Flyers

Islanders 6, Flyers 1: Dave Hakstol's challenge goes unanswered in loss

Islanders 6, Flyers 1: Dave Hakstol's challenge goes unanswered in loss

BOX SCORE

The Flyers were in the Halloween spirit Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center. 

Themed music played over the speakers, costume contests broke out in the concourse and spooky graphics flashed on the Jumbotron.

If fans left scared, it wasn't from the festivities. It was from their hockey team putting up a frighteningly loud dud in a 6-1 loss to the Islanders.

A day after head coach Dave Hakstol challenged his team (see story), the Flyers (4-7-0) did zilch to answer him against an Islanders (4-4-1) team that had lost four of its last five. 

The Flyers, who have allowed an NHL-worst 46 goals this season, have lost three straight and now kick off a four-game road trip.

• The Flyers had breakdowns, showed little life, found no rhythm, were mostly perimeter-oriented on offense and failed to score on the power play (1 for its last 20).

Nothing was good.

Things got ugly in the third period when the Islanders piled on three straight goals with the Flyers showing no resistance. After New York's sixth tally, fans gave up booing and simply filed for the exits (see story).

• Michal Neuvirth couldn't play hero in his season debut. He wasn't close to good enough to prevent the Flyers from stumbling again. He permitted some soft goals and was yanked after the sixth. This team isn't scoring and is a mess in front of its goalie.

• Once again, the Flyers allowed the opponent to score first, making it the 10th time in 11 games.

They trailed, 2-0, at first intermission. The second goal was not good. It came off a failed clear and multiple Flyers (Jakub Voracek, Nolan Patrick, Oskar Lindblom) were too slow in retreat as Anthony Beauvillier finished off a nice setup with 6:40 left in the opening stanza.

Following this point, the Flyers never felt in the game. A 2-0 deficit feels like 6-0 right now.

• After practice Friday, Hakstol pleaded for a spark. Ivan Provorov tried being the guy when he leveled the Islanders' best player Mathew Barzal late in the first period. The hit elicited a standing ovation from fans and a penalty on the Islanders.

However, the Flyers' power play whiffed on the opportunity and boos ensued.

• It's not good when Jori Lehtera is awakening your team from an offensive slumber. He put the Flyers on the board with a quick turnaround shot in the second period. Before that goal, the Flyers had been outscored 10-1 this week. They finished the week being outscored 13-2 in three defeats.

• Fourth-liner Corban Knight left the game in the first period with an upper-body injury and did not return.

• Think some fans are getting a little restless?

• The Flyers are off Sunday and then practice Monday in Los Angeles before playing the Ducks Tuesday at 10 p.m. on NBCSP. Anaheim, which has lost four straight, hosts the Sharks Sunday before welcoming the Flyers.

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Grading the Flyers' goaltenders at the bye week

Grading the Flyers' goaltenders at the bye week

Throughout the bye week, we’ll break down the Flyers by position in assessing our midseason grades.

It’s been a season of goaltending unlike any other with a record number seven different netminders saw action in the first 43 games of the regular season. 

From a 33-year-old veteran to a 20-year-old rookie and everything in between, here are the seven goalies who have appeared in net for the Flyers through the midway point. 

Carter Hart

Grade: A-
Stats: 6-5-1, 2.66 GAA, .918 save percentage, 12 games

Hart is incredibly mature for a 20-year-old rookie who is quickly becoming the story of the season. His four victories lead all NHL goaltenders over the past 10 days coupled with a .932 save percentage over his last seven starts.

With Hart in net, the Flyers' penalty kill has operated at an 88 percent rate of success, not allowing more than one power-play goal in any of his 12 starts. If Hart continues to build upon his impressive NHL start, he might work his way in as a finalist for the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie.

Brian Elliott

Grade: B
Stats: 6-7-0, 2.59 GAA, .911 save percentage, 14 games

Provided a sense of stability to the position earlier in the season. The Flyers were 9-9-1 at the time of his injury and 10-14-5 since. Had Elliott stayed healthy, the Flyers very well could be knocking on the playoff door.

Take away the home opener against the Sharks, when the Flyers were a defensive mess, and Elliott has an impressive 2.14 GAA with a .951 save percentage in his other 13 appearances.

Anthony Stolarz

Grade: C-
Stats: 2-3-2, 3.90 GAA, .880 save percentage, 9 games

One of the few goaltenders whose numbers are not indicative of how well he’s played. Has shown a tremendous amount of mental fortitude working his way back from injury. Started with a solid relief appearance in Toronto, where he stopped 33 of 35 shots followed with impressive road victories at Buffalo and Pittsburgh.

Was counted on in early December to manage the bulk of the workload with six appearances in a 10-day stretch. If Stolarz can build up his game with the Phantoms over the remainder of this season, then he should be a viable option as a backup to Hart next season. 

