Flyers

Flyers 2, Predators 1: Carter Hart stands on head against West's best

Flyers 2, Predators 1: Carter Hart stands on head against West's best

BOX SCORE

The Carter Hart era is off to a 2-0 start.

Hart stopped 31 shots Thursday night in the Flyers' 2-1 win over the Predators.

How well did the Flyers' PK respond and who were the real difference makers?

• I wrote during the preseason that Hart’s ability to read plays and his awareness would be a big improvement to the team’s penalty kill. This game was proof of that. Robert Hagg had two big blocked shots on a 5-on-3 and Hart two big saves.

The Flyers successfully killed off 3:07 of Nashville power-play time from the end of the second period to the beginning of the third.

• Sean Couturier almost always does the little things required to play winning hockey. On Jakub Voracek's first-period goal, Couturier's play and puck work along the boards surrounded by Nashville players stood out as Voracek and Wayne Simmonds jumped off the bench. Most might credit Couturier's pass in setting up Voracek's tap-in goal but for the Flyers, it all started with Couturier's determination to keep the puck in the zone.

• Nashville really missed two of its biggest playmakers in defenseman P.K. Subban and winger Filip Forsberg. Without them, the Predators had the look of a more north-south team attempting to play a more grind-it-out type of game.

• I didn’t like how the Flyers couldn’t cover Hart’s rebound on Nashville’s goal, allowing third-line center Nick Bonino to drift down the middle of the ice uncovered and unaccounted for.

• I really liked Scott Laughton’s game as he brought his skating legs to this game. I’ll also contend he plays better at wing because he plays more of a north-south game and doesn’t have to think of playing a 200-foot game as much as he does at center. 

• Travis Konecny gets knocked for his defense and deservedly so at times, but give Konecny most of the credit on Claude Giroux’s 2-1 goal. Konecny did a terrific job of backchecking in the neutral zone and knocking the puck away from Preds defenseman Anthony Bitetto, which led to the Flyers' 2-on-1 going back the other way. Also, Konecny made that play after taking a hard shot off his leg just minutes earlier.

• It seems to be rather fashionable to highly criticize the Flyers' second power-play unit, but until it starts receiving significant ice time, it’s not a fair assessment. On three straight power-play possessions, the top unit was on the ice for the first 1:30 of the two minutes. The second unit never had the opportunity to set up. Considering how ineffective the top unit has been this season, if you want to give that second unit a chance to gel and gain some confidence, put it out there for the start of the two minutes.

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NHL trade deadline: Flyers acquire Derek Grant in trade with Ducks

NHL trade deadline: Flyers acquire Derek Grant in trade with Ducks

Updated: 1:37 p.m.

VOORHEES, N.J. — General manager Chuck Fletcher has put a focus on adding to his group of forwards to augment the Flyers' playoff push.

Shortly after acquiring Nate Thompson (see story), the Flyers made a much more notable depth acquisition ahead of Monday's 3 p.m. ET trade deadline. Fletcher acquired Derek Grant from the Ducks in exchange for Phantoms forward Kyle Criscuolo and a 2020 fourth-round draft pick. The pick will be the better of the two fourth-round selections the Flyers have — their own pick and the one they acquired from the Predators last deadline.

Grant, a well-traveled forward with positional versatility, already owns a personal-best 14 goals and is five points away from breaking his career high of 24 set in 2017-18.

Head coach Alain Vigneault mentioned how Grant, who can play center or winger, could open on the wing with the Flyers, while Thompson appears to be a fourth-line center type.

The 29-year-old Grant checked a lot of boxes for the Flyers (see story). His cap hit is only $700,000 and he can become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason, so he doesn't block the club's future down the middle or on the wing.

"We’ll have to figure out where he fits in best with our team," Vigneault said Monday after practice. "In doing our homework, the feedback that we got back was that he’s a very versatile player who can play all the positions. I felt that was important. It gives me a little bit more leeway as far as certain nights when some guys are on top of their game or some other guys are a little bit off. We’ll see. We’ll have some decisions to make."

Grant was playing fourth-line center for the Ducks, his sixth NHL team, and was one of their best penalty killers. The move made Connor Bunnaman an odd man out of the lineup as the rookie was loaned to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley after practice. He played well as a rookie, but Grant gives the Flyers experience, size, a boost on special teams and some secondary scoring potential.

"This was obviously the whole staff getting together — pro scouts, management and coaches — analyzing our team, analyzing where we are," Vigneault said. "I think it was an easy conclusion to make that if we could improve our depth, we would do that. So far, that’s what we’ve done. We’ve been able to add a fourth-line centerman that’s going to help us in Thompson on the PK. Grant’s got a little bit more versatility, he can play all three positions, he’s been used in a PK and power play role.

"So we felt that we needed a little bit more depth in this final push here moving forward, and so far that’s what we’ve added."

The Flyers have relied on younger forwards Bunnaman, Joel Farabee and Nicolas Aube-Kubel, all of whom have held their own during the playoff race. Since Jan. 8, the Flyers are 13-5-1 with an NHL-high 68 goals.

However, the Flyers had only 12 healthy forwards with 20 games remaining and competing in the NHL's deepest division (see story). Farabee was also loaned to the Phantoms, but there's a good chance he'll be back with the big club at some point.

"We're pretty comfortable with the group we have, but bringing in some experience always helps. You can't have enough experience down the road," Sean Couturier said. "It's nice to see the confidence from the management. It's just up to us now to go out there and keep doing our job, keep winning games."

Grant is expected to be in the Flyers' lineup Tuesday night against the Sharks (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

"Remembering him, he's a big guy, pretty strong out there, tough to play against," Couturier said. "It's nice to see some addition. I think he's having a great year, too, so we'll definitely need him down the road."

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Flyers NHL trade deadline 2020: A boost from Ducks center Derek Grant

Flyers NHL trade deadline 2020: A boost from Ducks center Derek Grant

Leading up to the Feb. 24 NHL trade deadline, we looked at potential targets on the market and why they may or may not fit the Flyers' plans, including Ducks center Derek Grant.

At 11:30 a.m on deadline day, the Flyers acquired Grant. Below is our original profile of him. 

***

Derek Grant

Age: 29
Height: 6-3
Weight: 206
Team: Anaheim Ducks
2019-20 cap hit: $700,000

Scouting report

The well-traveled center has picked an opportune time for a career year. Grant, who is playing for his sixth NHL team, already owns a personal-best 14 goals and is five points away from breaking his career high of 24 set in 2017-18.

Grant, who has some positional versatility, possesses the characteristics the Flyers targeted last offseason — quality size, good physicality and strength in puck battles.

He's not highly skilled or an active playmaker, but the fourth-line center leads Anaheim's forwards in shorthanded minutes per game and is solid in the faceoff circle.

Projection

This one checks a lot of boxes.

It would make sense for the Ducks, who are in second-to-last place of the Western Conference, to sell high on Grant's stock. He's an older role player putting up career numbers and can become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason.

Grant's cap hit fits the Flyers' plans and he wouldn't block the team's future down the middle given his expiring contract.

The Flyers very well may be happy enough with 21-year-old Connor Bunnaman's play. And if they want more offense, Morgan Frost is heating up at AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley (three goals, two assists in last five games). The 2017 first-round pick could take over third-line center duties, while Scott Laughton would give the Flyers tons of depth at fourth-line center.

But if they want more experience and a player enjoying his best offensive season yet, Grant is a nice option. Adding him would likely only require trading a lower-round draft pick.

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