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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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule: Capitals, Hurricanes set for Game 7 clash

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule: Capitals, Hurricanes set for Game 7 clash

There were two Game 7 matchups Tuesday night.

On Wednesday night, we've got another one and it should be good as the defending champion Capitals try to put away the Rod Brind'Amour-led Hurricanes, who are in the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

The first-round series hasn't lacked fireworks or physicality. Game 7 should be no different.

Below is the full schedule for Day 15 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. You can watch the entire playoffs on the networks of NBC. 

Carolina Hurricanes at Washington Capitals (tied 3-3)
Game 7, Eastern Conference first round
7:30 p.m. ET | TV: NBCSN | Live stream here

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

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

Updated: 5:13 p.m.

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 is expected to play for the Penticton Vees of the BCHL during the 2019-20 season. However, per separate reports, O'Brien's decision for next season is still being decided.

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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