Flyers

Flyers weekly observations: Carter Hart's moxie, Claude Giroux's drive, Isaac Ratcliffe's 50th goal, more

Flyers weekly observations: Carter Hart's moxie, Claude Giroux's drive, Isaac Ratcliffe's 50th goal, more

Nobody thought the Flyers would go down without at least making it interesting, right?

They're hanging on after following up a pair of damaging losses with a 2-1 overtime stunner in Pittsburgh, keeping hope alive as 10 games remain.

We'll touch on that and more in our latest weekly observations:

• Carter Hart's two games back tell you a ton about the kid.

After not seeing game action for 20 days and being benched in his previous two starts, Hart returned to face the Capitals and Penguins — the last three Stanley Cup champions.

How did he do? He stopped 68 of 73 shots for a .932 save percentage and 2.44 goals-against average, while delivering a potential season-saving victory Sunday night in Pittsburgh.

It's great to see Hart trusted in big games despite being 20 years old and coming off an ankle injury. Flyers interim head coach Scott Gordon hasn't shied away from playing Hart, no matter the matchup or circumstances.

That's how it should be. Hart is the future and now is the time to get him ready.

• Now that the Flyers are done with the Penguins, the rival becomes one of their best friends. 

A team to keep the closest eye on is the Hurricanes (85 points), who currently hold the Eastern Conference's first wild-card spot, ahead of the Blue Jackets (84 points, in the second wild-card position), Canadiens (81 points) and Flyers (78 points).

The Flyers don't play the Blue Jackets again, whereas they still have two matchups left with the Hurricanes. Carolina also has to play the Penguins twice, the Capitals twice, the Lightning once and the Maple Leafs once.

Yes, the Flyers will be pulling for Pittsburgh there and should have the Hurricanes in their sights if they want to squeak into the playoffs.

• Sunday night was one of countless examples of Claude Giroux's quiet leadership.

Giroux could not partake in morning skate because he was under the weather and deemed a game-time decision.

He ended up gutting it out, playing 23:33 against the Penguins and finishing as a plus-2. In his four matchups with Pittsburgh this season, Giroux scored four points (two goals, two assists) and was a plus-4 in 24 minutes per game.

Gordon told reporters at PPG Paints Arena that Giroux was able to eat a little bit of food during the day and got an IV before the game.

"When you think about a guy being able to feel as bad as he did this morning that he couldn't come to the rink — and you know how much he loves being at the rink — it was pretty impressive," Gordon said Sunday night.

Teammates look up to this stuff.

Not long ago, Giroux took a power-play adjustment in stride when Gordon and assistant coach Kris Knoblauch decided to roll with five forwards, which moved the captain out of his usual left circle.

That morning, before the Jan. 14 game, Giroux was the first player on the ice to get extra reps in from the opposite side, not as friendly of a spot for a righty-shot player. 

Giroux's drive at 31 years old is something else. And his teammates see it.

• A prospect who doesn't draw as much publicity as others accomplished an impressive feat last weekend.

Isaac Ratcliffe, a 6-foot-6 winger taken in the second round of the 2017 draft, scored his 50th goal of the season, tied for fifth best in the OHL.

The 20-year-old will be a player to watch next season with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley. He's particularly intriguing because his size belies his skill and soft hands.

"When I was younger, it was a big thing that I used to work on at the end of practice or the end of a skill session," Ratcliffe said last summer. "It was a big thing I liked to work on, a guy my size, you don't usually see that and I wanted to prove guys wrong. I can bring any sorts of items to the table and I really wanted to show that I could bring my hands, as well.

"You see a big guy like myself, 6-5, 6-6-plus, and you see a guy, usually a little loose on his feet or his hands are a little stiff, but I like to show that I can skate, as well, and use my hands, be deceptive coming into the zone or coming out of the zone."

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Predictions for who wins Flyers' 2019-20 Yanick Dupre Class Guy Award

Predictions for who wins Flyers' 2019-20 Yanick Dupre Class Guy Award

Going End to End today are NBC Sports Philadelphia's Brooke Destra, Katie Emmer, Taryn Hatcher and Jordan Hall.

