Flyers

Flyers-Wild observations: 5-game winning streak over Minnesota ends

Flyers-Wild observations: 5-game winning streak over Minnesota ends

BOX SCORE

The Minnesota Wild once again relied on their two hottest players Saturday night in beating the Flyers, 1-0, at the Wells Fargo Center.

Jason Zucker scored the only goal of the game and, remarkably, has scored all six Minnesota goals over the past three games.

Devan Dubnyk stopped all 32 shots for his second consecutive shutout. Dubnyk has not surrendered a goal in his last 136 minutes and 20 seconds of action.

The two teams will meet again Tuesday night at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.

• The Flyers pulled Brian Elliott in the final minutes and still couldn't stuff the net, as they got their best look with five seconds remaining, but Dubnyk covered up any potential rebound opportunities.

• The Flyers' power play generated very little after their first opportunity, manufacturing just one shot on Dubnyk over their final four minutes.

• Zucker scored the game's only goal, banking a shot off Elliott that found the back of the net. The initial slap shot from the point was deflected, creating a wicked bounce and catching Elliott completely out of position.

• With the top line generating the majority of the offensive pressure in the third period, Sean Couturier lost his stick, picked it up just in time to take a centering feed from Claude Giroux and nearly scored on Dubnyk's five-hole. Couturier has set up his office in front of the crease and seems to embrace the combative nature in the trenches. Minnesota's 5-foot-9, 168-pound defenseman Jared Spurgeon couldn't remotely budge him out of the way.

• One problem I have with shorthanded opportunities is failing to understand the situation. Such was the case when Wayne Simmonds came charging down the right side and tried to fire a low percentage shot top shelf on Dubnyk. Simmonds missed the net, which led to a power-play rush and a quality scoring chance for Minnesota. Elliott was able to extend his right pad on Marcus Foligno and prevent a goal.

• Considering Simmonds' position on the ice, the better shot would have been low to Dubnyk's outside pad, creating a rebound opportunity. Instead, the puck rimmed around the boards.

• Minnesota’s second line of Nino Niederreiter-Eric Staal-Zucker was its biggest threat with its combination of size and quickness. Still, they couldn’t capitalize on a 3-on-1, as Niederreiter took a pass and fired a slap shot that hit Elliott right in the crest. 

• The Flyers killed off the Wild’s first power-play of the game. Minnesota’s best opportunity came when Zucker came flying around Shayne Gostisbehere and fired a wrist shot on Elliott from close range. It was the Wild’s only shot on net during the two-minute man advantage, as the Flyers' PK did a solid job of keeping the play around the perimeter. 

• Overall, the Flyers turned in a strong opening 20 minutes of the game, especially defensively, not allowing the Wild to generate much possession time. The Flyers outshot Minnesota, 12-5.

• The standout defensive play came when defenseman Ivan Provorov raced back to break up a 2-on-1 opportunity when Zucker tried to feed Niederreiter, who was cutting down the left side. Provorov, perhaps not known for his speed, got a stick on the pass, eliminating any potential scoring chance.

• With the Flyers on their first power play of the game, Wild center Mikko Koivu forced a turnover at the blue line and went in alone on Elliott. Koivu faked a slap shot and Elliott forced him outside. Koivu appeared to have an open seam, but Elliott did a good job recovering and stopping Koivu’s shorthanded shot with his paddle.

• Elliott stopped another potential goal when he reached out and poked the puck away from just outside the crease.

• The Flyers' best opportunity on that one and only first-period power play came when Travis Konecny took a feed and fired a shot from the left circle, electing to test Dubnyk’s glove hand.

• Prior to the game, general manager Ron Hextall talked about the Flyers' need for secondary scoring. There’s been too much reliance on their top line recently, however, Jordan Weal and Valtteri Filppula nearly got the Flyers on the board first, as they swarmed Minnesota’s defense with a strong forecheck with Filppula feeding Weal, who came in strong on Dubnyk’s right side. 

