Flyers

Flyers-Islanders 10 observations: Obvious Hakstol trusts Neuvirth over Mason

Flyers-Islanders 10 observations: Obvious Hakstol trusts Neuvirth over Mason

The NHL schedule makers continued to pile onto the Flyers on Thursday night.
 
Dave Hakstol’s team completed its fourth set of back-to-back games in Brooklyn, New York, with a thrilling 3-2 shootout win over the Islanders.
 
This was the first time this season the Flyers won a set of back-to-backs, and they had to overcome a third-period deficit to do it.
 
There is no quit in Dave Hakstol’s club. They have become Philly’s latest “Comeback Kids,” a la the 1980 Phillies.
 
Here’s 10 thoughts on the game:
 
1. It’s obvious right now that Hakstol trusts Michal Neuvirth more than Steve Mason. Neuvirth was making a back-to-back start — his third straight game in net — in Brooklyn and was very sharp early despite facing just eight shots. Gotta like his two stops on Calvin de Haan and Nikolay Kulemin in the final two minutes of the first period to keep the game scoreless.
 
2. Not only does Barclays Center continue to look like a coffin — so dark that goalies have trouble picking up shots north/south — but the ice is terrible. There’s more snow build-up in 20 minutes there than your average storm in Philadelphia. Disgraceful ice and some player is going to get seriously injured there.
 
3. Is it me or has general manager Ron Hextall been “blessed” that every time he needs to make a roster or salary cap move, a player goes down injured and Hexy reaps the benefit of having the depth to fill in without biting nails over sending a player through waivers or having a salary cap issue that impedes the club moving forward? Obviously, Hexy has St. Jude on his side. You know, the patron saint of hopeless cases.
 
4. Coming into this game, Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas, who can be a dolt with his ill-advised checks, had 20 hits over his previous three games, plus several good defensive and offensive plays to help the Flyers in the goal department. He made a really good move on Isles captain John Tavares near the blue line to steal a puck and feed Travis Konecny for the game’s first goal in the second period. Used his brawn and his head, which he doesn’t always do.

It was Konecny’s first goal in five games and what I liked best about it was the rookie followed his own shot after Jaroslav Halak made the initial save. Gudas had two hits and two blocked shots in this game.
 
5. Neuvirth had two quality stops on Nick Leddy in the second period to keep the Islanders off the board before they scored on a 5-on-3 power play. That hooking call of Sean Couturier was very dubious. Neuvirth deserved to get out of the second period ahead 1-0 instead of tied with the Isles' power-play goal from Tavares.
 
6. The Flyers looked gassed by the third period. Again, this was their fourth back-to-back sequence in less than five weeks of play. Who could blame them? May be why young defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere had six missed shots. That happens when you're tired. 
 
7. Konecny made several very good plays with the puck to get it deep in the offensive zone and keep plays alive in this game. Hakstol said this week that he sees growth in Konecny every game.
 
8. Neuvirth was having such a strong game and then allowed a weak five-hole goal from ex-Flyer Dennis Seidenberg to break the 1-1 tie late in the third period. Gotta be genetics because Neuvirth and Steve Mason have been guilty of one really bad goal a game, even taking away the sloppy play at times in front of them. All that said, Neuvirth redeemed himself with a stop on Tavares in the shootout to clinch the victory for the Flyers, which shows me mental toughness.
 
9. Gotta like Matt Read and Jakub Voracek teaming up with a huge power-play goal in the final 58 seconds of regulation to tie the game at 2-2 and force overtime. That said, Voracek should have had a penalty shot in overtime for being held by Jason Chimera on a breakaway. Instead, the Flyers got a power play — had chances — but not a one-on-one situation which Voracek earned and didn’t get.
 
10. Credit team captain Claude Giroux for showing that as bad as the ice was, you can still make a deke move in the shootout and score a goal by keeping the puck tight to the stick and not trying to extend your elbows and reach.

It's back to school for Flyers prospect Noah Cates

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Philadelphia Flyers

It's back to school for Flyers prospect Noah Cates

Noah Cates became a hit in high school.

His first year after graduation, though, he didn't exactly mind being away from the classroom. From Stillwater, Minnesota, Cates traveled south to Omaha, Nebraska, for a full season of USHL hockey with the Lancers.

