Flyers

Flyers Weekly Observations: Claude Giroux's redemption tour beats on

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USA Today Images

Flyers Weekly Observations: Claude Giroux's redemption tour beats on

It was a busy week on the ice for the team that calls South Philadelphia home.

And that busy week ended with plenty of positive vibes for the Flyers after a 2-1-0 showing.

They kicked things off with a commanding 5-1 victory over the visiting Florida Panthers on Tuesday night, followed that up with a tough 1-0 loss to the Nashville Predators on Thursday evening and wrapped up the week with a hard-earned 2-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday afternoon as the five-game homestand rolled on.

There’s plenty to get to, so, now that the ink is dry, let’s dive right into the week that was for the Flyers.

• In the days and weeks leading up to this season, there were a plethora of questions surrounding the Flyers, and to some extent, there still are as the season is still in its infancy, just eight games in. But the captain is already answering all the questions about him, and there were a lot of them. Claude Giroux played a key role again this week for the Flyers, scoring two goals — a breakaway snipe Tuesday past Roberto Luongo and a power-play slam dunk past Cam Talbot to open the scoring Saturday.

Giroux's tally against the Oilers was his fifth of the season. For comparison’s sake, Giroux didn’t record his fifth goal last season until Nov. 29, the 24th game of the season. Two things are noticeable when it comes to Giroux. Yes, the move to left wing alongside Sean Couturier and Jake Voracek is paying dividends and providing energy, not just for Giroux, but also as a whole for the line, which continues to produce. Couturier scored his fourth of the season Tuesday and Voracek, while still scoreless, is tied for third in the league with 10 assists.

But much more importantly for Giroux, he’s clearly healthy again, which wasn’t the case most of the last season as the effects from hip surgery lingered and anchored him. The fact of the matter is, in many ways, Giroux is still the engine of the Flyers’ offense and the cog that makes it go. The puck is still on his stick a ton and opposing teams still key in on him. It comes as no surprise a healthy, producing Giroux is igniting a Flyers offense that is averaging 3.50 goals. As the captain goes, so do the Flyers. So far, better than so good.

• You can say what you want about Andrew MacDonald and his play and his contract. But that’s a different conversation for a different day. There’s no doubting MacDonald is one tough hombre after blocking a debilitating slap shot off the knee Saturday and fighting through it to continue killing a penalty in the third period. If you’re still wondering why MacDonald wears an “A” on his sweater during road games, wonder no more. He’s a tough, valued veteran who has the respect of the locker room thanks to plays like that. The Flyers announced Sunday he will miss four to six weeks with a lower-body injury, presumably from that play. If you’re one of the ones behind a keyboard celebrating his injury on Twitter, grow up.

• There’s really not much shame in the loss to Nashville on Thursday. The defending Western Conference champion Predators, just as good as they were last year when they came within two wins of the Stanley Cup, just smothered the Flyers. And when the Flyers did have chances, Pekka Rinne was there between the pipes to snuff them out. His third-period pad save on Couturier, who had just pulled off a nifty maneuver in the slot, was a dandy that kept the Preds on top. A loss is a loss and it’s frustrating, but the Flyers hung with one of the most complete teams in the league twice in the span of nine days.

• Wayne Simmonds just continues to do Wayne Simmonds things. On Thursday against the Preds, Simmonds took an errant stick to the mouth as he was observing the action on the bench. He left but later returned to the game. Of course, he was right back in the lineup Saturday afternoon, albeit with a mouth protector attached to his helmet.

And of course, he scored Saturday’s game-winner with 2:15 left in regulation off a lovely feed from Valtteri Filppula. Simmonds admitted afterward he was losing pucks in his feet because of the impaired vision from the mouth protector, and he would have to get some dead teeth extracted soon. That last part sounds just awful, by the way.

But as far as toughness and results on the ice from Simmonds, it’s gotten to the point where we expect nothing less. No surprise, but he now leads the Flyers with six goals on the young season.

• It was the best and worst this week for prized rookie Nolan Patrick. On Tuesday, he wowed the Panthers, his Flyers teammates and the entire Wells Fargo Center with a dazzling, through-the-legs drop pass to Dale Weise, who then promptly deposited the Flyers’ fourth goal of the evening in the victory over the Panthers (see video). Seriously, what an unreal pass that was. That was uncanny awareness and hockey sense and incredible skill. And remember, he’s just 19 years old.

We got a reminder Saturday afternoon that he is just 19 and the lumps will come along with the highlight reel plays. During the second period against Edmonton, Patrick found himself with the puck in the corner in the defensive zone. He hesitated, perhaps mesmerized by the broken stick on the ice in front of him, and was quickly surrounded by the Oilers’ Patrick Maroon, who picked the rook’s pocket, drove toward the net and beat Brian Elliott to knot the game at 1-1.

A tough learning experience for Patrick, but the teenager will learn from it and get better. It’s the kind of thing you just naturally have to expect from a 19-year-old just eight games into his NHL career.

Coming up this week: Tuesday vs. Anaheim (7 p.m./NBCSP), Thursday at Ottawa (7:30 p.m./NBCSP), Saturday at Toronto (7 p.m./NBCSP+).

Something important to remember with Morgan Frost, Isaac Ratcliffe

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Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers

Something important to remember with Morgan Frost, Isaac Ratcliffe

VOORHEES, N.J. — Maybe fans wanted more than just a one-game tryout.

See what the kids can do.

That is certainly an understandable response after Morgan Frost and Isaac Ratcliffe were returned to their junior clubs Tuesday. Excluding the prospects game, Frost and Ratcliffe played in a single preseason game apiece with eight on the schedule.

