Flyers

Which streak was Flyers' true colors?

Which streak was Flyers' true colors?

Throughout the season, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End today are NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com producers/reporters Tom Dougherty and Jordan Hall.

The topic: Which streak was more representative of the Flyers?

Dougherty
If there is anything we've learned over the past eight weeks, it's that the Flyers are not as bad as their 10-game losing streak nor as good as their six-game winning streak that followed.

There were times during the 10-game skid they were victims of bad bounces, but there were also a few clunkers in there. The Vancouver, San Jose and Boston losses were some of the worst efforts this team has had under Dave Hakstol.

Then there were times during the season-high six-game winning streak that fell one win shy of tying an odd NHL record for most wins following a 10-game losing streak the Flyers probably should have lost. The Buffalo and Dallas wins come to mind.

What that tells us is, the Flyers are a streaky team not quite ready for prime time, but not quite bad enough to deserve low fan turnout. The Flyers, while in a bigger rebuild than imagined, are again a fringe playoff team — like the past two seasons.

Brian Elliott has been stellar in his first season as a Flyer, and Hakstol has relied on him heavily because of (surprise) an injury to Michal Neuvirth. Neuvirth could return as early as Thursday in Florida.

Elliott has started the Flyers' past 11 games and has a .933 save percentage over that span. Even during the 10-game losing streak, the losses could not have been pinned on the goaltending.

With Elliott, the Flyers have a chance to win each night. That's all you can ask for from a goaltender when you don't have a goalie such as Sergei Bobrovsky.

There have been enough encouraging signs over the past three weeks that suggests this Flyers team could squeak into the playoffs this April, with secondary scoring atop the list.

Sean Couturier has proven to be a legitimate top-line center, with a career-high 16 goals already. Claude Giroux is back to producing at an elite level. Jake Voracek is back.

Nolan Patrick, while not contributing as one would like, has trended upward over the past three games. He even centered the team's second line with Voracek and Michael Raffl on his wings in the Flyers' last game before the holiday break.

Travis Konecny has found his way into the top six. Will that continue after the Christmas break? We'll see, but he was buzzing with Couturier and Giroux in Columbus.

The defense is young with two rookies. Robert Hagg has been steady and plays far beyond his rookie label, while Travis Sanheim is progressing, though patchy at times. Ivan Provorov has had a bumpy last few games, but he's proven stellar in his second NHL season. He's a rock. Shayne Gostisbehere is back to producing offensively, which has covered up some of his deficiencies. It's been a solid start for "Ghost."

There will be some more bumps along the road as the Flyers close out the season, and when evaluating this team, it's safe to say the Flyers are somewhere in between the team that lost 10 straight and then won six straight.

They sit four points out of the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot as of today. As the schedule ramps up and the games begin to matter more, the Flyers are in a position to strike.

It was hard to see a month ago, but the postseason is still within grasp.

Hall
Obviously, the Flyers didn't play well during their 10-game losing streak.

But they weren't downright awful, either.

Half of the defeats came after regulation (when anything can happen and the previous 60 minutes are thrown out the window), while the Flyers also outshot the opposition in five of those contests.

“If we were playing poorly, I’d be the first to say, ‘We’re playing poorly.’ I would be," Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said following the ninth straight defeat on Nov. 28. "We are not playing poorly and to look objectively at our team right now and to say we’re playing poorly, no.

“As a manager, I have to be realistic with how our team is playing. I think right now, as a whole, I think we’ve played better than our record.”

There's a reason they won six straight directly after the 10-game skid. It wasn't strictly a coincidence or a flip of the switch. The Flyers, in fact, weren't far off, maybe just a play or two away from wins during that stretch.

The last time the Flyers lost 10 consecutive games (Feb. 6-23, 2008), they went to the Eastern Conference Finals the same season, which goes to show you streaks in hockey aren't always indicative of the play on the ice or the fate of a team.

Are the Flyers where they want to be? No, but we saw more potential in the six-game winning streak than reality in the 10-game losing streak.

A little bit of time and growth should further prove that, too.

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.