Flyers

Flyers suffer a loss to Islanders that is demoralizing on multiple levels as NHL playoff race gets tougher

Flyers suffer a loss to Islanders that is demoralizing on multiple levels as NHL playoff race gets tougher

BOX SCORE

Ouch.

The Flyers on Tuesday night stomached the type of loss that will sting until they play again Thursday. It might even sting the rest of the season.

After falling behind 3-0 during the first period and fighting like hell to tie things up with 1:32 left in regulation, the Flyers surrendered the game-winner 51 seconds later and fell to the Islanders, 5-3, at Barclays Center.

What makes the loss doubly demoralizing is that it came within the Metropolitan Division and the Flyers (31-19-7) missed out on an opportunity to take over third place from New York.

With 25 games remaining, the Flyers are clinging to the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot (see standings).

Right now, the Islanders (33-16-6) have two games in hand on the Flyers and lead them by three points. New York is the only team the Flyers have yet to beat in the division (0-2-1).

• The Flyers did nothing to help Brian Elliott in the first period, but the veteran goalie let them down on Ryan Pulock's goal with 41 seconds left. Although Pulock unleashed a nasty shot top shelf from the point, it's stoppable for Elliott and the Flyers.

The team's skaters expended so much energy coming back and New York capitalized over the final minute and a half to put the Flyers on their heels in the defensive zone.

The Islanders then iced the game with an empty-netter.

A point would have been so huge for the Flyers given how the game began. They left Brooklyn with no points and a punch to the gut.

• Sean Couturier scored the equalizer after the Flyers had two failed power plays in which the they came oh-so-close to knotting the score.

The way the Flyers scraped and clawed to dig out of the hole was commendable. The way the game was ripped right back away from them was crushing.

• The Flyers' first-period futility on the road reared its ugly head.

A night after the team's defensemen were sharp and steady, the blueliners had a world of troubles in the opening 20 minutes against New York.

The Islanders scored three goals. On the first by Josh Bailey, Matt Niskanen and Ivan Provorov were uncharacteristically poor in their own end. On the second by Matt Martin, Travis Sanheim had an untimely pinch with his defensive partner Philippe Myers already down in the offensive zone, which led to an odd-man rush the other way.

And on the third, Mathew Barzal made a sensational play to pick apart Niskanen and the Flyers, leading to Jordan Eberle's rebound opportunity.

The Flyers have allowed 44 first-period goals on the road, most in the NHL. The next worst are the Devils at 33. The starts to away games have been problematic all season and a big reason why the Flyers are 12-14-3 with a minus-25 goal differential outside of the Wells Fargo Center.

• In their defense, the Flyers never quit on games. They dominated the second period and received goals from Travis Konecny and Robert Hagg to make it a game. They actually controlled the third period, as well, until that final minute and a half.

Konecny is three points shy from setting a new career high with 50. Hagg has continued to play well. The status of Shayne Gostisbehere, who missed Monday's morning skate because he felt pain in his left knee, is uncertain. When he's fully healthy and up to speed, the Flyers will try to get him in the lineup, but the decisions are getting only tougher.

It wouldn't be overly surprising if Myers comes out of the lineup for Gostisbehere at some point.

• Joel Farabee was solid in his return from the flu, playing 15:38 and creating chances. He was his usual active self.

• Needing to bounce back, the Flyers fly to Florida Wednesday before taking on the Panthers again Thursday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

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2020 NHL trade deadline: Everything Flyers fans need to know

2020 NHL trade deadline: Everything Flyers fans need to know

The NHL trade deadline will arrive Monday at 3 p.m. ET.

Deals can be processed after the cutoff point, but around the deadline time, we should know for certain what the Flyers will look like moving forward.

So, what are the key questions surrounding the Flyers' outlook?

Let's dive into everything you need to know ahead of the deadline:

Where do Flyers stand in playoff race?

With 20 games remaining, the Flyers sit in third place of a busy Metropolitan Division. They are five points behind the first-place Capitals and three points back of the second-place Penguins. The Islanders, Hurricanes and Blue Jackets are all within striking distance.

For some context on how deep the division is compared to the league's other three, the Rangers are in seventh place of the Metro but would secure the first wild-card spot if they were in the Western Conference.

At 35-20-7, a top-eight team in the league and projected to finish with around 100 points, the Flyers entered Sunday holding an 83.4 percent chance to make the postseason, according to Hockey-Reference.com.

How should Flyers approach deadline?

Last season, general manager Chuck Fletcher was selling parts. Prior to the deadline, he traded Wayne Simmonds, Jordan Weal, Christian Folin, Dale Weise, Taylor Leier and Anthony Stolarz.

This season, there is no For Sale sign. The Flyers are contenders and Fletcher, in his first full season as GM, will not be looking to subtract. If anything, the Flyers will buy to strengthen their playoff push.

However, adding won't be easy. The Flyers have a little over $2 million in cap space, according to CapFriendly.com. To make an expensive, splashier acquisition, the Flyers would have to lose a player or players in a deal, and that might not be Fletcher's objective with how well his team is playing.

