Flyers

NHL power rankings: Are Flyers better than 20th after offseason?

NHL power rankings: Are Flyers better than 20th after offseason?

It took a span of only 11 days for Chuck Fletcher to show his bias for action. The general manager revamped the Flyers with a series of moves a week before free agency even commenced. He also brought in a new head coach and two new assistants, all three with Stanley Cup Final experience.

There's no denying the Flyers are different; but how much better are they?

That will be debated up until the Oct. 4 season opener in Prague, Czech Republic.

The ESPN hockey editorial staff published its post-free agency NHL power rankings Tuesday and doesn't seem overly impressed with the Flyers' offseason. The Flyers are ranked 20th after being No. 19 in the way-too-early rankings following the Stanley Cup Final.

Last season, the Flyers finished sixth in the eight-team Metropolitan Division. They had the 22nd-most points in the NHL with 82. In these power rankings, the Flyers are ahead of only two Metro teams — the Blue Jackets (No. 22) and Devils (No. 23). 

So ESPN sees slight improvement from the Flyers in 2019-20, but not much. Obviously, a team's positioning in power rankings is dictated by what other teams did or didn't do in the offseason, as well. The Rangers saw a major jump from 25th to 14th after adding Artemi Panarin, Jacob Trouba and No. 2 overall pick Kaapo Kakko.

The Flyers certainly expect to be better than No. 20. They should be better, too. Fletcher has undoubtedly made the team better since the end of 2018-19. Maybe the acquisitions don't jump off the page, but they are strong support moves. The Flyers also believe Kevin Hayes is just starting to touch the prime years of his career.

Look at the Flyers down the middle. For much of last season, it was Sean Couturier, Nolan Patrick, Jordan Weal and Scott Laughton. They finished the season with Couturier, Patrick, Laughton and Corban Knight. Now, the Flyers are more formidable at center with Couturier, Hayes, Patrick and Laughton. That's more scoring, size and skill.

Defensively, it seems many aren't abuzz over the acquisitions of Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun. But before that, it was Radko Gudas and Andrew MacDonald. 

Niskanen is an experienced puck mover who has won a Stanley Cup and has played 125 playoff games. Over the past six seasons, his plus-91 rating is fifth best among all NHL defensemen, behind only Ryan McDonagh (plus-126), Zdeno Chara (plus-99), Victor Hedman (plus-97) and Ryan Ellis (plus-94).

Braun comes from the Sharks, for whom he played 84 postseason games. He's been a plus-32 over the past six seasons. Both Niskanen and Braun have track records of playing consistent minutes and preventing goals. Their impact on the Flyers' young defensemen will be just as important.

Last season, Robert Hagg and Gudas made up a pair at times. Hagg played all 82 games and Gudas appeared in 77. MacDonald played 47. The Flyers are now deeper.

In 2019-20, the defensive pairings could look like this:

Ivan Provorov-Matt Niskanen

Travis Sanheim-Justin Braun

Shayne Gostisbehere-Philippe Myers

A few other important notes for 2019-20: the Flyers will have Carter Hart and James van Riemsdyk, barring injury, for full seasons, while a touted prospect could jump into the bottom six.

At the end of the day, though, it still comes down to the Flyers' youth. That remains their foundation and it needs to further support the core in place. If Hart can continue to meet expectations, if Patrick can take a jump, if Travis Konecny can be more consistent, if Oskar Lindblom and Sanheim can keep improving, if Provorov and Gostisbehere can return to form, the Flyers will be better than 20th in the NHL.

On July 1, Fletcher said: "You look at our team, we counted today, there are eight players on that NHL roster that haven't come close to hitting their peak and to having their career seasons. That's the exciting thing. That's our growth."

And that's how they'll climb.

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Shorthanded Flyers can't keep up with Avalanche to begin road trip

Shorthanded Flyers can't keep up with Avalanche to begin road trip

BOX SCORE

From the moment it was announced that Oskar Lindblom would miss Wednesday night's game, the Flyers' chances at Pepsi Center felt bleak.

No Lindblom, no Travis Konecny and facing the NHL's highest-scoring team in its building was not a promising script for the Flyers, who lost to the Avalanche, 3-1.

In stretches this season, the Flyers have struggled to bury goals. And that has been with Lindblom and Konecny — their two leading goal-scorers at 11 apiece — in the lineup.

The Flyers (17-9-5) did some good things but Colorado finished plays behind its world class talent up top.

The Avalanche (20-8-3) are on an eight-game point streak (7-0-1) in which they've scored 4.13 goals per game.

• Without Konecny (concussion) and Lindblom (upper body), the Flyers had difficulty putting the puck in the net. They were going to have to put up some goals against the Avalanche, who entered scoring an NHL-best 3.70 goals per game. For the second time in the last three games, the Flyers scored only one goal.

