Flyers

Oilers 4, Flyers 1: Little life in 3rd straight loss as road trip becomes uglier

Oilers 4, Flyers 1: Little life in 3rd straight loss as road trip becomes uglier

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EDMONTON, Alberta — A promising start to a five-game road trip is beginning to completely unravel for the Flyers. 

Connor McDavid scored twice, including an impressive bank shot off the back of Anthony Stolarz, as the Oilers handed the Flyers a 4-1 loss Friday in Edmonton.

Why couldn’t the Flyers expose a depleted Oilers defense and how badly did Dave Hakstol shake up the lines after Wednesday’s loss to Calgary?

Here are my observations from Rogers Place:

• The Flyers needed to get in strong on the forecheck and put some pressure on a young, inexperienced and mistake-prone Oilers blue line. Edmonton was missing two of its top defensemen, relegating young Darnell Nurse to that No. 1 role, plus the NHL debut of Caleb Jones, Seth Jones' younger brother.

The Flyers failed to expose the Oilers' weakness in the first period and throughout this game.

• Hakstol’s new-look lines were a real wake-up call for Nolan Patrick, who has gone from a second-line center to a fourth-line checking center.

I thought Patrick responded well, made some plays, drew a four-minute penalty and had a little burst to his game playing alongside Oskar Lindblom once again.

• Did you catch Stolarz’s nifty footwork in the first period? After an Oiler dumped the puck in hard off the boards, Stolarz did a quick foot shuffle in an effort to avoid the puck hitting the back of his skates and going into the net. 

With Stolarz’s size, I don’t think a 60-minute game takes a toll on him like a smaller goaltender such as Michal Neuvirth, which gives me reason to think he can handle a back-to-back and playing three games in four nights. Remember Brian Elliott, also bigger in physical stature, won all three of these games last season.

The Adam Larsson goal (the Oilers' third) is certainly one Stolarz should have had.

• Here’s the problem with playing the Claude Giroux line (James van Riemsdyk-Giroux-Travis Konecny) on the road, where you can’t control the matchups. All three forwards aren’t exactly stellar defensively, so when Ivan Provorov and Andrew MacDonald get caught on the same side of the ice, JVR has to come down and cover the man in the slot. That didn’t happen and here’s the end result:

• The outcome could have been different had the Flyers converted on a four-minute power play. However, with the No. 1 unit out there for most of that time, there was too much passing, not enough movement and very little shooting. It’s a power play that has become very stale and is now challenging the PK in terms of its ineffectiveness.

• With a wide-open Travis Sanheim looking for a pass behind the net, Shayne Gostisbehere needed to make a stronger play in the corner and not allow McDavid to easily take the puck away, which eventually led to a bank shot off Stolarz for a 2-0 Oilers lead. Yes, I realize it’s McDavid, but he made that whole play look way too easy.

Gostisbehere was relegated to a third defensive pairing for this game, and right now I trust Sanheim more from a defensive standpoint than I do Gostisbehere. 

• The Flyers had several strong shifts in the third period, but they were only able to capitalize when Jakub Voracek’s shot from the high slot snuck past Mikko Koskinen. Outside of that, the Flyers were lifeless and for the most part, they didn’t have that look of desperation tonight (see story).

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Travis Konecny sets new career high as Flyers beat Blue Jackets to climb in NHL playoff race

Travis Konecny sets new career high as Flyers beat Blue Jackets to climb in NHL playoff race

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The Flyers picked up a huge win in their playoff push with a 5-1 decision Tuesday night over the Blue Jackets at the Wells Fargo Center.

Kevin Hayes, Sean Couturier, Philippe Myers, Travis Konecny and Jakub Voracek all scored goals for the Flyers (33-20-7), who notched their 20th home win of 2019-20. They won only 19 games in Philly last season.

More impressively, the Flyers improved to 7-0-2 against the Capitals, Hurricanes and Blue Jackets. In 2018-19, they were 0-10-2 against those divisional foes.

