Flyers

Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Strong 3rd periods helping team finish

Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Strong 3rd periods helping team finish

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Finishing up strong is a message NHL coaches typically preach on the final game of an extended road trip.

You’re tired of living out of a suitcase. Ready to sleep in your own bed. All while acclimating your body to a change in time zones.

Essentially, the Flyers have taken that approach into their game-to-game preparation as they’ve been the stronger team over the final 20-plus minutes in each contest so far.

Even though they’ve been outscored 3-2 in the third period of their first three games, they have outshot their opponent by a wide margin (a 49-20 total). Here’s the breakdown: 17-11 in San Jose, 17-5 in Los Angeles and 15-4 in Anaheim.

So what can this disparity be attributed to for the orange and black? The Flyers on Monday had a number of reasons for being a considerably stronger third-period team early in the season.

1. “Guys came into camp in really good shape,” defenseman Andrew MacDonald said. “We’ve got lots of speed. Guys can skate. When you have fast forwards and you get in on the forecheck hard, you can wear teams down and create more opportunities for yourself.”

2. “I think the depth is a huge part of our team,” defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said. “When you take over third periods like that, it’s obviously a team effort, not just a couple lines and a couple of guys. I think it’s huge for us as a team — to come out there and be ready for those third periods and come with a good start.”

3. “I think we’re in really good shape, the whole team,” defenseman Ivan Provorov said. “We’re well-conditioned and we stick with it. We had a really good, hard camp — two hard weeks of battling and competing, and I think that prepared us for the season.”

General manager Ron Hextall believes it’s a product of all of those factors.

“I think rolling four lines certainly helps,” Hextall said. “The commitment our players made in the summer to coming to camp in great shape. We had a difficult training camp in terms of the workload, and I think that’s played into our third periods.”

The most impressive of those performances was the effort the Flyers exuded in the game in Los Angeles when they were on the second leg of a back-to-back after flying in from San Jose 24 hours prior.

“Mostly, it’s the players in the dressing room in between periods — just continuing to stay with the game,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “Having a real mentality to build our game. All three of those games were tight hockey games in the third, so we needed a push in order to get the result we wanted. Hopefully that can become a real characteristic of our team.”

There’s a new goalie in town
The Flyers acquired goaltender Dustin Tokarski, 28, from the Anaheim Ducks on Monday in exchange for future considerations. 

Hextall finally found a depth goalie he’d been searching for after losing Anthony Stolarz, who had meniscus surgery in September.

“We just wanted to upgrade our depth. We feel like Dustin has experience in the regular season, the playoffs, and felt like it's an upgrade,” Hextall said. “Number one is he’s competitive, he works hard. He’s a little bit of an undersized goalie (6-foot, 205 pounds). He’s quick, agile, does a good job and we think he’s going to be a good fit.”

In a corresponding deal, the Flyers sent Leland Irving, 29, to the Ducks’ AHL affiliate, the San Diego Gulls. Irving was on an AHL-only contract, which made it necessary to complete a deal with two separate transactions.

With Alex Lyon penciled in at No. 3 on the organizational depth chart, it’s worth noting the last time the Flyers utilized four goaltenders in a single season came in 2012-13 (Ilya Bryzgalov, Brian Boucher, Steve Mason and Michael Leighton).

Banner night in Nashville
The Nashville Predators will delay the start of Tuesday night’s game with their home opener festivities that will include a banner raising ceremony as Western Conference champions.

“There will be a ton of energy in the building come tomorrow night, so I’m excited for that,” Predators defenseman P.K. Subban said.

The Predators hope Tuesday night’s game against the Flyers will give them a much-needed boost after dropping their first two games on the road (4-3 in Boston and 4-0 in Pittsburgh).

“They’re a good hockey team,” Hakstol said. “They play with a lot of pace. Their defense presents a pretty good challenge, not only up ice but in the zone. 