The lone tally came from Claude Giroux when the Flyers were trailing 3-0 with just over five minutes remaining in regulation.

• Following a first period in which they survived, especially in the back half of it thanks to Carter Hart, the Flyers actually played a solid second period. At one point during the middle stanza, the Flyers were outshooting Colorado 11-0.

But as the Flyers kept pushing to no avail, the Avalanche changed the whole complexion of the period with one play by their two best weapons. Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen hooked up for a nasty marker to make it 2-0 with 3:55 left in the period, a deflating goal to allow for the Flyers (see highlights).

Considering Colorado was 14-0-1 when leading after the middle period, the Flyers were in a serious hole, even after a hard-working period.

• Hart, who entered 8-2-2 with a 1.96 goals-against average and .928 save percentage over his last 12 starts, faced the Avalanche for the first time in his career.

He made a highlight-reel save and gave the Flyers a fighting chance in tough circumstances.

The 21-year-old has been impressive during the first period all season long, allowing the Flyers to find their legs and rhythm. He converted 12 of his 24 saves in the opening stanza against Colorado.

On the Avalanche's first-period goal, Scott Laughton won a defensive zone faceoff but the Flyers failed to clear the puck, resulting in Matt Calvert's tally.

Rantanen added his second goal early in the third period and that was pretty much the game.

Colorado goalie Pavel Francouz, who came in 5-0-1 with a 2.36 goals-against average and .926 save percentage over his last eight games (six starts), finished with 32 stops.

• When Philippe Myers (back spasms, day to day) is ready to return, Robert Hagg should be the odd man out on defense. Shayne Gostisbehere has found some of his offensive mojo and Myers has shown way too much promise to be sitting when healthy.

A stay-at-home guy like Hagg was far too noticeable against the Avalanche. He committed a penalty and was a minus-2 in 15:21 minutes.

• David Kase was summoned to Denver this morning to make his NHL debut and become the ninth rookie to play for the Flyers this season

The 22-year-old winger had a nice scoring chance and two shots in 7:47 minutes. 

• The Flyers head to the old stomping grounds of general manager Chuck Fletcher and assistant general manager Brent Flahr when they visit the Wild on Saturday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

Fletcher was the GM in Minnesota from 2009 to 2018 and Flahr was his AGM from 2010 to 2018.

The Flyers have not lost consecutive games in regulation since Oct. 27-29.

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Flyers at Avalanche: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

Flyers at Avalanche: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

As one of the NHL's best teams since Nov. 1 (12-3-4, 28 points), the Flyers now face a new challenge.

Alain Vigneault's undermanned group begins a three-game road trip Wednesday as the Flyers (17-8-5) visit the Avalanche (19-8-3).

Let's get into the essentials:

When: 9:30 p.m. ET
Where: Pepsi Center
Broadcast: NBC Sports Network
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com

• The Flyers are without Travis Konecny (concussion, out indefinitely), Oskar Lindblom (upper body, out tonight), Philippe Myers (back spasms, day to day), Michael Raffl (broken right pinkie finger, out approximately four weeks) and Nolan Patrick (migraine disorder, out indefinitely).

"Injuries are a part of a season. You have to expect it," Vigneault said Monday. "Then you need somebody else to step up."

More than ever this season, the Flyers will be looking to Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier, Kevin Hayes and James van Riemsdyk to produce among the forwards.

The Flyers are 10-2-1 when Hayes records a point and 9-1-0 when van Riemsdyk records a point.

• Not only are the Flyers severely shorthanded Wednesday night, but they're also facing the NHL's highest-scoring club. The Avalanche lead the league with 3.70 goals per game. Their top line of Nathan MacKinnon (47 points in 30 games), Mikko Rantanen (18 points in 14 games) and Gabriel Landeskog (nine points in 14 games) is scary.

"We know going into Colorado, we're going to have to be careful versus their top unit," Vigneault said Tuesday. "[Monday] night, they seemed to load up. That's one of the best lines in hockey."

• Carter Hart will face the Avalanche for the first time in his career.

The 21-year-old goalie is 8-2-2 with a 1.96 goals-against average and .928 save percentage over his last 12 starts.

Projected lineup

Forwards

Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
James van Riemsdyk-Morgan Frost-Tyler Pitlick
Scott Laughton-Kevin Hayes-Joel Farabee
David Kase-Mikhail Vorobyev-Chris Stewart

Defensemen

Ivan Provorov-Matt Niskanen
Travis Sanheim-Justin Braun
Shayne Gostisbehere-Robert Hagg

Goalies

Carter Hart
Brian Elliott

 

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