Major improvements.

The Flyers also rebounded from another defeat as they haven't dropped consecutive outings since Jan. 4-7. In games after their last seven losses, the Flyers are 7-0-0 and have outscored the opposition 36-16.

The Blue Jackets (30-19-12) have allowed 15 goals to the Flyers through three matchups.

• Big, big win for the Flyers.

They’ve now jumped the Blue Jackets and Islanders to take over third place in the Metropolitan Division, although New York has two games in hand on the Flyers.

One of the more noticeable aspects of this win was the contributions from players who were not here in 2018-19. Hayes got things started, Myers (played only 21 games last season) was strong, Joel Farabee added two assists and Nicolas Aube-Kubel was reliable yet again.

• Thanks to a goal and two assists, Konecny set a new career high in points as he now has 51.

There are 22 games left in the Flyers’ season and the 22-year-old forward has already delivered in the first year of his six-year, $33 million deal.

• An impressive franchise record for captain Claude Giroux.

• Carter Hart improved to 15-2-2 with a 1.62 goals-against average at home.

Columbus goalie Elvis Merzlikins, who came in leading the NHL with five shutouts, was pulled during the third period after allowing four goals on 12 shots.

• During the second period, everyone saw why there’s so much potential and excitement behind the Travis Sanheim-Myers defensive pairing.

Some serious size, skating and skill — and both are only 23 years old.

• The Flyers’ 200-foot forces set the tone.

During the first period, Hayes and Couturier jumped on the Blue Jackets, who were allowing the NHL's second-fewest goals per game at 2.45.

From a crazy angle, Hayes scored his 18th goal of the season. The 27-year-old center has a great chance to break his career high of 25 goals set in 2017-18.

Couturier might finish the season as the Flyers’ leading scorer. He has 48 points and a plus-27 rating over his last 50 games.

• The Flyers fly to Columbus Wednesday afternoon ahead of another matchup with the Blue Jackets Thursday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

The Flyers then play three straight games at home against teams not in playoff position — Jets on Saturday (1 p.m. ET/NBCSP), Sharks next Tuesday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP) and Rangers next Friday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

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NHL trade rumors: Jeff Carter, Flyers buzz is picking back up

NHL trade rumors: Jeff Carter, Flyers buzz is picking back up

The Jeff Carter-Flyers buzz is back.

It started humming in January when Carter and the Kings visited the Flyers. It picked back up Tuesday with the latest 31 Thoughts article from Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman, always a must-read.

Per Friedman:

It might come down to Nolan Patrick’s health, but I think Philadelphia is considering Jeff Carter.

That would not be terribly surprising, as we noted in January. The Kings are at the bottom of the Western Conference and selling with Monday's NHL trade deadline on the horizon. As they retool, being open to moving an older player like Carter would make sense. The 35-year-old has a cap hit of $5,272,727, according to CapFriendly.com, and is under contract for 2020-21 and 2021-22.

That is most significant as it relates to the possibility of the Flyers adding Carter for their playoff push. The Flyers have just over $2 million in cap space. Even with Los Angeles retaining 50 percent of Carter's cap hit, the Flyers would have to do some juggling. And then the fact that Carter has two more years left on his deal might make things less appealing for the Flyers.

However, there are reasons why the Flyers are probably peeking in at Carter's availability. The center is a two-time Stanley Cup champion, four-time 30-plus goal-scorer and understands the pressure of playing in Philly. Returning to the city during a playoff race would only rejuvenate Carter, who could help the Flyers' depth down the middle and be a positive influence on the team's younger bottom-six forwards. Not to mention the former Flyer has 17 goals this season and is projected to finish with 24.

The Flyers could interest the Kings with a prospect and/or a draft pick. But what would they be willing to give up from a prospect pool that will build the future? And how do they make it work for the roster moving forward?

Those are big questions for a 35-year-old center with a big contract.

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