Flyers

Calendar flip remains unkind to Flyers

Calendar flip remains unkind to Flyers

BOX SCORE

The Flyers missed a prime opportunity to overtake the Pittsburgh Penguins for second place in the Metropolitan Division with a 5-2 loss to their cross-state rival at the Wells Fargo Center.

Just like the previous game here on Jan. 2, the Pens scored three unanswered goals during the second period Wednesday. That outburst came after the Flyers took a 2-1 lead on Travis Konecny’s 18th goal of the season.

Conor Sheary scored two goals in just under five minutes — his second goal gave Pittsburgh a two-goal lead in the final minute of the second period.

Playing his first game since Feb. 18, Wayne Simmonds returned to the Flyers' lineup and finished with a minus-4.

The Flyers’ power play finished the game 0 for 5 and is now 3 for 27 over the last 10 games. 

Sidney Crosby had three assists to pace the Penguins.

The Flyers and Penguins will meet one final time in the regular season, March 25 in Pittsburgh. 

• Interesting and yet frustrating how the first two penalties — Jori Lehtera for holding and Robert Hagg for boarding — called on the Flyers were by the referee who was 80 feet away from the play and not the referee up close near the play.

• Credit the Flyers’ penalty kill for doing an outstanding job of limiting the NHL’s No. 1 power play that was on the ice for nearly six minutes of the opening period. Pittsburgh managed five shots on Petr Mrazek, but not one from the high-danger area. Not only that, but the Flyers’ penalty killers also drew a pair of penalties. Part of the strategy early on was to get out high near the points and not allow rebound opportunities.  

• The Penguins were finally able to strike on their fourth power play as the Flyers were unable to clear the zone. Pittsburgh caught the Flyers out of position, which opened up a clear passing lane underneath the coverage. Evgeni Malkin set up Phil Kessel for an easy tap-in goal, and an early 1-0 lead.

• The Flyers never got into rhythm as four penalties completely zapped any pace and energy that would have been generated at even strength.

• The Flyers opened up the second period in attack mode, which is what Dave Hakstol was preaching he wanted to see from his team. Jakub Voracek scored inadvertently when Nolan Patrick stripped Derick Brassard from behind and fed him a pass on the left wing. Voracek’s attempted centering pass went off Brassard’s stick, but it was all set up by Patrick’s backcheck.

• You have to admire Konecny’s never-quit attitude and tenacity toward attacking the net. The Flyers' winger scored a goal earlier this season when he alertly caught the puck underneath the goalie and pushed it across the line. Konecny’s relentlessness was on display again as his backhand attempt was denied by Tristan Jarry but he somehow had the wrist strength to stay with it and flip it up over the goalie’s pads. It was a tremendous effort to give the Flyers a 2-1 lead.

• Mrazek struggled securing the puck and that appeared to be the case on the Penguins’ second goal. With a lot of traffic in front of him, Mrazek wasn’t able to glove Jamie Oleksiak’s shot from the point, which led to Pittsburgh’s tying goal. The Flyers challenged the marker on the basis of goalie interference, but it was a good no-call. Mrazek didn’t plead for interference, which sometimes can be persuasive in overturning those calls.

• Pittsburgh proceeded to score three unanswered goals in the second period. Rookie Hagg picked the wrong time to step up and pinch in the offensive zone and it cost the Flyers dearly. Hagg’s gaffe led to a 2-on-1 with Crosby taking the shot. Mrazek made the initial save, but Andrew MacDonald left his feet and Hagg couldn’t get back in time to clear the rebound as Sheary scored the first of his two goals for a 3-2 Penguins’ lead. 

• Sheary’s second goal that put the Penguins ahead 4-2 was just sheer luck, or better yet, Sheary luck. Brandon Manning’s skate redirected a shot that came from just inside the blue line and went right to Sheary on the right wing. A bang-bang play that Mrazek didn’t have enough time to react and cover the angle from Sheary’s shot.

Don't lose perspective with Flyers prospect Jay O'Brien

Don't lose perspective with Flyers prospect Jay O'Brien

The Flyers saw both ends of the spectrum with their first-round picks from the 2018 draft.

While Joel Farabee shined at Boston University this season (see story), Jay O'Brien struggled to find his game at Providence College.

After a freshman season comprised of injuries and five points (two goals, three assists) in 25 games, it appears O'Brien's time with the Friars is over.

According to a report Tuesday by Jeff Cox of the New England Hockey Journal, O'Brien has entered the NCAA transfer portal and will play for the Penticton Vees of the BCHL during the 2019-20 season.

O'Brien, a playmaking center, will have three years of college eligibility remaining.

Now, before anyone starts debating O'Brien's future, let's remember the importance of perspective with teenage prospects. 

O'Brien was perceived as a bit of project when the Flyers' previous regime of Ron Hextall and Chris Pryor selected him 19th overall last summer. Taking O'Brien at No. 19 was viewed by many as a reach, but the Flyers' scouting staff was high on the Thayer Academy product and trusted its evaluation. The Flyers took O'Brien over other centers Joseph Veleno, Rasmus Kupari and Isac Lundestrom.

This season, Veleno put up 104 points in the QMJHL, Kupari had 33 points over 43 games in Liiga (Finnish pro league) and Lundestrom appeared in 15 games with the Ducks.

O'Brien, because of his smaller stature (5-foot-11, 174 pounds) and being drafted out of prep school, had an adjustment period playing Division I hockey (see story). Multiple injuries also didn't help his cause with the transition.

But patience with O'Brien was always going to be imperative. The Flyers drafted him on a lot of upside after taking more of a guarantee in the quick-rising Farabee five picks earlier. The 19-year-old O'Brien isn't lacking in ability or work ethic. Providence head coach Nate Leaman, who led the Friars to a national title in 2015, called O'Brien's skill set "elite."

"It takes time to learn to play at the speed, to play with the lack of space," Leaman said in January during a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia (see story).

"These guys that come right from high school, it takes time and I know Philly has told us that they understand that also."

O'Brien paid little attention to pre-draft rankings last summer.

"I don't even know where I was," he said at development camp. "It doesn't mean much to me. It's not really where you get drafted, it's what you do after you get drafted."

He'll have a new path in 2019-20, another chance to prove himself. There's still plenty to like, with plenty of time.

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule: Game 7s are here for Maple Leafs-Bruins, Golden Knights-Sharks series

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule: Game 7s are here for Maple Leafs-Bruins, Golden Knights-Sharks series

The two best words in sports: Game Seven.

Well, we get two times the fun Tuesday night as Game 7 matchups are here for the Maple Leafs-Bruins and Golden Knights-Sharks first-round playoff series.

Below is the full schedule for Day 14 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. You can watch the entire playoffs on the networks of NBC. 

Toronto Maple Leafs at Boston Bruins (tied 3-3)
Game 7, Eastern Conference first round
7 p.m. ET | TV: NBCSN | Live stream here

Vegas Golden Knights at San Jose Sharks (tied 3-3)
Game 7, Western Conference first round
10 p.m. ET | TV: NBCSN | Live stream here