Hagg nets 1st goal as Flyers hone killer instinct

Hagg nets 1st goal as Flyers hone killer instinct


He’s been hitting anything that moves all season. However, for the first time Wednesday night, Robert Hagg finally struck the most elusive target on his hit list.

The back of the net.

Coming into the Flyers’ game with the Red Wings, Hagg had attempted 79 shots - 37 of those were saved and the other 42 hit the opponent’s body or just missed everything altogether.

“It’s fun, especially with a win,” Hagg said following the Flyers’ 4-3 victory over the Red Wings (see observations). “I was just closing my eyes and hoping for the best. When I looked up and saw the puck go in, there was a lot of emotion coming out. I had few chances earlier this season, so to see that one go in feels pretty damn good.”

While Hagg may have wondered when that first goal would eventually go his way, goaltender Brian Elliott started to sense something different in the practices leading up to this game.

“Actually, the last couple of days I’ve noticed his shot has had a little more zip on it,” Elliott said. “It doesn’t go unnoticed on my end, but that was awesome.

“You saw up and down on the bench the guys celebrating really hard for that one. When a guy with his kind of grit brings it every night and takes the cream in the corner, it’s awesome to see those type of guys get goals.”

Hagg’s second-period, game-tying goal came just two minutes after the Red Wings had taken a 3-2 lead. The marker allowed the Flyers to make a strong third-period push against a Detroit team that had played the night before.

“It’s kinda funny,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “He had to answer a bunch of questions about not scoring goals over the past couple of days. I wished you guys would have asked him about it a month or two ago, but his game has been the same as its been over the last month, month and a half.”

Hagg has been a defensive staple since earning his roster spot straight out of training camp. He hasn’t missed a game or a chance to nail an opponent. Hagg’s 117 hits rank second in the NHL, while he’s also helped stabilize the Flyers’ second defense pairing in his tandem with Shayne Gostisbehere.

Perhaps what made the night complete for Hagg was his late-game assignment with the Flyers clinging to a third-period lead. Throughout the final period, Hagg was matched up against fellow Swede and Red Wings captain, Henrik Zetterberg, who Hagg admired while learning the game of hockey in Uppsala, Sweden.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Hagg said. “When I grew up, he was a big star over here. To get a chance to play against him was pretty awesome.”  

“That’s a matchup we changed as we went through the game,” Hakstol said. “That wasn’t our initial matchup on the back end, but those two (Hagg and Gostisbehere), as we went into the middle part of the game we made that change.”

Hagg and the Flyers were able to offset another sluggish, inconsistent first period with a tightly-played, defensive-minded third period when they limited the Red Wings to just four shots on net. Locking down leads over the past few weeks has contributed to the Flyers’ turnaround, which has allowed the team to go from dropping 10 straight to now having won seven of the last eight games.

“You saw the guys putting their bodies on the line,” Elliott said. “Gudy (Radko Gudas) probably had more stops than I did tonight. Provy (Ivan Provorov) took one in the second period that looked like it took him down a little bit. Putting their bodies on the line, and we know that these points are big. Every little play means a lot, especially when you’re trying to close out games in the third period.”

Flyers re-sign restricted free agent Anthony Stolarz

Flyers re-sign restricted free agent Anthony Stolarz

General manager Ron Hextall is nearly finished wrapping up contracts for his restricted free agents.

And his goalie picture is now clear for 2018-19.

The Flyers on Wednesday re-signed netminder Anthony Stolarz to a one-year, two-way contract. The deal is worth $761,250, according to a report by hockey writer John Hoven.

With Stolarz back, defenseman Robert Hagg remains the Flyers' lone restricted free agent.

Stolarz, a 2012 second-round pick, underwent a nightmarish 2017-18 season just a year after he made his NHL debut and performed well in seven games with the Flyers. The 24-year-old tore the meniscus in his left knee during early September, the same injury he suffered at the end of 2016-17 with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

He played in just one AHL game and three ECHL contests as a result. In 2016-17, he made his way to the big club and put up a 2.07 goals-against average and .928 save percentage in a small sample. Then the injury occurred with the Phantoms and it's been an uphill battle ever since for the 6-foot-6, 210-pounder.

