Flyers

Metro gets crazier as Flyers-Devils series ends with bang

Metro gets crazier as Flyers-Devils series ends with bang

BOX SCORE

We now know why the NHL’s Metropolitan Division is more tightly packed than the metro subway system during rush hour.

On a night when the Flyers were just 81 seconds away from separating themselves from the Devils by five points in the standings, New Jersey fought back to the tie the game in regulation before eventually winning, 5-4, in a shootout, eliminating any breathing room the Flyers were hoping to gain Tuesday (see observations).

Devils forward Taylor Hall scored a pair of goals, including the one that tied the game at 4-4 with 1:21 remaining in the third period (see highlights)

“It’s that kind of play where it’s not much we could have done. It is definitely frustrating,” Claude Giroux said. “They’re a team that’s in the race with us. It’s two points that we could’ve used.”

“Just a little breakdown. They had one extra guy there at the net front,” defenseman Radko Gudas said. “I think we’ve got to do a better job of boxing them out and know where the puck is. I thought we played a pretty solid game. There are some things we would like to change, but that’s hockey.”  

However, Hall’s first score is one shot Michal Neuvirth would like to change, and most definitely would like to have back. Hall took a sharp-angled shot from near the Flyers' goal line that squeezed past Neuvirth, who failed to secure the near-side post. It was a shot reminiscent of a similar one he allowed just two weeks ago in Washington.

“For sure, that’s the one you’ve got to have,” Neuvirth said. “That was not a good goal. I’ve got to watch it on video and definitely have got to improve on shots from bad angles because a lot of teams are shooting from bad angles. The game in Vegas, I thought I had at least 10 saves from the corners. Teams are definitely going to try me.” 

Hall sat out nearly the entire second period going through the NHL’s concussion protocol after scoring his first goal in which he was leveled by Gudas. It was Gudas who also blasted Kyle Palmieri in the game in New Jersey just two weeks ago that led to a fight with Travis Zajac. Although the divisional rivals refrained from dropping the gloves, the intensity was building as the two teams battled four times over the span of a month.

“I thought it was a clean hit,” Hall said of Gudas’ check. “I told them that on the ice. He’s a player that’s always going to finish his hits. Sometimes they’re dirty, but I didn’t think that one was.”

“[Those games] are just fun to play,” Giroux said. “Especially here, I think the fans kind of like that. We did a good job of staying focused on what we had to do. There are going to be games like that, but you've got to try to stay focused.”

Recently, the Flyers have been the stronger, more determined and focused third-period team, outscoring the opposition, 6-2, in the final period over the previous five games. The Flyers rallied to earn a point against Ottawa, stifled Carolina to just two shots on net, scored three goals against Montreal and locked down their defense against Vegas.    

After the Flyers outshot the Devils, 6-0, in the opening five minutes of the game, fatigue and jet lag appeared to catch up to Dave Hakstol’s club, playing its third game in four days. New Jersey appeared to have a little extra jump over the final 10 minutes of regulation. 

“There’s always challenges,” Hakstol said. “That’s part of the schedule now. We knew those challenges coming in. I thought the start of the game was really good for us. We had energy and we were sharp mentally. There’s just points and times in the game where a little bit of fatigue sneaks in, both mentally and physically. There’s challenges in every portion of the schedule and that was our challenge tonight.” 

“Yeah, definitely, I think everybody needs it,” Neuvirth said, regarding the rest. “It’s been really tough especially with the travel. It was definitely tough to wake up today because we were still on Vegas time, but this is a tough week and we’re all professionals and we need to be ready.” 

Neuvirth and the rest of the Flyers can now get their watches and bodies completely in sync with their next 20 games to be played in the Eastern time zone.

After all, the Metro doesn’t appear to be slowing down for any team.

Are Flyers next? How Carter Hart won over his junior GM

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Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers

Are Flyers next? How Carter Hart won over his junior GM

Carter Hart approached Garry Davidson with a message.

For that brief moment, Davidson didn't have to answer his phone, hang up and then wonder.

The general manager's decision was made — and by the teenager who sought him out like a 30-year-old pro.

"Had he not come in and pushed those buttons," Davidson said, "who knows what I would have done."

The Everett Silvertips' 2016-17 season had just ended in the second round of the WHL playoffs. Davidson, the team's GM, was fielding trade call after trade call regarding his goalie.

It felt like everyone wanted a piece of Hart's final go-around in junior hockey.

"In the offseason this time last year, I was already being approached by several teams," Davidson said last week in a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia. "'Would you move Hart?' There were probably six, seven teams that came after us. As a GM, I had to weigh everything out to see how it might work out."

