Flyers

Flyers 5, Canadiens 2: Riding high into the bye week

Flyers 5, Canadiens 2: Riding high into the bye week

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The Flyers will feel pretty good about themselves over an eight-day stretch of no game action.

That's because they're playing arguably their best hockey of the season entering the bye week and All-Star break, thanks to a 5-2 win Saturday night over the Canadiens at Bell Centre.

The Flyers (19-23-6) have tied their season-best winning streak of three games, a span in which they've scored 16 goals. They've also won four of their last five. Before doing so, the Flyers lost eight straight games, scoring just 15 goals during the skid.

The Canadiens (27-18-5) had a three-game winning streak snapped, while the Flyers, for the time being, are no longer in last place of the Metropolitan Division.

• Think Nolan Patrick's confidence is building? When the 20-year-old is feeling good about himself, he's a different player and it's showing right now.

Patrick scored a pair of goals, the second off some pretty stick-handling to give the Flyers a healthy 4-1 lead in the third period.

After going 24 straight games without a goal and just two points, the 2017 second overall pick has four goals and six points in his last three contests.

The Flyers have desperately needed his depth down the middle and they're starting to get it. Whether it's too late for the Flyers' hopes this season is the question.

• We're starting to see more and more why James van Riemsdyk scored 30-plus goals twice during his time in Toronto. His big frame coupled with superb skill at redirecting shots makes him a terror around the net.

A minute and a half after the Flyers took a 1-0 lead in the middle stanza, van Riemsdyk added to the advantage by deflecting home a Robert Hagg shot. 

The goal was van Riemsdyk's sixth in his last five games. It's no coincidence the Flyers have won four of those five games.

• Travis Konecny broke the ice with three minutes left in the second period on a nasty shot while falling to his knees. However, the play to set up the rebound opportunity was a real positive for Shayne Gostisbehere.

The 25-year-old defenseman has not been himself after a career year in 2017-18, but he created a give-and-go with Sean Couturier to get a shot on net. The Flyers had little going for them and to see Gostisbehere make a play from the blue line should only help his confidence.

Konecny actually misfired on a few shots from in close, so he realistically could have had the Flyers' third hat trick in as many games.

• Because he's a tough, grind-around-the-net kind of player, Wayne Simmonds doesn't get enough credit for his smarts and skill. He completed an excellent 2-on-1 with Patrick to hand the Flyers a commanding 3-0 lead in the third period. 

Simmonds was patient with the puck and didn't rush his decision, baiting Jeff Petry before feeding Patrick for the tally.

The 30-year-old is heating up and you can bet contending teams will be willing to cough up a hefty sum for Simmonds. His stock is rising right now.

Simmonds nearly had his 16th goal, too, clanging a shot off the post from in deep during the opening two minutes, a chance he buries nine times out of 10. He knew it as he was seen hitting himself in the head shortly after the play.

• Carter Hart came in 3-2-1 with a 2.69 goals-against average, .925 save percentage and an NHL-most 196 saves since Jan. 5. 

He was the team's best player during the opening period in which the Flyers were outshot 12-1. Hart kept the game scoreless, giving his team a chance.

He made 33 saves and has solidified his roster spot here in Philadelphia.

Interim head coach Scott Gordon said there's a chance Hart plays for AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley next weekend before the Flyers get back in the swing of things. Hart will have plenty of rest after playing seven of the last eight games. It can't hurt to get him a tune-up before the Flyers resume their schedule.

• With their bye week followed by the All-Star break, the Flyers don't play again until Monday, Jan. 28, when they host the Central Division-leading Jets (7 p.m./NBCSP).

Ten of the Flyers' next 15 games come at the Wells Fargo Center.

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5 Flyers takeaways: Why Brian Elliott is back, what could be next, more

5 Flyers takeaways: Why Brian Elliott is back, what could be next, more

VOORHEES, N.J. — The Flyers continued their busy roster construction with the re-signing of goalie Brian Elliott on Wednesday afternoon to nail down the team's backup for Carter Hart in 2019-20.

General manager Chuck Fletcher has made things happen, while the start of the July 1 free agency period has yet to arrive.

With that said, let's get into five takeaways on the recent developments with the Flyers:

1. Good for the Hart?

The Flyers did their homework in search for a backup goaltender. After exhausting and analyzing all avenues, they were confident with bringing back Elliott, who was set to become an unrestricted free agent.

"We took full advantage of the shopping period, as I believe he did, too," Fletcher said Wednesday at Flyers Skate Zone. "We spoke to quite a few goaltenders this week, quite a few agents for goaltenders this week. We did a lot of due diligence looking into everyone's background, medical histories and stats — everything we can do."

Fletcher said the Flyers talked "extensively" to both Elliott and soon-to-be unrestricted free agent Cam Talbot. Ultimately, Talbot indicated to the Flyers that he was "looking for a situation where he felt he might play a little bit more than what he anticipated playing here," Fletcher said.

As we wrote here, Elliott was a cost-effective, internal option for the Flyers. Does his recent injury history make the decision a risk? Absolutely, but Fletcher noted how Elliott finished the 2018-19 season healthy and said the 34-year-old feels "the best he's felt in a while" since his core muscle issues.

He has a full summer of training. He's not just rehabbing, he's training.

At the end of the day, we know Brian as well as, if not better than, everybody — we know his medical history, we know how he fits in the room, we know how he fits with Carter and we know how well he plays.

He takes care of himself, he's a high-end competitor and he's a good teammate. For us, it made a lot of sense.