The topic: Predicting who wins the Flyers' 2019-20 Yanick Dupre Class Guy Award, presented to the Flyer who best illustrates character, dignity and respect both on and off the ice.

Destra

The best part about the Flyers and their organization is that they are filled with top-notch people. Just about every player on the team could win this award. 

This year though, I’d have to go with Jakub Voracek. He is one of the most respected players on the ice but what stands out the most is the person he is off the ice. The person he is when the cameras aren’t on him. The person he is when it comes to being an ambassador for the phrase, "It’s more than just a game."

There are many examples from this season, but one of my favorites that simply showcases why Voracek should win the Yanick Dupre Class Guy Award dates back to Feb. 27-28, when the Flyers signed Blake Steigauf to a one-day contract.

All throughout this video, you catch glimpses of Voracek with Steigauf, but the one moment that stuck with me was the shot of him waiting for the 15-year-old to come off the ice and into the tunnel before heading back to the locker room. 

All class. 

Emmer

The Flyers' dressing room is full of players with good character and high respect for the game, so this one was hard for me. 

This season, I’m picking Matt Niskanen.   

Niskanen is a highly respected, veteran player in the league and general manager Chuck Fletcher knew that when he decided to bring him in during the offseason.  

Coming into this year, the 33-year-old had 14 NHL seasons under his belt, 10 playoff runs and a Stanley Cup in 2018 — he had the experience the blue line needed.  

Where I think Niskanen really exceeded expectations so far this season is the leadership he brings. He’s highly respected by his teammates and has some of the best well-rounded character you could ask for in your dressing room.

We’re all able to see the example he sets on the ice with the defensive group as well as the team as a whole. He has certainly helped with the Flyers’ success this season. On top of that, he sets an example off the ice by showing respect toward those around him, from the Flyers’ personnel to members of media.

He has been a great addition to the team and I believe he’s the most deserving of the Yanick Dupre Award.  

Hatcher

I’m giving it to Niskanen. This was tough for all the right reasons though. I think you could make a case for quite a few players on the team to take this one home.

There are a lot of great guys in that dressing room that are both the type of player and the type of person you’d want on your hockey team. But when you say “character, dignity and respect,” my mind jumps right to Niskanen. He holds himself and his teammates accountable in the most respectful way following tough contests. He has experienced success and exudes the maturity that comes with that, without ever talking about it or being boastful about it.

He’s the “Steady Eddie” of the team, keeping things in balance on the ice and off it. Never complains, not even with 15 stitches in his nose. And beyond his character contributions, he’s been exactly what Fletcher hoped he’d be in terms of a player — a dependable defenseman that has perfectly complemented Ivan Provorov on the Flyers' top D pairing.

Hall

During his first season in Philadelphia, Kevin Hayes has fully embraced the community on top of augmenting the dynamic in the Flyers' dressing room.

Through a mixture of lightheartedness and leadership, Hayes has brought the Flyers closer together. The 27-year-old center has been a quality teammate and a go-to interview all season.

He has shown nothing but respect and character in his dealings with fans, media members and Flyers employees.

There isn't a bad choice here, but Hayes' value has gone beyond the ice.

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Sean Couturier reveals an interesting nickname and clowns Michael Raffl

Sean Couturier reveals an interesting nickname and clowns Michael Raffl

Sean Couturier has been in Philadelphia for nine years and there's a nickname that hasn't become public.

On Saturday night, the NHL tweeted out a video of Couturier to promote the NHL Gaming World Championship. This is where we learned of this interesting nugget.

Paul Bissonnette, the host of the video, alerts Couturier that he had some dirt on the nine-year veteran from Claude Giroux.

It's revealed that his teammates call Couturier "Elton John" because when going in for a breakaway, he sometimes looks like he's carrying a piano on his back.

That's one you can't live down.

Once the spotlight is taken off Couturier, he chose Michael Raffl as the biggest jokester on the team and started modifying some of his skills and attributes in NHL20.

For example, Couturier gives Raffl a high mark for speed, but pokes fun at his lack of physicality. The body checking attribute came down big time.

For the rest of Couturier's answers, watch the video here:

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