Flyers

So far, the Flyers are who we thought they were

So far, the Flyers are who we thought they were

The Flyers were playing a winless team.

During the second period alone, Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds scored two goals apiece as the Flyers went off for five in the stanza.

Overall, 10 different players registered at least a point and Christian Folin, viewed as the team's seventh defenseman, finished with a plus-4 rating.

So how did this one end for the Flyers?

Jordan Weal squeaking a shootout goal between the legs of Panthers netminder Michael Hutchinson and Calvin Pickard, who was with another club two weeks ago, putting on the finishing touches at the other end for a 6-5 survival (see observations).

Tuesday's game should have never sniffed overtime or the Flyers' hallowed skills competition.

Inconceivably, it did.

It did because what felt like the chief storyline and concern surrounding the 2018-19 club slipped past the curtain and took center stage: the Flyers will have no problem scoring goals, but can they prevent the opposition from doing the same?

The answer was obvious and blurted out Tuesday.

From the defensemen to the forwards, there are far too many breakdowns in front of Brian Elliott, inconsistency that leads to 5-2 advantages being erased on home ice by a team walking into the Wells Fargo Center without a victory or a power-play goal. And it's difficult to rely on Elliott, at 33 years old, to make numerous bail-you-out saves on a nightly basis.

It won't happen.

When play in front isn't good and Elliott isn't sharp, either, a result like Tuesday's becomes galling, but not so surprising. Especially when your top defensive pair looks just as suspect as anyone else instead of the surefire bet everyone expected (see story)

Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov are both a team-worst minus-5 through six games, which tells a big part of the story.

Head coach Dave Hakstol walked to the postgame podium wearing a stern, almost disconcerting look, one you would anticipate following an 8-2 loss in the home opener.

And could you blame him? In desperation, he had to pull his goalie holding a 5-4 lead five minutes into the third period.

"I think it's more just a reset on the bench and that's a big part of the message," Hakstol said. "Reset here, fellas, get going in the right direction.

"Kind of a crazy game."

Not in a good way.

The Flyers are tied for seventh in the NHL with 21 goals scored, but have allowed the second most at 25. The only team to surrender more has been the Red Wings, who are 0-4-2.

The Flyers are 3-3-0 … barely.

"When you look back on it, it's just two points," Pickard said. "We'll take it any way we can get them."

Right now, it's to dare the opponent to score with them. It makes for entertaining, wacky and sometimes thrilling, hold-your-breath victories.

Or, it makes for a devastating loss.

The Flyers were on the good side Tuesday.

They should know that won't always be the case.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Flyers

2020 NHL playoffs: Picking Flyers' top 5 reinforcements among roster in 24-team tournament

2020 NHL playoffs: Picking Flyers' top 5 reinforcements among roster in 24-team tournament

It's uncertain how many players will be permitted on the Flyers' roster during the NHL's 24-team return-to-play tournament. Rosters could expand to 28 players with an unlimited number of goalies but that determination is still being finalized by the NHL and NHLPA ahead of training camps (Phase 3), which are slated to begin July 10.

We gave our predictions for the Flyers' best lineup to open the tournament. As more players make their way back to Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey, for voluntary workouts (Phase 2), we're going to pick our top five reinforcements for head coach Alain Vigneault during the playoffs.

Let's get into it:

Morgan Frost

If the Flyers go into a mini scoring funk and are desperate for an injection of offense, Frost will be their best card to play.

The 21-year-old center is a lightning strike scorer because of his high-level skill and natural ability to make things happen. When Frost was called up to the big club in November for his NHL debut, he made a bang with two goals (his first being a filthy one) and three points over his opening two games.

Scott Laughton and Derek Grant are versatile players who can slide to the wing if the Flyers need a jolt down the middle from Frost.


Shayne Gostisbehere

Flyers training camp hasn't arrived yet, so we don't know how Vigneault will line up his defensive pairs and who will be the odd man out.

Say Robert Hagg and Philippe Myers get the nods over Gostisbehere, No. 53 might be the most talented seventh defenseman you'll find in the 24-team field.

Similar to Frost, Gostisbehere has the makings of a spark plug with the way he elusively transitions the puck. He endured a regular season to forget, playing in only two of the Flyers' final 26 games, but the guy isn't far removed from a 65-point 2017-18 campaign.

Not a bad club for Vigneault to have in his bag.

Nate Thompson

Although it's not a definite by any means, Thompson appears to be the forward that would come out to open a spot for James van Riemsdyk, who is now healthy after breaking his right index finger in March.

What makes the 35-year-old Thompson such quality insurance for the Flyers? The trade deadline acquisition owns 62 career playoff appearances, has played in an Eastern Conference Final and a Western Conference Final, can win faceoffs and help kill penalties.


Connor Bunnaman

Bunnaman, who really caught the eye of the Flyers in camp and the preseason, did exactly what the club wanted from him as a fourth-line center when his number was called.

The 22-year-old rookie was smart, reliable and noticeable in limited minutes. He has good size (6-3/214), sneaky offensive ability and was a plus-7 in 21 games this season.

The only reason he was sent down to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley in late February was because the Flyers gained the experience of Grant and Thompson at the deadline.


Carsen Twarynski

Another rookie, the 22-year-old Twarynski is a good winger to have at one's disposal because he plays an effort-based game.

If Vigneault needs him, he'll know exactly what he's getting in Twarynski, who exemplifies a bottom-six style and moves well for his size (6-2/206).


Don't forget ...

Nolan Patrick, whose status is very much unknown for the 24-team tournament after the 21-year-old missed the regular season with a migraine disorder. However, if Patrick is able to join the picture, the Flyers would suddenly be a whole lot deeper.