Stolarz will have his work cut out for him — if he hasn't already — as playing time will be earned at Lehigh Valley with Alex Lyon back in the fold and Carter Hart joining them.

"It's just competition. No one is going to go in there and hand you a job, so you have to earn it,” Stolarz said in June after an on-ice workout at Flyers Skate Zone. "I think the thing for me is to prove I'm healthy. I don't think I've skated since the end of January. I had the one flare up before one of my games and it had nothing to do with my knee injury. It was a separate injury. I think the biggest thing is proving I'm healthy and going out there and working to prove I'm still a high-caliber goalie."

The Flyers' goaltending tandem is set with Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth, both of whom are in the final year of their contracts. Things obviously can change this offseason, as Neuvirth and Stolarz seemed like realistic trade candidates.

But as of now, it's Elliott and Neuvirth with the younger trio pushing and competing.

"I'd rather have too many goalies than too few," Hextall said earlier this month. "If something makes sense and we can make something happen, we'd at least look at it. We saw it last year. All of a sudden, a couple goalies go down and you're scrambling for goalies. If we start with five, we start with five. Not a perfect situation, but again, I'd rather start with five than with three."

More on the Flyers' goalies

• Following 'gloomy' time, what's next for Elliott?

• Why Neuvirth's NHL career hinges on this offseason

• Hart says so long to Twitter, hello to pro life

• No arbitration needed for Flyers and Lyon

• Sandstrom hungry to prove he's not the 'other' goalie

Former Flyers goalie Ray Emery dies at 35

Former Flyers goalie Ray Emery dies at 35

Former Flyers goaltender Ray Emery died Sunday morning. First responders pulled his body out of Hamilton Harbour, where he had been swimming with friends. An investigation into the cause of death is still ongoing. 

Emery was 35.

According to local authorities, Emery was checking out a friend’s boat docked at Royal Hamilton Yacht Club when the group he was with decided to jump in the water around 6:30 a.m. Emery’s body never surfaced and was eventually recovered around 2:50 p.m. Sunday afternoon. Hamilton police say Emery’s body was recovered in close proximity to where he was last seen.

Emery was last seen publicly with a handful of his former teammates Saturday night as the goaltender participated in Zac Rinaldo’s charity hockey game in Hamilton. Emery can be seen standing during the playing of “O Canada.”

"The Philadelphia Flyers are stunned and extremely saddened to hear of the tragic passing of former Flyers goaltender Ray Emery," president Paul Holmgren said in a statement from the team. "Ray was an outstanding teammate and an extremely gifted goaltender. He had exceptional athleticism, was a fierce competitor and battled in every game he played with the Flyers.

"His performances through the 2009-10 season were a very big part of the team's success in making the playoffs and reaching the Stanley Cup Final. Ray's talent, work ethic and determination helped him enjoy a successful 11-year NHL career. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends during this difficult time."

Several of Emery’s former teammates over the years offered their condolences via Twitter after learning of the tragedy.

Former Flyer Daniel Carcillo shared the he was crushed by the news (NSFW).

Jakub Voracek also shared his condolences (NSFW).

Emery joined the Flyers in June 2009 on a one-year contract, shutting out the Carolina Hurricanes 2-0 in his Flyers debut. The goaltender’s first stint in Philadelphia was cut short when he suffered a muscle tear in his abdomen in December missing the remainder of the season. Emery was later diagnosed with avascular necrosis — a degenerative condition to the bone tissue in his hip.

After undergoing successful surgery, Emery eventually joined the Ducks before winning a Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2013. Impressively, Emery finished the regular season with a 17-1-0 record. He re-signed with the Flyers that summer as a backup to Steve Mason.

Emery’s most infamous moment in Philadelphia came during an ugly 7-0 loss to the Washington Capitals on November 1, 2013, as the Flyers netminder pummeled Caps goalie Braden Holtby during a line brawl in the early stages of the third period.

Emery faced criminal charges over a handful of off-the-ice incidents and altercations. Most recently, he was arrested for assault with a weapon in 2017 against former fiancé Keshia Chanté. 

Emery played a total of 287 NHL games, 88 with the Flyers.