2. Net gains

Elliott is competitive and will push Hart for playing time. Given Talbot was eyeing more starts elsewhere, it's clear Elliott was receptive to the situation with the Flyers: Hart is the guy. It doesn't mean Elliott won't be needed. After all, Hart will be only 21 years old and in his first full NHL season, while the Flyers have 17 back-to-back sets on their schedule.

"I anticipate both guys playing," Fletcher said. "I think the days of a 65- to 70-game goaltender are probably gone. Somewhere in the 30-to-50 range for each guy … it'll depend on performance, health and schedule."

If the Flyers can get 30 games out of Elliott, they'd take it. Even after he missed a 40-game stretch last season with a lower-body injury, Elliott still managed to play 26 games.

3. Placing Pitlick

The Flyers on Monday acquired forward Tyler Pitlick in a trade with the Stars.

How does the 27-year-old work into the team's plans?

"He's been mainly a bottom-six player," Fletcher said. "He's played the third line, he's the played fourth line, he brings good size, he's a good skater. Has a pretty consistent north-south, physical game. Brings a lot of energy. Shoots the puck pretty well, he can certainly score a goal, but his bread and butter is that puck pressure, forechecking type of game. The size and the speed fit well with what we want to try to create in terms of our bottom six."

The Flyers definitely want to be tougher to play against and Pitlick should help. If anything, he gives Alain Vigneault and the coaching staff another piece. Moving Ryan Hartman in the deal offered the Flyers a bit more cost certainty with the cap and signing their restricted free agents.

4. More to come?

Are the Flyers done adding? Not necessarily.

The club has around $16 million in cap space if Philippe Myers makes the roster over David Schlemko. Fletcher still needs to sign four restricted free agents in Travis Konecny, Ivan Provorov, Scott Laughton and Nicolas Aube-Kubel.

"We have plenty of cap space to bring our players back," Fletcher said. "Whether we have enough to go add another player, I'm not sure about that."

With the way the offseason has gone, don't ever rule out a trade. But it sounds like if the Flyers are seeking anything else, it will come in the form of depth at forward.

"We feel we've made some key additions, we've filled some holes and we have some pretty good young kids coming, too," Fletcher said. "I think our depth will be significantly better and hopefully on July 1 and 2, we'll have some more announcements to make on some players that can come in and help our organization — whether it's in Lehigh Valley or Philadelphia. I think we'll be in a good space in having good players and having sufficient depth."

5. A kid's game

Fletcher has not ruled out a prospect taking a job within the group of forwards. That, along with the cap, are reasons for why the Flyers don't appear overly eager to land a high-end forward before training camp.

Some prospects that could potentially fill out the Flyers' lineup: Aube-Kubel, Carsen Twarynski, Mikhail Vorobyev, Joel Farabee, Morgan Frost and Isaac Ratcliffe.

"We have five real good wingers — certainly better wingers than any team I've been a part of," Fletcher said. "To me, that wasn't an area of weakness. But we'll see. We'll also see what comes out of training camp. Just watching this development camp, there are a lot of young kids, and ideally they all get some time in the American league, but there's a lot of high-end talent here.

"It's been impressive to see. Our scouting staff has done a tremendous job. This is the most talent I've seen in a development camp in my whatever number of years I've been in the business — both in terms of quality and quantity and every position.

"At some point, there are certainly players in this camp right now that could impact our roster in a positive way."

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Flyers sign Brian Elliott to 1-year contract extension

Flyers sign Brian Elliott to 1-year contract extension

VOORHEES, N.J. — The Flyers have their backup for Carter Hart.

Brian Elliott on Wednesday signed a one-year, $2 million contract extension with the Flyers. The 34-year-old was set to become an unrestricted free agent after two seasons with the Flyers in which he went 34-22-8 with a 2.77 goals-against average and .908 save percentage over 69 games (65 starts). He has battled injuries each year, missing a 40-game stretch last season because of a lower-body injury and significant time in 2017-18 following core muscle surgery he underwent on Feb. 13.

The backup to Hart will be crucial in 2019-20. Not only will Hart be just 21 years old and facing his first full NHL season, but the Flyers also play 17 back-to-back sets, which is four more than they did a year ago. Thirteen of those sets will be a part of stretches in which the Flyers play three games in four nights.

"Brian has played well for us the last two seasons," Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said in a release by the team. "He is a proven, quality goaltender who competes and battles hard every time he has the net. We are excited to have him rejoin our team."

The Flyers had Elliott and Cam Talbot, two soon-to-be unrestricted free agents, as No. 2 options. They also could have gone the trade or free-agent market route. Fletcher, though, had more pressing areas to address like signing Kevin Hayes to bolster the forwards, reshaping the defense and creating as much cap flexibility as possible. Elliott was a veteran, cost-effective, internal option, but was he the best option?

While Elliott doesn't appear as the most reliable backup given his age and recent injury history, he's played in a tandem for most his career, is familiar with the Flyers and has at least been productive when healthy. He'll have to prove he can stay healthy enough to spell Hart from time to time. If he can't, the Flyers could be in trouble — again — and scrambling for somebody that can be trusted (see story).

At his end-of-the season press conference, you could sense Elliott's competitiveness.

"The mentor thing gets kind of caught up. It's a tough word choice," Elliott said. "I think [Hart] needs someone that is going to help him along the way and push him to be better. Hartsy is a great young goalie and is going to be good in this league for a long time. The Philly fans have a lot to look forward to."

The Flyers have around $16 million in cap space if Philippe Myers is on the roster over David Schlemko. Fletcher has to re-sign restricted free agents Travis Konecny, Ivan Provorov, Scott Laughton and Nicolas Aube-Kubel.

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