Until Hart, the Flyers' exciting goalie prospect, had a word with him.

Hart was an eighth-round Bantam draft pick of Everett at 14 years old before he signed his WHL educational contract at 15. He eventually turned himself into a record-setting junior goalie and wanted Davidson to know he had goals of finishing what they started.

"Carter came to me and said, 'Hey, I'd love to do something here with my team and my teammates,'" Davidson said. "He came in at 15 and didn't play obviously a lot but was around at 15 and then a regular member at 16 when he was allowed to stay here. When he came in and we had that discussion, then I dug in and tried to see what I could do to make us better."

Hart's plea and the circumstances offered revealing aspects of exactly why the 19-year-old has Flyers fans giddily awaiting his arrival. The competition after Hart's services speaks volumes about his ability in net; yet maybe even more impressive was the loyalty to his team and the maturity behind it.

"That's one of the big things that Carter has always been, old for his years," Davidson said. "He's all about doing things, day in and day out, the right way."

Davidson never imagined what Hart ultimately became.

But he saw the makeup.

"I always liked Carter because I thought he was athletic but I always liked his composure," Davidson said. "He played with a confidence and not on emotion.

"We had a pretty good goalie here, so we just signed [Hart] and said he'll be our No. 2 guy. He came in here at 16 and a month in he sat in my office and said, 'You know what, I think I can be the best goalie here and I'm going to prove it to you.' Not in a cocky way, but just in a confident way. And subsequently he went on to do that."

In more ways than one.

The Flyers' 2016 second-round draft pick became the first goaltender to win the Del Wilson Memorial Trophy (WHL's top goalie) three times, while his 26 career shutouts are tied for the most in Canadian Hockey League history. His WHL-leading 1.60 goals-against average and .947 save percentage this season make him a favorite to win CHL Goalie of the Year for the second time, something no netminder has ever done. He also rewarded Davidson by leading the Silvertips to the 2018 WHL Final, where they lost in six games to the Swift Current Broncos.

While all the accolades surprised Davidson, the success didn't. Not with a kid as detail-oriented as Hart, who with time, grew into his body at 6-foot-2, 185 pounds.

"He made a comment in our exit meeting the other day, 'Oh, we went out last night and I really actually enjoyed a double-patty burger,' and a whole bunch of foods that he wouldn't normally eat," Davidson said with a laugh. "Because he takes care of every aspect — his rest, his eats, his diet, his off-ice workouts. But that's Carter."

Hart's game will test the pro ranks in 2018-19 as he turns 20 years old in August. Given the big club's situation, a season in the AHL seems more than likely.

"That's a decision the Flyers are going to make," Davidson said, advising patience. "It's also a decision Carter will make because it'll depend on his performance and what he does between now and the start of the NHL season in October."

Long odds or not, Hart already has one thing going for him.

He knows how to make a GM believe.

Samuel Morin's future with Flyers grows murkier with torn ACL

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AP Images

Samuel Morin's future with Flyers grows murkier with torn ACL

Samuel Morin is taking the long and winding road to the NHL, one that’s now more rugged and elongated than ever.

The Flyers confirmed Thursday that Morin tore the ACL in his right knee when his skate caught a rut on the ice in Charlotte while he was attempting to check an opponent. The injury took place in the first period of the Phantoms' epic five-overtime game against the Checkers two weeks ago.

General manager Ron Hextall told the Courier-Post's Dave Isaac that Morin is facing a nine-month recovery process and that the 6-7 defenseman is “probably out until February” as he recovers from surgery — which Morin will undergo sometime in the near future.

Morin’s 2018-19 season will now be spent rehabbing from injury and utilizing what’s left of the regular season working his way back with the Phantoms.   

The Flyers' 2013 first-round pick is also a restricted free agent after playing out the final year of his three-year entry-level contract. In the five years since he was drafted, Morin has suited up for just three NHL games. 

Expect the two sides to reach an agreement on a one- or- two-year extension rather easily since Morin doesn’t have much leverage in negotiations at this point. Since Morin signed his rookie deal at the age of 18, he also had a five-year (or 160-game) waiver exemption that has now expired.

In other words, the Flyers will no longer have the luxury of shuttling Morin back and forth from Lehigh Valley without exposing him to the rest of the league if they attempt to send him back to the minors.

The Flyers have no choice but to give Morin the necessary time to ensure he’s not only ready physically, but also that his game can be trusted at the NHL level.  

Hextall has preached patience in the deliberate development of the organization’s prospects.

Right now, Samuel Morin is the poster child for that process.