Cal Pickard

Grade: D-
Stats: 4-2-2, 4.01 GAA, .863 save percentage, 11 games

A fringe NHL backup, Pickard was snatched off waivers from the Maple Leafs just prior to the season opener. With a 4-2-2 record in eight starts, Pickard has the highest points percentage (.750) of the seven different goalies who have appeared in a game this season.

Pickard’s best start came in a 31-save shutout Nov. 23 against the Rangers, to only follow that up with a disastrous game at Toronto, where he allowed four goals in 12 minutes. Too erratic in net and only steady enough for the occasional spot start.

Michal Neuvirth

Grade: F
Stats: 1-4-1, 4.27 GAA, .859 save percentage, 7 games

Has been an absolutely disastrous season for the 30-year-old free agent who may be playing his final season in the NHL. Can no longer be counted on to stay healthy or be a reliable backup moving forward.

How bad has it been for Neuvirth? Among NHL goalies with at least six starts this season, Neuvirth is 70th out of 71 goalies with an .859 save percentage, and among that group, his one win ties him with Mike McKenna for league low. Neuvirth’s one redeeming stat line — a perfect 4 for 4 in the shootout.

Mike McKenna

Grade: Incomplete
Stats: 0-1-1, 4.22 GAA, .833 save percentage, 1 game

Hard to judge based on one game in net. McKenna allowed four goals in his only start in Washington on Jan. 8. Should be interesting to see how long McKenna remains in Philadelphia with Neuvirth expected to return in the weeks following the All-Star break. 

Should see one of the two back-to-back games coming out of the break, either at home against Winnipeg or in New York. Like Pickard, a borderline NHL goalie who has hung around. McKenna’s only win this season came with the Senators against his current Flyers on Nov. 27.

Alex Lyon

Grade: Incomplete
Stats: 0-1-1, 5.08 GAA, .806 save percentage, 2 games

After filling in admirably during the 2017-18 season, Lyon appeared out of place during his one start in Buffalo, where he was pulled after four first-period goals. Didn’t look much better in his next appearance, replacing an injured Stolarz in Vancouver a month later.

Barring another onslaught of injuries, it’s doubtful that Lyon will see action with the Flyers again this season.

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The Flyers are starting to do some convincing with GM Chuck Fletcher

The Flyers are starting to do some convincing with GM Chuck Fletcher

There is something to be said for the Flyers playing better hockey.

Everyone begged and waited for progress. Finally, the Flyers are obliging.

They've won three straight games for just the second time this season, scoring 16 goals over the streak. They've won four of their last five after plodding through an eight-game losing skid in which they netted only 15 goals.

For the first time since New Year's Day, the Flyers are no longer in last place of the Metropolitan Division, thanks to a 5-2 win Saturday night over the Canadiens (see observations).

Rather inconveniently, the bye week is now here followed by the All-Star break, creating an eight-day hiatus for the Flyers. Which means general manager Chuck Fletcher will have ample time to sit on these good vibes and mull the bigger decisions ahead.

The problem for the Flyers, though, is this is not like years past. It's considerably too late and a small sample size of improvement won't change Fletcher's mind on 2018-19. Last season, the Flyers needed 98 points to squeak into the playoffs at Game 82. Over their final 34 games of this season, a 23-5-6 record (.765 points percentage) would get them to only 96 points.

If the Flyers can make anything of 2018-19, they'll be proving just about everyone wrong.

What the Flyers can convince Fletcher on is next season — how drastically to retool and how quickly things can turn around.

Upper management certainly isn't on board with a massive rebuild or restart. Flyers president Paul Holmgren and Comcast Spectacor chairman and CEO Dave Scott have already been through a process that became too stagnant for their liking.

Fletcher was brought in for progress. While this season spiraled into a lost cause, you can expect Fletcher is eyeing ways to make 2019-20 productive and meaningful, not another step back.

"We talked about the process and we think — all three of us believe — that this is a playoff team, a quality team," Fletcher said Dec. 5 at his introductory press conference, sitting between Holmgren and Scott. "We have to push it and get better immediately. But there's also the long term. You're trying to win in the present, you're trying to win in the long term. 

"There are obviously certain assets you're not going to sacrifice to win three extra games in one season. So, I think you have to be prudent about it, but they've given me full autonomy to make the hockey decisions I see fit. We talked about philosophy, and again, we all agree this is a good hockey team."

Fletcher is starting to see what could be next season, what can be used moving forward. 

Claude Giroux is still Claude Giroux.

Travis Konecny is beginning to find the back of the net like he did last season.

James van Riemsdyk has six markers in his last five games, playing like the 30-goal scorer the Flyers signed to a five-year, $35 million deal last July.

Nolan Patrick has looked like a No. 2 overall pick over his past three games, with highlight-reel skill, four goals and six points.

Shayne Gostisbehere is starting to display his offensive ability again.

And Carter Hart, at just 20 years old, is showing he can be the franchise goalie you build around.

For Fletcher, these developments are a positive. If only they came before the clock struck midnight on 2018-19, a season he had little chance to save.

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