• At 6-6, Dubnyk takes up so much size that there’s not much net to shoot at. You have to get him moving and active in his crease to have success. 

Injury updates
It appears Nolan Patrick will return to his hometown of Winnipeg with his teammates when the Flyers take on the Jets on Thursday. Whether Patrick suits up and plays remains a mystery at this point. The Flyers' rookie center skated for a third straight day Saturday and Hextall hopes Patrick can skate with the team Monday.

“He has been skating on and off for a week to 10 days by himself. He skates early in the morning,” Hextall said. “So, he has been on the ice, but it's a big difference on the ice by yourself and with your teammates. He has work to do. There’s been no setbacks.”

Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald suffered a deep bruise to his left knee when he blocked a puck in a game Oct. 21 against the Edmonton Oilers. Hextall is expecting MacDonald to practice Monday as well, his first time on the ice in three weeks. 

“Mac’s not a guy that takes a long time to get ready to come back,” Hextall said. “He’s a heavy guy, but he’s been off for a bit so, hopefully, he gets some good practice this week and play it day by day.”

Lines and pairings
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Travis Konecny-Valtteri Filppula-Wayne Simmonds
Jordan Weal-Jori Lehtera-Dale Weise
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl

Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Brandon Manning-Shayne Gostisbehere
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas

Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

Nolan Patrick selected as No. 1 breakout player for 2018-19 by NHL Network

usa_nolan_patrick.jpg
USA Today Images

Nolan Patrick selected as No. 1 breakout player for 2018-19 by NHL Network

Nolan Patrick's rookie season can be split into two halves, but his performance down the stretch has caught the attention of one national pundit.

NHL Network analyst Mike Johnson, who played 12 years in the league, selected Patrick as his No. 1 breakout player for the 2018-19 season during Friday night's "NHL Tonight."

Johnson scored 375 points in 661 NHL games from 1996-2008 and last played in the league during the 2007-08 campaign with the St. Louis Blues.

Behind Johnson's reasoning for picking Patrick as his No. 1 breakout player was the Flyers' center's two-way instincts, ability to finish, size and a full summer of training ahead of him.

"We know his injury history, his lack of proper training, his lack of ability to hit the gym properly," Johnson said, "and he's still strong on the wall. That's only going to get better as he matures physically."

For what it's worth, Connor McDavid was NHL Network's No. 1 breakout candidate for the 2017-18 season — that was a bit of a softball.

As for Patrick, the center joined "NHL Tonight" on Friday to discuss the honor and also provide an update on how his summer is going.

"Coming off that surgery last year," Patrick said, "I had a slow start. It took a while to get my body back to where I wanted it to be. I missed two summers of training. It's been the first summer for me in a while that I've been back in the gym."

Patrick, the No. 2 overall pick in 2017, finished with 13 goals and 30 points in 73 regular-season games. He missed nine games in October and November because of a concussion and spent most of the first half of the season getting his mobility back after undergoing offseason abdominal surgery. In fact, he's lost his past two summers of training because of surgery.

Prior to his final junior season and his draft year, Patrick underwent sports hernia surgery. Then 10 days before the Flyers drafted him, he went under the knife again.

Now he's fully healthy and has a full summer of training.

"First time I can get after it," Patrick said during the team's exit interviews in April (see story). "It's going to be a big summer for me. I'm not satisfied with how the year was or how my year was, so I'm looking to take big steps here."

Once Patrick began feeling healthier, he started getting a bigger role with the Flyers. He was elevated to the team's second-line center and stuck. He also found a role on the power play.

The 19-year-old posted 17 points in the final 25 games, which translates to a respectable 0.68 points per game clip and 55 points over an 82-game schedule. Not too bad for a rookie who couldn't actually train during his previous two offseasons.

"My coaches pushed me throughout the year. Then they gave me more opportunity," Patrick told the NHL Network. "Jake Voracek was huge for me. He thinks the game so well. The puck protection that guy has, you just got to get open for him.

"I think my body also just felt better as the year went on. I kind of took a while to get my skating legs there, so I think in the second half, I had a little more pep in my step."

