Flyers

Hurricanes 4, Flyers 3: Flyers stumble early again in season finale

Hurricanes 4, Flyers 3: Flyers stumble early again in season finale

BOX SCORE 

A tumultuous 2018-19 season ravaged by regression and firings came to an end Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

The Flyers lost, 4-3, to the Hurricanes.

After throwing themselves into the playoff race with an 18-4-2 stretch from Jan. 14 to March 11, the Flyers (37-37-8) stumbled out of contention with a 3-10-0 finish.

The Flyers' 82 points are their fewest in a full season since 2006-07, when the team was dreadful and went 22-48-12 for 56 points.

The Hurricanes (46-29-7), led by former Flyer Rod Brind'Amour, are headed to the postseason for the first time since 2009.

• Oskar Lindblom, Travis Konecny and Sean Couturier scored for the Flyers.

Lindblom, a 22-year-old rookie, scored 17 goals in his first full season and took off after earning a larger portion of the pie under interim head coach Scott Gordon. He has 20-goal potential, impressive for a fifth-round pick.

Konecny matched his career high of 24 goals set last season but there's no denying he was inconsistent. When he's going, he's a game-breaker. When he's not, he blends in.

Important to remember: Konecny turned only 22 years old last month. How quickly the Flyers turn things around will rely heavily on the 2015 first-round pick's production.

Couturier finished with a career-high 33 goals after breaking out in 2017-18. Since the start of that season, he has 64 goals, the same number as Penguins star Sidney Crosby. Couturier is one of the few certainties for general manager Chuck Fletcher.

• The Flyers should be thankful for Carter Hart, who picked up the loss in his 30th start.

The 20-year-old breathed life into the season and provides optimism for the future. He went 16-13-1, lending much-needed stability to a situation that saw the Flyers play eight goalies, an NHL record for one season.

The injuries and netminders weren't the only problems, either.

The Flyers were far too shaky in front of the goalies. Is it personnel? Is it coaching?

The answer will be clearer in 2019-20.

• Mark Friedman, a 23-year-old defenseman, made his NHL debut in the loss. He played 12:33 and didn't look out of place.

He should be a solid call-up option next season (see story).

• The Flyers once again fell behind early and went into first intermission trailing 3-1.

They finished the season with a minus-31 goal differential in the first period, worst in the NHL.

The starts of games will have to be addressed in 2019-20.

• A look at the Flyers' unrestricted free agents and restricted free agents heading into the offseason:

Brian Elliott, G — UFA
Michal Neuvirth, G — UFA
Cam Talbot, G — UFA
Corban Knight, F — UFA
Phil Varone, F — UFA
Jori Lehtera, F — UFA
Scott Laughton, F — RFA
Travis Konecny, F — RFA
Ryan Hartman, F — RFA
Justin Bailey, F — RFA
Ivan Provorov, D — RFA
Travis Sanheim, D — RFA

• The Flyers handed out their annual team awards before the game (see story).

• Fletcher enters his first offseason as Flyers general manager. He'll have his work cut out for him. The Flyers fell well short of expectations and haven't made the postseason in consecutive years since 2010-12, when they last won a series.

Cleanout day is Sunday afternoon for the players.

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Flyers vs. Rangers preseason: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

Flyers vs. Rangers preseason: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

Updated: 5:29 p.m.

VOORHEES, N.J. — The Flyers' preseason games are becoming more and more important.

The next one is Saturday night as the Flyers welcome the Rangers for their fourth exhibition contest out of seven.

Let's get into the essentials:

When: 7 p.m. ET
Where: Wells Fargo Center
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia+
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

• It will be fun to see Travis Konecny and his usual energy back out there. He will make his preseason debut after missing the first three days of training camp.

The 22-year-old has shaken off some rust and feels caught up following plenty of work from Tuesday to now.

"I'll be ready," Konecny said Tuesday about the Oct. 4 regular season opener (see story). "I didn't miss too much time, I did a lot of work on my own when I wasn't here."

• Saturday night is a big game for roster hopefuls Joel Farabee, Morgan Frost, Chris Stewart and Carsen Twarynski (see story). The Flyers want to shape their roster as soon as they can in preparation for the opener (see story). The teams flies out to Switzerland on Sept. 27 before its final preseason contest on Sept. 30.

• Keep an eye on Matt Niskanen if he's paired with Ivan Provorov. The 32-year-old blueliner will be crucial to the Flyers' defense this season and he wasn't happy with his first preseason performance, despite scoring the team's lone goal.

"We didn't do too good. Or I didn't at least," Niskanen said Thursday. "But it's part of the process. Get our feet wet together for the first game. I have to get my timing back. But it's good to get in there and you can see his skill. He is a fun guy to play with and we will be better next time."

What didn't Niskanen like about his own game?

"Just too much time in our zone," he said. "I couldn't execute well enough to get on the attack enough."

