Bossy Trophy as the league’s best professional prospect. Playing for the Czech Republic, Zadina was named to the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship All-Star team, scoring eight points in seven games. Hard-working winger with an elite shot, future top-liner.

Draft projection: Top three

Brady Tkachuk, 6-3/196, Boston University (NCAA)
The son of USA Hockey Hall of Famer Keith Tkachuk and brother of Matthew Tkachuk (Flames), Brady Tkachuk checks in as the second-best North American skater by Central Scouting. Had eight goals and 31 points in 40 games during his freshman season at Boston University and added three goals and nine points in seven games during the world juniors. He plays a physical game much like his dad and brother but has a little more finesse to it.

Draft projection: Top five

Joel Farabee, 6-0/164, USNTDP
Farabee finished as the 12th-rated North American skater by Central Scouting. Possesses excellent speed and a strong shot and plays an effective two-way game. A little undersized but the game has changed, so that shouldn’t be a major issue. He had 15 goals and 40 points in 26 games for Team USA in the USHL in 2017-18, and 33 goals and 76 points in 64 games for the USA U-18 team in the USA Hockey National Team Development Program.

Draft projection: Between Nos. 10-18

Grigori Denisenko, 5-11/176, Yarolsavl Jr (Russia)
Denisenko saw a three-spot drop from the Central Scouting midterm rankings to the final, finishing as the seventh-best European skater. He’s gifted with the puck and makes plays, but he has a bit of a reputation as an inconsistent player. The Russian factor may scare teams away. Had nine goals and 22 points in 31 games in the MHL and played four games in the KHL playoffs. On talent alone, Denisenko is among the best in this year’s class.

Draft projection: Mid-to-late first round

Blake McLaughlin, 6-0/162, Chicago (USHL)
McLaughlin checks in as the 24th-rated North American skater by Central Scouting. Another American prospect among the top draft-eligible left wingers, McLaughlin’s best attribute is his shot, though he’s an excellent skater. He finished the 2017-18 season with the Chicago Steel as nearly a point-per-game player, scoring 23 goals and 52 points in 54 games. He’s headed to the University of Minnesota in the fall. Could squeak into late first round but probably a second-rounder.

Draft projection: Early second round

NBC Sports Philadelphia+ to air Lehigh Valley Phantoms Eastern Conference Finals Games

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JustSports Photography

NBC Sports Philadelphia+ to air Lehigh Valley Phantoms Eastern Conference Finals Games

Philadelphia, PA (May 18, 2018) — NBC Sports Philadelphia announced today the network will air the American Hockey League Eastern Conference Finals games featuring the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and the Toronto Marlies. Games Three through Five will air on NBC Sports Philadelphia+ at 7 p.m.
 
May 23 - Toronto Marlies at Lehigh Valley Phantoms, Game 3 – 7pm on NBC Sports Philadelphia+

May 25** — Toronto Marlies at Lehigh Valley Phantoms, Game 4 – 7pm on NBC Sports Philadelphia+

May 26*** — Toronto Marlies at Lehigh Valley Phantoms, Game 5 – 7pm on NBC Sports Philadelphia+, *if necessary
 
** Philadelphia Soul will air on NBC Sports Philadelphia. 

*** The Philadelphia Phillies game will air on NBC Sports Philadelphia, regardless if there is a Game 5 or not.

Atlantic Division Champions for the 2017-18 season, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, proud American Hockey League affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers, have advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals where they will face off against the Toronto Marlies, AHL affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The winner of the best-of-seven series will then advance to the 2018 Calder Cup Finals. After posting the AHL’s second-most wins (47) and second-most standings points (105), the top-seeded Phantoms eliminated the Providence Bruins in four games (3-1) in the opening round before defeating the Charlotte Checkers in five games (4-1) in the Atlantic Division Finals — a series which included the historic longest game in AHL history.