“They had a hell of a playoff run last year. It’s their home and I’m sure they’ll have a lot of intensity flowing through the building, and we’ll have to be ready to match that.”

End to End: What is Ron Hextall's next big signing?

End to End: What is Ron Hextall's next big signing?

Going End to End today are NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Boruk, Tom Dougherty and Jordan Hall.

The topic: What is Ron Hextall's next big signing?

Boruk
There are three ways to look at this …

1. The Flyers re-sign Wayne Simmonds, who's eligible for an extension that would take effect in 2019-20.

2. Ron Hextall inks one of his restricted free agents to a team-friendly, lengthy multi-year deal.

3. The Flyers go big in free agency next summer. 

Let’s start with the latter. There are some interesting names that are headlining next summer’s potential UFA class: Tyler Seguin, Tyler Myers, Matt Duchene and Artemi Panarin. 

Who knows which of these players will be re-signed or traded, but I don’t see the Flyers paying big dollars to add another forward now that you include James van Riemsdyk. According to Spotrac.com, the Flyers have $46.5 million (fourth highest in the NHL) committed to forwards, with Travis Konecny due for a pay raise next summer, as well.

With that knowledge, I’m not sure it makes sense for the Flyers to extend Simmonds another four to five years with an AAV of $6-7 million. Hextall has a good barometer of what Simmonds is worth on the open market, which is why term would be the sticking point in negotiations. If he’s willing to look at a three-year deal, it could get done soon, but if I’m Simmonds' agent, I’m trying to maximize the length of any new contract, which very well could be the last one his client signs.

I think the next big contract will be signed by defenseman Ivan Provorov, who’s entering the final year of his entry-level deal. It’s not out of the financial realm to think Provorov could sign a Drew Doughty-type bridge deal similar to the eight-year, $56 million pact the Kings' defenseman signed in 2011 at the age of 21. Doughty was coming off a monstrous 16-goal, 59-point season. Last season, Provorov ripped off 17 goals and 41 points and appears poised to build on that for this upcoming season.

Prepare yourself. Provorov will receive the next big pay day in Philadelphia.

Dougherty
Outside of teaching the Sixers and Phillies how to close a deal, Hextall's only item left on his offseason to-do list is to re-sign restricted free agent Robert Hagg.

During his end-of-season-news conference in April, Hextall said "initially, my thought right now is that we would be open to either long term or short term" with Hagg.

Whether Hagg qualifies as a "big signing" isn't really up for debate. It's not. Hagg is a quality third pair defenseman in the NHL and he proved as much in his rookie season.

But re-signing Hagg is the only move left I envision Hextall making this summer, or at the very least, the next move. A Provorov or Simmonds extension remains possible too.

As Hextall mentioned, the Flyers are open to either a short or long-term deal with Hagg. Both have their upside. That is also likely the holdup right now.

While Hagg wouldn't qualify as a "big" signing, he is next on the checklist. Once his contract is out of the way, then I could see the Flyers knocking out Provorov or Simmonds.

Hall
Hextall tends to get ahead and take care of his own.

When you look at the track record, he's not one to let contract decisions linger, especially when it comes to his core pieces — which makes for good business.

Just like in any profession, stability and happiness are important.

The Flyers' general manager extended Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier the summer prior to their contract years. 

He signed Shayne Gostisbehere, a restricted free agent last summer, in early June before the expansion draft and free agency opened. 

He even signed Michael Raffl in February 2016 before the role forward was set to become an unrestricted free agent at season's end.

With all that said, my gut tells me Hextall's next big move is extending Simmonds at some point before the start of the season. Simmonds, coming off an injury-ravaged year in which he still managed to score 24 goals, can hit unrestricted free agency following the 2018-19 season. He wants to be back and Hextall values him greatly.

And the GM made it clear that when the Flyers signed van Riemsdyk to a five-year deal, it meant nothing to their situation with Simmonds.