• Carter Hart is expected to play the first two periods before giving way to Jean-Francois Berube. In Hart's final preseason outing, the 21-year-old will go the distance.

Quotable

I know as media and a fan standpoint, you see three losses and you're like, 'Oh my God, this isn't what we thought it was going to be.' I don't think that's a big deal, but it is a whole new system for a lot of guys in this room — pretty much every guy in the room besides myself basically. In order to get to the best part of your system, you need to get the regular guys who the coaches think are going to be there every night.

- Kevin Hayes on the Flyers' preseason and roster

Projected lineup

Forwards

James van Riemsdyk-Claude Giroux-Travis Konecny
Oskar Lindblom-Kevin Hayes-Jakub Voracek 
Michael Raffl-Morgan Frost-Joel Farabee 
Carsen Twarynski-Scott Laughton-Chris Stewart 

Defensemen

Ivan Provorov-Travis Sanheim 
Robert Hagg-Matt Niskanen 
Samuel Morin-Mark Friedman 

Goalies

Carter Hart
Jean-Francois Berube

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Kevin Hayes honest about his time with Rangers, 'ecstatic' to be with Flyers

Kevin Hayes honest about his time with Rangers, 'ecstatic' to be with Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. — Kevin Hayes scored a career-high 25 goals at 25 years old during the 2017-18 season with the Rangers.

As a restricted free agent in the summer that followed, Hayes signed a one-year, $5.175 million deal with New York. He played only 51 more games for the Rangers before being traded to the Jets last season in February.

Seven months later, he has a seven-year, $50 million contract. On Saturday morning, he was wearing an orange sweatshirt with the No. 13 on it and standing in the Flyers' dressing room at Skate Zone.

Times have seriously changed for Hayes following that trade.

"Obviously you get comfortable with where you're at but it's a business. It's something I thought could have happened by signing a one-year deal that year," Hayes said. "I'm very happy with where I'm at and what I have at the moment. Looking back a year ago from today, I was asking for things from New York that they said no to and we went our separate ways in February. 

"I'm ecstatic with where I'm at right now, playing with this group of guys. The players that we have here, the goalies, the Ds and the forwards who I'll be playing with are elite and it's something that I'm excited for — and tonight's just one step toward the regular season. I'm sure there will be mistakes out there but I'm happy with what side I'm on."

Although it's just the preseason, tonight will be the first time Hayes has played against the Rangers since the trade. New York put its rebuild into overdrive this summer by acquiring Jacob Trouba and Artemi Panarin, and drafting Kaapo Kakko.

Is it tough for Hayes not seeing the rebuild through after watching the steps the Rangers made this offseason?

I don't know if they're good steps or bad steps, that's what you guys get to decide, but they're steps I guess. I have no hard feelings toward them. I loved my time there, I'm happy with where I'm at right now. I feel like this year is the best shape and best mentality I've ever been in in my career. I don't know if it has to do with the change or the excitement I have to be here in Philly, but I'm excited to get this going.

Three of the Rangers' top six scorers are gone from last season, including Hayes and Jimmy Vesey, who was traded to the Sabres on July 1.

"They chose to get rid of me and Vese, but that's their decision," Hayes said. "I'm sure it'll come back to them, we'll find out."

Hayes is back with Alain Vigneault, who coached the 27-year-old from 2014-18 in New York. Vigneault was a major selling point for Hayes signing with the Flyers on June 19 after the club acquired his rights earlier in the month.

Hayes was a plus-30 under Vigneault and his minutes climbed each season. The 6-foot-5 center is now one of the better penalty-killers in the league and a two-way guy poised for his biggest offensive role yet.

"I had a great relationship with him in New York for the four years we were together," Hayes said. "He turned me into a 200-foot player and I think that was — if not the biggest reason — one of the biggest reasons why I decided to come here.

"There was some tough love there, for sure. It's the NHL. It's not easy for everyone. … It's growing pains. I thought the way he handled my situation and how I responded was very professional and I think I entered the league as an offensive guy and A.V. kind of turned me into a 200-foot player and an NHL guy. 

"At the time, I don't know if I was super excited about it — fast-forward six years and I couldn't be more happy with where my game is at."

The Flyers play the Rangers four times in 2019-20. The first trip to Madison Square Garden is on March 1. From his rookie year in 2014-15 to now, the New York roster is very different.

"I have friendships there outside of the hockey players — equipment guys, media guys, trainers that basically shaped me as the person I am today," Hayes said. "I think it will be more emotional seeing those guys — I don't even know half the team anymore, to be honest.

"I'm sure going back to MSG will bring back some memories and be a little bit emotional. I'm not even just saying this just because I have to, I couldn't be more excited to be here in Philly, to start a new chapter in my NHL career where I have the security to be somewhere for a long term. In New York, my longest contract was two years, the last three years it was trade bait basically every year. I'm happy with where I'm at it, physically and mentally, and getting excited again to play hockey."

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