Both headed back to the OHL, their teams open the 2018-19 season this week with Frost's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds playing Wednesday and Ratcliffe's Guelph Storm Thursday.

For the most part, the 19-year-olds were long shots for the Flyers' roster. Frost had an outside look at the team's third-line center job (see story), while Ratcliffe, albeit rising among the prospect pool, was all but destined for his fourth junior campaign.

No problem.

But if fans are upset with the Flyers' semi-quick trigger, there's something important to remember. The Flyers could easily have neither of these two kids in their system. If it weren't for a pair of tough decisions — one particularly bold — made by general manager Ron Hextall, such a scenario would be the case.

If you recall, Hextall had to trade Brayden Schenn in order to grab the No. 27 overall pick of the 2017 draft, where the Flyers selected Frost. Parting ways with Schenn was no effortless call. The forward was 25 years old at the time, finished second on the 2016-17 team in goals with 25, 17 of which came on the power play, tying him for most in the NHL alongside Alex Ovechkin and Nikita Kucherov.

Here we are, though, about a year and three months later, and Frost has created a debate over his chances at making the Flyers as a 19-year-old. He's considered a top-50 prospect in the NHL and is looking to build off a 112-point season in which he was a staggering plus-70. 

While Schenn had a career year with the Blues (28 goals, 42 assists), he cooled off considerably, scoring 12 markers in the final 51 games following 16 in his first 31 as St. Louis missed the playoffs. Not only does Frost's future look bright, but the Flyers also acquired a conditional first-round pick in the deal, drafting winger Joel Farabee at No. 14 overall this summer.

The Flyers snagged Ratcliffe in the same draft as Frost, just a day later in the second round. Landing the 6-foot-6 winger didn't come easy, either. To slide up to No. 35 overall, the Flyers had to send their second-round pick (44), a third (75) and a fourth (108) to the Coyotes. Similar to Frost, that's how badly they wanted Ratcliffe.

He has the Flyers feeling good about it. 

Ratcliffe scored 41 goals and 68 points over 67 regular-season games in 2017-18. He has developed a ton in one year, now possessing intriguing ability for a player his size (see story).

In this draft, the Flyers could have been conservative and satisfied after hitting the jackpot on No. 2 overall pick Nolan Patrick.

They weren't.

These were calculated risks the Flyers took in adding Frost and Ratcliffe. Hextall and his staff trusted the diligence behind their scouting efforts.

So far, so good on hitting with them.

It should make up for a disappointing day, for those that deem it one.

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Flyers 5, Islanders 1: 2016 draft pick raises eyebrows in another preseason win

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Flyers 5, Islanders 1: 2016 draft pick raises eyebrows in another preseason win

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — Anyone sick of the New York Islanders yet?

The Flyers, playing their third game in three days in three different buildings against the same team, came up with a big second period to defeat the Islanders, 5-1, Tuesday.

Which 2016 draft pick continues to raise eyebrows, another injury to the Flyers' goaltending crop and more from Brooklyn:

1. Two days after a lethargic and uninspiring effort at Nassau Coliseum, the Flyers came out with a more inspiring start Tuesday with the same top line of Nolan Patrick, Oskar Lindblom and Travis Konecny, who had two scoring chances off the rush in the opening 20 minutes — one from the right side and another coming down the left wing. 

2. Alex Lyon was originally scheduled to start tonight and even took the ice for pregame warmups. He proceeded to tweak something as he motioned to the trainer. Late in the first period, the Flyers announced Lyon was out with a lower-body injury, leaving Anthony Stolarz to play the full 60 minutes. 

3. As for Stolarz, he's had a solid camp and preseason so far, especially when you consider how little he's actually played last season. The knee surgery doesn't appear to bother him at all. After a flawless first period, which included a slapper that knocked him completely back on his numbers, Stolie allowed one soft goal on a delayed penalty. With the Islanders working the puck around the perimeter, Stolarz was slow in moving from the middle of the crease to hugging the right post, allowing David Quenneville to sneak a slap shot through the near post.

4. There's still no fix for slow and playing in his first preseason game, Jori Lehtera still plods around the ice in second gear. Ron Hextall said before the game that Morgan Frost needed to work on creating time and space with the puck. He won't gain any pointers watching Lehtera, who had a difficult time manufacturing anything offensively until he scored a garbage-time goal late in the third period. Still, if I was Hextall, I'd place Lehtera on waivers for the purpose of sending him to Lehigh Valley before the season starts.

5. Carsen Twarynski was one of the more impressive prospects during the rookie game last week, playing alongside Oskar Lindblom and Mikhail Vorobyev. He scored a goal off a quick turnover and he gave the Flyers a 2-1 lead in this game when he snapped a shot from the top of the right circle that had perfect placement and appeared to catch Robin Lehner by surprise. If you’ve noticed anything about Twarynski, it's that he possesses a better than average NHL snap shot and it’s easy to see how he scored 45 goals last season with Kelowna.

6. Danick Martel will never forget his first NHL game, which came right here at the Barclays Center on Nov. 22, 2017. However, this game may stand out for Martel a little more as he launched a shot from the left circle that beat Lehner for his first unofficial NHL goal, giving the Flyers a 4-1 lead at the time. I don’t see Martel making this team, but if he can have another fantastic start with the Phantoms, a mid-season call-up isn’t out of the question.

7. Nothing is guaranteed for Taylor Leier, who needs to earn a roster spot on this year’s team coming out of camp much as he did a year ago. He had a so-so start in his first game Sunday, but he brought that fourth-line intensity tonight as he steamrolled Quenneville and supplied an aggressive forecheck. Leier also managed some offensive opportunities as the battle for the last three forward positions are too close to call right now.

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