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End to End: What is Ron Hextall's next big signing?

End to End: What is Ron Hextall's next big signing?

Going End to End today are NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Boruk, Tom Dougherty and Jordan Hall.

The topic: What is Ron Hextall's next big signing?

Boruk
There are three ways to look at this …

1. The Flyers re-sign Wayne Simmonds, who's eligible for an extension that would take effect in 2019-20.

2. Ron Hextall inks one of his restricted free agents to a team-friendly, lengthy multi-year deal.

3. The Flyers go big in free agency next summer. 

Let’s start with the latter. There are some interesting names that are headlining next summer’s potential UFA class: Tyler Seguin, Tyler Myers, Matt Duchene and Artemi Panarin. 

Who knows which of these players will be re-signed or traded, but I don’t see the Flyers paying big dollars to add another forward now that you include James van Riemsdyk. According to Spotrac.com, the Flyers have $46.5 million (fourth highest in the NHL) committed to forwards, with Travis Konecny due for a pay raise next summer, as well.

With that knowledge, I’m not sure it makes sense for the Flyers to extend Simmonds another four to five years with an AAV of $6-7 million. Hextall has a good barometer of what Simmonds is worth on the open market, which is why term would be the sticking point in negotiations. If he’s willing to look at a three-year deal, it could get done soon, but if I’m Simmonds' agent, I’m trying to maximize the length of any new contract, which very well could be the last one his client signs.

I think the next big contract will be signed by defenseman Ivan Provorov, who’s entering the final year of his entry-level deal. It’s not out of the financial realm to think Provorov could sign a Drew Doughty-type bridge deal similar to the eight-year, $56 million pact the Kings' defenseman signed in 2011 at the age of 21. Doughty was coming off a monstrous 16-goal, 59-point season. Last season, Provorov ripped off 17 goals and 41 points and appears poised to build on that for this upcoming season.

Prepare yourself. Provorov will receive the next big pay day in Philadelphia.

Dougherty
Outside of teaching the Sixers and Phillies how to close a deal, Hextall's only item left on his offseason to-do list is to re-sign restricted free agent Robert Hagg.

During his end-of-season-news conference in April, Hextall said "initially, my thought right now is that we would be open to either long term or short term" with Hagg.

Whether Hagg qualifies as a "big signing" isn't really up for debate. It's not. Hagg is a quality third pair defenseman in the NHL and he proved as much in his rookie season.

But re-signing Hagg is the only move left I envision Hextall making this summer, or at the very least, the next move. A Provorov or Simmonds extension remains possible too.

As Hextall mentioned, the Flyers are open to either a short or long-term deal with Hagg. Both have their upside. That is also likely the holdup right now.

While Hagg wouldn't qualify as a "big" signing, he is next on the checklist. Once his contract is out of the way, then I could see the Flyers knocking out Provorov or Simmonds.

Hall
Hextall tends to get ahead and take care of his own.

When you look at the track record, he's not one to let contract decisions linger, especially when it comes to his core pieces — which makes for good business.

Just like in any profession, stability and happiness are important.

The Flyers' general manager extended Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier the summer prior to their contract years. 

He signed Shayne Gostisbehere, a restricted free agent last summer, in early June before the expansion draft and free agency opened. 

He even signed Michael Raffl in February 2016 before the role forward was set to become an unrestricted free agent at season's end.

With all that said, my gut tells me Hextall's next big move is extending Simmonds at some point before the start of the season. Simmonds, coming off an injury-ravaged year in which he still managed to score 24 goals, can hit unrestricted free agency following the 2018-19 season. He wants to be back and Hextall values him greatly.

And the GM made it clear that when the Flyers signed van Riemsdyk to a five-year deal, it meant nothing to their situation with Simmonds.

"We like Wayne Simmonds," Hextall said July 1. "This doesn't change anything for Wayne. This is a left winger; this is a different player than Simmer. We're excited to have James, and certainly, we would like to have Simmer for a long time, too."

I expect that to be the next major check on the agenda.

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