Flyers

End to End: 2016-17 Flyers, Stanley Cup predictions

End to End: 2016-17 Flyers, Stanley Cup predictions

Flyers hockey is back.

Dave Hakstol and company open the 2016-17 regular season Friday in Los Angeles against the Kings (10:30 p.m./CSN).

Throughout the season, our resident hockey analysts will discuss hot topics surrounding the team.

Let's start with a special prediction-focused End to End, featuring Flyers Insider Tim Panaccio, CSNPhilly.com producers/reporters Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone.

Panaccio

Flyers prediction/outlook
The Flyers won't win the Metropolitan Division.

The Penguins will but I see the Flyers getting into the playoffs via the wild card, just as they did last season.

A lot could go very smoothly for them if they get off to a quick start instead of chasing the entire pack, start to finish, as they have the past three seasons. 

Stanley Cup Final prediction
I have Tampa Bay winning the Cup over the St. Louis Blues. 

We will never know whether the Bolts would have beaten Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference finals had Steven Stamkos been healthy and playing the entire series. I think a healthy Stamkos makes the difference this season. 

It is virtually impossible in the NHL to repeat as Cup champions. No one has done it since Detroit before the turn of the new millennium. That said, the Penguins brought back nearly their entire roster and did not lose a single core player. 

St. Louis plays in the toughest division in hockey and this figures to be Ken Hitchcock's last season before he moves into management. 

Dougherty

Flyers prediction/outlook
The Flyers are no doubt a playoff team again in 2016-17, strictly because of their goaltending. Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth give them a fighting chance at finishing third in the Metropolitan Division, and with a slightly improved team from last season, an opportunity to move past the opening round. Still, I don't see them going far.

With Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov on the Flyers, this season will be exciting to watch. Konecny gives the orange and black, on paper, a legitimate top six. They have two lines with scoring potential, and I think we see Sean Couturier break out this year.

The defense is still not perfect, but Provorov will help the team make incremental improvements on the blue line. I expect Shayne Gostisbehere to regress in his sophomore season, and I believe we saw glimpses of that in the preseason.

So Philadelphia gets another round of playoff hockey, which is always exciting. Anything can happen once late April comes around. They'll be there again. No doubt in my mind.

The Flyers finish third in the Metropolitan and lose in the opening round of the postseason.

Stanley Cup Final prediction
In Hitchcock’s final season as head coach, the St. Louis Blues will finally enjoy a deep playoff run in 2016-17, and hoist the Stanley Cup in June, beating the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games. I will most likely be wrong because I have been the last four years.

The Blues have been my Cup pick each of the past four seasons. Call it ignorance, call it whatever you want, but there’s too much to like about this group for me not to pick them again. Their defense is one of the deepest in the league, they have a bunch of skill up front and they finally settled in on a goalie. This is the year they finally figure it out.

Hall

Flyers prediction/outlook
I know we should exercise patience with two 19-year-old rookies, but my gut tells me at least one will make a sizable splash this season.

The more we saw Konecny during the preseason, the more it looked like he could add a serious and much-needed element of playmaking to the Flyers.

Provorov was just as impressive. He was durable and reliable in all facets. It’s clear he can strengthen the Flyers’ defense.

Even general manager Ron Hextall, a master of prudence, couldn’t keep the kids down.

The pair will make the Flyers better — and more than we think. The defense isn’t where it should be, but the Flyers should see an uptick in scoring, strong goaltending and an improved penalty kill.

The orange and black still have a ways to go, but 2016-17 will be a healthy step forward.

They'll just miss out on third place in the Metropolitan Division, snag a wild-card spot but lose in the first round.

Stanley Cup Final prediction
I’m going to say the Capitals finally erase their ghosts of postseason failure and win the Cup this season.

They remain loaded and should be angrier and more determined than ever after bowing out again before the conference finals.

Let’s go Capitals over the Blackhawks.

Paone

Flyers prediction/outlook
The infusion of stud rookies Provorov and Konecny will make the Flyers markedly better this season. They each fill needs the Flyers have had for a while now — an all-round anchor on the blue line and a scoring winger — and do so at cheap rates, which helps the cap situation.

But do two 19-year-olds make the Flyers better than others in the top-heavy Metropolitan Division at this point in time? Probably not. Outside of those two, the Flyers return basically the same team as last season. While that team made great strides in reaching the playoffs last season and should continue to grow in Hakstol’s second year at the helm, it still isn't near the level of the Penguins or Capitals yet. The Islanders have boatloads of talent and the Rangers still have Henrik Lundqvist.