Alex Lyon, who is the Flyers' third goalie. If Carter Hart or Brian Elliott were to sustain any injuries, Lyon's importance would grow significantly.

Mark Friedman, who could be the Flyers' eighth defenseman. Vigneault liked what he saw from Friedman during the 24-year-old's six games with the club.

Andy Andreoff, who is a physical 29-year-old winger with 173 games of NHL experience.

Sports Uncovered is on all podcast platforms: click here to subscribe now!

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Flyers

2019-20 Flyers season grades: Carter Hart

2019-20 Flyers season grades: Carter Hart

The 2019-20 NHL regular season has concluded and the next time the puck drops will officially kick off the race to the Stanley Cup. The Flyers are hungry and ready to battle it out, but that is thanks to the hard work from back in October. 

In an End to End series, NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Brooke Destra, Katie Emmer, Taryn Hatcher, Joe Fordyce and Jordan Hall will be grading players based on individual performances. 

Today we will be looking at Carter Hart.

Destra

If Hart performed on the road like the way he did at home this season, chances are, he’d be in consideration for the Vezina Trophy. That’s a tall task for the 21-year-old goaltender, but it’s clear he holds to potential to win it one day. Am I getting ahead of myself? Probably. But when was the last time we were able to hold this discussion for a Flyers goalie?

At home: 20-3-2, 1.63 GAA, .945 save percentage
On the road: 4-10-1, 3.81 GAA, .857 save percentage

It’s crazy how his home and road numbers differ, almost like it was two separate players — but for someone in just their second year in the league to have such a promising future, it makes up for it. 

If veteran goaltender Brian Elliott didn’t have such a solid season on the road, this would’ve made things much worse for the Flyers and Hart. Luckily, the combination of the two made for some of the best goaltending Philadelphia has seen in years. 

I have to split these grades into two — A+ for home Hart, C- for road Hart.

Emmer

Hart had some ups and downs this season, but mostly ups.

His maturity and mental toughness are far beyond his years as a 21-year-old. When he dealt with adversity, you saw him take responsibility for his mistakes, rarely complain and show a response the next time out. 

That maturity stood out in a different way in January when he suffered an abdominal injury. Hart pulled himself from practice — he knew the importance of his health to the team. He wasn’t trying to play through it and make it any worse than it was. Fortunately, with time and extra care, he recovered quickly. Hart being the competitor he is, that showed he was a complete team player.

The youngest active goalie in the NHL has skill beyond his years as well. His record during the regular season at the Wells Fargo Center was outstanding (20-3-2, .943 save percentage, 1.63 GAA). His record on the road wasn’t as strong, but it ended up working out in tandem with Elliott. Hart had two wins against the Bruins, one win over the Caps, three straight wins over the Rangers and recorded his first career shutout in 2019-20.

Though it wasn’t complete, his performance in his first full NHL regular season deserves an A-.

Hatcher

It’s still pretty astounding to me where Hart is already at in his career considering that just a year and a half ago, the Flyers' front office was concerned about forcing him to play at the NHL level too soon. I mean, he’s still not even 22 years old yet, so it’s completely understandable why that was a concern. But, I think those same people now have to feel that the best-case scenario has played out for Hart. 

Yes, there were some road struggles this year for Hart, and no he’s not taking home the Vezina yet. But, for a player who started his NHL career in the midst of an insane goaltending situation last year and has quickly become the team's No. 1 guy at 21 years old, he’s handled it remarkably well. 

But, let’s take a look at some numbers, shall we? Hart at 21 years old, in his first (somewhat) full NHL season, he appeared in 43 games, went 24-13-3, recorded a .914 save percentage and 2.42 goals-against average. For comparison, I decided to look up Roberto Luongo’s stats at age 21. At 21 years old, Luongo played in 47 games, went 12-24-7, had a .920 save percentage and 2.44 goals-against average. At 21 years old, Carey Price, arguably the best goaltender in the league and Hart's idol, played in 53 games, went 23-16-10 and had a .905 save percentage and 2.83 goals-against average.

With that in mind, I’m giving him an A.

Fordyce 

Hart at home this season was money in the bank. Bruins, Capitals, the fiercest teams in the league, and Hart had the answer at times facing an onslaught of shots. Interestingly enough, Hart has yet to play a “normal” season. He was brought up during the season last year, and the COVID-19 outbreak paused his second season, so we’ll have to wait to see a full season from the Flyers' franchise goaltender, which likely won’t happen next season either because of the return-to-play plan set forth by the league.

The one blip in Hart’s game is his performance on the road needs to improve slightly. Secondly, Hart at times has a tough time rebounding from a shaky start to a game. For example, if he lets in an early goal, or what would be deemed a “bad goal,” he tends to struggle for the remainder of that game sometimes. It’s clear, though, Hart is the future of the franchise, and home is where the Hart is. 

An A- for Hart.

Hall

Hart delivered the NHL's eighth-best goals-against average at 2.42, better than guys like Andrei Vasilevskiy (2.56) and Jordan Binnington (2.56). With a 24-13-3 record, he owned more victories than guys like Sergei Bobrovsky (23) and Ben Bishop (21).

All at 21 years old and in his first full NHL season. Pretty good.

Sure, he wasn't good on the road, but he was impeccable at home, so the disparity in those splits sort of balanced out.

We're going to give Hart an A- because he's already performing at such a young age in a city that has longed for goaltending.

Sports Uncovered is on all podcast platforms: click here to subscribe now!

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More Flyers grades