"We like Wayne Simmonds," Hextall said July 1. "This doesn't change anything for Wayne. This is a left winger; this is a different player than Simmer. We're excited to have James, and certainly, we would like to have Simmer for a long time, too."

I expect that to be the next major check on the agenda.

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Another Oskar Lindblom? Marcus Westfalt has footsteps to follow with Flyers

Another Oskar Lindblom? Marcus Westfalt has footsteps to follow with Flyers

Ron Hextall knows how these things can work out.

He remembers plucking Oskar Lindblom in the fifth round of the 2014 NHL draft. Not much was made of the pick, barely even a peep, because, well, the 138th overall selections don't typically draw heaps of praise.

Lindblom quietly slipped back to Sweden. Three summers later, Flyers fans couldn't stop talking about him.

"Oskar went away, no one knew who the hell he was, fifth-round pick, over there getting better and better and better and bang," Hextall said last July. "He's the SHL Forward of the Year."

One has to believe Lindblom's name popped in the general manager's head when the Flyers saw Marcus Westfalt still available and the clock ticking on their 2018 seventh-round pick. At 205th overall, Westfalt became the Flyers' final selection, making for eerie similarities to Lindblom, who forced his way to the big club in 2017-18.

Westfalt plays for the same Swedish junior team (Brynäs IF J20) and SHL squad (Brynäs IF) as Lindblom did when he was taken by the Flyers. Both prospects are from Sweden and dropped in their respective drafts. Lindblom, a left winger, stands 6-foot-1, 191 pounds, while Westfalt, a center/left winger, comes in at 6-foot-3, 203 pounds.

Another Lindblom in the works?

"Hopefully, that's my dream, of course," Westfalt said three weeks ago at Flyers development camp. "But he's a really good player, he's got a lot of skill. But, yeah, hopefully."

The 18-year-old was well aware of Lindblom. It was hard to not hear or see his fellow countryman transform from fifth-round pick to ballyhooed Flyers prospect. In 2016-17, when Lindblom really took off with Brynäs IF and won Swedish Hockey League Forward of the Year, Westfalt witnessed the rise.

"I watch him a lot," Westfalt said. "His last year in Brynäs before he got here, I watched him a lot. He's a [role model] because I think he's really good, he's good with his hands, his speed, he uses his body well. I watch him a lot."

In his draft year, Lindblom played only four SHL games compared to 43 for Brynäs IF J20. For Westfalt, it was a bit different. He appeared in 39 SHL games, including playoffs, while playing 26 contests at the junior ranks, where he put up 27 points (12 goals, 15 assists) and a plus-19 rating.

Westfalt's goal for 2018-19 is to play the whole season in the SHL. Lindblom did a bit later than Westfalt, but once the jump was made, he impacted games.

"Try to get more ice time," Westfalt said. "Bigger role in the game.

"[Brynäs IF] told me that I have some things I need to work on and if I do that, I can get to play."

Westfalt, who had four points (one goal, three assists) in those 39 SHL games, said he tries to be "a smart, two-way centerman," and feels his "play in the D-zone is better than the offense."

"I'm strong without the puck and with the puck," he said.

While the goal is to stick in the SHL, he's uncertain which level will be best for his on-ice growth at this stage of his development."

"When I play in junior, I get more ice time, I get to play a lot more with the puck, I get to play the power play and stuff like that," he said. "I want to play in the juniors, too, because I want to work on my skills, but my big goal is to do the same thing I do in the juniors in the SHL."

Lindblom eventually did, carving out his path to the Flyers at 21 years old.

"I just think about it by myself, like fifth-rounder, I just felt like I can play and I can be on this level," Lindblom said last summer.

With Westfalt, there is no chip on his shoulder as a seventh-round pick.

"No, for me, I'm just glad that I'm here," he said. "It's a great organization. It's fun to go earlier [in the draft], but I'm just happy to be here."

And eager to climb like Lindblom.

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