That said, I do see the Flyers making their way into the playoffs as a wild card, just as they did last season. But I don’t see them getting past the Caps, Pens, Lightning or Panthers just yet. Those teams are just way too deep.

Next year is the year to target for a bigger Flyers jump as cap dollars roll out and more and more young talent is able to roll in. But, hey, that’s why they play the games, right?

The Flyers finish fifth in the Metro, make the playoffs as a wild card and lose in the first round of the playoffs.

I envision the Metro breaking down like this: 1. Capitals 2. Penguins 3. Islanders 4. Rangers (wild card) 5. Flyers (wild card).

Stanley Cup Final prediction
Count me as a believer in the Panthers. The bundle of young talent they have is ready to compete at a high level and the Atlantic is basically up for grabs.

I feel this is the year the Blues, deep as ever, finally break through as they have their goalie in Jake Allen and Vladamir Tarasenko is a superstar who can score at will.

It's St. Louis' year.

Blues over Panthers.

The best of Jakub Voracek on his 29th birthday

The best of Jakub Voracek on his 29th birthday

It's Aug. 15, the dog days of summer and hockey is still a few weeks away.

But Jakub Voracek turns 29 years old today and this summer, the winger has already played a big part in helping push the Flyers' process into its next stage by helping recruit James van Riemsdyk back to town (see story).

Voracek is coming off a career-best season at 28 years old, posting 85 points in 82 games in 2017-18. He finished fourth in the NHL with 65 assists and ninth with 35 power-play points.

All of this came after a somewhat disappointing 2016-17 season — 61 points in 82 games, not particularly bad numbers but also not the production you'd like from a player with an $8.25 million cap hit and in Year 1 of an eight-year, $66 million extension.

Last season, though, Voracek proved that he can still very much produce at a top level. Since joining the Flyers in 2011-12, Voracek is third among all wingers with 303 assists and fifth in points with 439. Since the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign, he's eighth among all skaters with 272 assists and 15th in points with 390.

With today being Voracek's birthday, let's take a look back at some of the best from his time as a Flyer because Voracek is one of the most personable players around.

Some plays

Jan. 27, 2016: Voracek scored the game-winner 38 seconds into overtime. It was an important goal in a big game as the Flyers were in the middle of a wild-card chase (see story).

Oct. 14, 2017: The Flyers put a pounding on the Capitals in an 8-2 win at the Wells Fargo Center. Voracek had three assists. This one was one of them. Poor Madison Bowey.

Jan. 13, 2018: Voracek has also torched other teams than the Capitals. Here is a kick pass to Giroux against the Devils in North Jersey.


Some fights

Voracek is not exactly a fighter. According to hockeyfights.com, he has four official fights during the regular season and all have come with the Flyers.

There was the time he dropped the gloves with Gabriel Landeskog for about 30 seconds in Colorado and then said, "I don't think I picked the right city to fight in."

Then there was the time when he roughed up Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi.


Some singing

Sportswriters aren't the only ones who like Bruce Springsteen. Yes, Voracek is also a fan.


A little charity

On Feb. 28, 2017, against the Avalanche, Voracek was eventually credited with a goal many Flyers fans believed was Wayne Simmonds' hat trick. In fact, 396 hats came pouring down to the ice.

As a gesture for taking a hat trick away from Simmonds, Voracek purchased 396 new Flyers hats and donated them to local hospitals for children battling cancer (see story).

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Flyers will face New York Islanders again in annual rookie game

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USA Today Images

Flyers will face New York Islanders again in annual rookie game

While the Flyers have not announced the start of their rookie and training camp, they did provide an indication Tuesday of when the camps will be.

For the third straight season, the Flyers and New York Islanders will square off Sept. 12 in their annual rookie game. This time, it returns to New York.

The game will be at 6 p.m. on Sept. 12 at the Northwell Health Ice Center, the Islanders' practice facility in East Meadow, New York. According to Newsday's Andrew Gross, ticket proceeds will benefit the Islanders' Children's Foundation.

In years past, the Flyers have streamed the games on their official website.

Last year, the Flyers-Islanders rookie game was on Sept. 13, 2017, two days after rookie camp began and two days before the main camp opened.

The rookie game marks the official end of rookie camp, so by the process of elimination, a safe guess would be the Flyers' rookie camp will be Sept. 10 and training camp likely opening a day or two after the game.

The Islanders beat the Flyers, 4-3, in overtime last September. The Flyers won the first game two years ago. From 2007 to 2014, the Flyers and Capitals faced each other in their annual rookie games.

Rookie games are fun because they're the first glimpse of prospects and with the Flyers, there's a ton to be excited about — even if signing James van Riemsdyk accelerates their process (see story).

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