“You have to maybe look at including players in the deal. It’s hard to trade a fourth-round pick for a $4 million player," Fletcher said in mid-January. "With our group right now, I don’t know that’s what we’re looking to do. If we can improve our team, we will.

"For our situation, I don't know if it makes sense to pay a massive price for a rental right now. I don't think that that is the right move for this group but if we can add a forward that can help our team, sure."

Which areas will Flyers target?

One of the Flyers' biggest areas of strength is on defense and the team is getting healthier at the position with Shayne Gostisbehere's return. After a disastrous 2018-19 in net, the Flyers have gotten excellent stability from Carter Hart and Brian Elliott.

So if the Flyers make moves, they'll likely be eyeing bottom-six forward depth, particularly at center. For a while, it appeared the team was lacking consistent and secondary scoring.

But the Flyers have improved in those facets and have seen significant strides from their younger forwards Connor Bunnaman, Joel Farabee and Nicolas Aube-Kubel. With Morgan Frost (three goals, two assists in last five games at AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley) available for another call-up and Nolan Patrick (migraine disorder) in the fold, the Flyers may stand pat Monday at center.

The Flyers are a top-10 goal-scoring club (3.24 per game) and 13-5-1 with an NHL-high 68 markers since Jan. 8. Meanwhile, their goal prevention has been vastly better all year (2.87 goals allowed per game) after it was a real problem last season (3.41 goals allowed per game).

"I like my team," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said Saturday. "I know that Chuck looks at any option that can improve our team, he’s been doing that since the first day that I was hired. Now we’re into the final stretch. If there’s something that he feels can improve our team, he’ll definitely look at it. But I’m very happy moving forward with the players that we have here.”

Could any Flyers be moved?

It feels unlikely unless Fletcher pulls off something big.

Gostisbehere has seen his name pop up in trade rumors going back to last season. The defenseman is an attractive chip because he's not far removed from a career 65-point year in 2017-18, is only 26 years old and under contract for the next three seasons at a reasonable $4.5 million cap hit.

Robert Hagg, who just turned 25 years old, has played well this season and will be a restricted free agent in the offseason.

The Flyers have depth on the blue line and quality defensive prospects in the system — Egor Zamula, Cam York, Wyatt Kalynuk, Mark Friedman and Wyatte Wylie, to name some.

If they have a position from which to shed in order to improve another, it's defenseman.

Three players on the Flyers' current roster have expiring contracts this offseason — Elliott, Justin Braun and Tyler Pitlick. Those three aren't going anywhere at the deadline.

What are Flyers' assets?

The Flyers have a first- and second-round pick this summer. Overall, they have eight selections in the 2020 NHL draft — a first, second, two fourth-rounders, a fifth, sixth and two seventh-rounders.

The organization, of course, has an appealing prospect pool, as well, highlighted by Frost, York, Zamula, Isaac Ratcliffe, Jay O'Brien, Bobby Brink, Tanner Laczynski and Noah Cates, among others.

“I don’t think we need to mortgage the future to try to get into the playoffs this year," Fletcher said earlier this month in an interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia's Taryn Hatcher. "I think our team is more than capable of getting into the playoffs with what we have, but if we can find a way to improve our team for this season and going forward, we’ll definitely not be hesitant to make a move right now.”

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Flyers NHL trade deadline option: A boost from Ducks' Derek Grant?

Flyers NHL trade deadline option: A boost from Ducks' Derek Grant?

Leading up to the Feb. 24 NHL trade deadline, we'll look at potential targets on the market and why they may or may not fit the Flyers' plans.

Derek Grant

Age: 29
Height: 6-3
Weight: 206
Team: Anaheim Ducks
2019-20 cap hit: $700,000

Scouting report

The well-traveled center has picked an opportune time for a career year. Grant, who is playing for his sixth NHL team, already owns a personal-best 14 goals and is five points away from breaking his career high of 24 set in 2017-18.

Grant, who has some positional versatility, possesses the characteristics the Flyers targeted last offseason — quality size, good physicality and strength in puck battles.

He's not highly skilled or an active playmaker, but the fourth-line center leads Anaheim's forwards in shorthanded minutes per game and is solid in the faceoff circle.

Projection

This one checks a lot of boxes.

It would make sense for the Ducks, who are in second-to-last place of the Western Conference, to sell high on Grant's stock. He's an older role player putting up career numbers and can become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason.

Grant's cap hit fits the Flyers' plans and he wouldn't block the team's future down the middle given his expiring contract.

The Flyers very well may be happy enough with 21-year-old Connor Bunnaman's play. And if they want more offense, Morgan Frost is heating up at AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley (three goals, two assists in last five games). The 2017 first-round pick could take over third-line center duties, while Scott Laughton would give the Flyers tons of depth at fourth-line center.

But if they want more experience and a player enjoying his best offensive season yet, Grant is a nice option. Adding him would likely only require trading a lower-round draft pick.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

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