A nice, little perk to the decision?

"No school that year for me, so that was fun just to play hockey," Cates said with a smile three weeks ago at Flyers development camp. "Develop, work on everything."

Despite not hitting the books, Cates, a 2017 fifth-round draft pick of the Flyers, learned a lot, gaining a knowledge base he'll use moving forward.

Because it's back to school.

In mid-to-late August, the 19-year-old is headed to the University of Minnesota Duluth to continue his education and hockey career with the 2018 national champions, where he'll be joined by his older brother Jackson Cates.

"Very excited," the younger Cates said.

A year away from home to prepare for the college hockey life did Cates well. He grew on and off the ice, which built confidence — especially important ahead of development camp, a world junior summer showcase and his freshman season.

"Just how to be a pro, show up every day," Cates said. "It's a long season but you have to be consistent — that was a big part for me. Consistently, doing the right thing, day in and day out.

"It's all about confidence. If you're confident you can play with those guys and that your body can hold up, you can do it. That's just a big part of it and what I developed this year."

Cates, a left winger with a true offensive skill set, came on strong after a feeling-out start to the season in which he totaled 14 points (six goals, eight assists) over his first 22 games. From then on, he broke out for 41 points (15 goals, 26 assists) in his final 38 contests, finishing second on the Lancers with 55 points (21 goals, 34 assists) in 60 games, while posting a plus-21 rating. 

"Second-half league for me, just got more comfortable with the team, the coaches, the league," Cates said. "The team did well, so I kind of fit in, did my part."

The offense has always been a part of Cates' game. Beyond the statistics, what truly stood out from the 2017-18 season was the added strength to his 6-foot-1 frame. Cates weighed 165 pounds at 2017 development camp. He said he started the year with Omaha at 170. Impressively, by season's end, he was a solid 180 to 185.

"That was a big part, how I progressed throughout the season," Cates said. "That was my main goal going there to step into college hockey and get ready to play against those older guys, so it was a really good season in that case."

Cates will now take his next test — back in class and on the ice.

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Nolan Patrick selected as No. 1 breakout player for 2018-19 by NHL Network

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USA Today Images

Nolan Patrick selected as No. 1 breakout player for 2018-19 by NHL Network

Nolan Patrick's rookie season can be split into two halves, but his performance down the stretch has caught the attention of one national pundit.

NHL Network analyst Mike Johnson, who played 12 years in the league, selected Patrick as his No. 1 breakout player for the 2018-19 season during Friday night's "NHL Tonight."

Johnson scored 375 points in 661 NHL games from 1996-2008 and last played in the league during the 2007-08 campaign with the St. Louis Blues.

Behind Johnson's reasoning for picking Patrick as his No. 1 breakout player was the Flyers' center's two-way instincts, ability to finish, size and a full summer of training ahead of him.

"We know his injury history, his lack of proper training, his lack of ability to hit the gym properly," Johnson said, "and he's still strong on the wall. That's only going to get better as he matures physically."

For what it's worth, Connor McDavid was NHL Network's No. 1 breakout candidate for the 2017-18 season — that was a bit of a softball.

As for Patrick, the center joined "NHL Tonight" on Friday to discuss the honor and also provide an update on how his summer is going.

"Coming off that surgery last year," Patrick said, "I had a slow start. It took a while to get my body back to where I wanted it to be. I missed two summers of training. It's been the first summer for me in a while that I've been back in the gym."

Patrick, the No. 2 overall pick in 2017, finished with 13 goals and 30 points in 73 regular-season games. He missed nine games in October and November because of a concussion and spent most of the first half of the season getting his mobility back after undergoing offseason abdominal surgery. In fact, he's lost his past two summers of training because of surgery.

Prior to his final junior season and his draft year, Patrick underwent sports hernia surgery. Then 10 days before the Flyers drafted him, he went under the knife again.

Now he's fully healthy and has a full summer of training.

"First time I can get after it," Patrick said during the team's exit interviews in April (see story). "It's going to be a big summer for me. I'm not satisfied with how the year was or how my year was, so I'm looking to take big steps here."

Once Patrick began feeling healthier, he started getting a bigger role with the Flyers. He was elevated to the team's second-line center and stuck. He also found a role on the power play.

The 19-year-old posted 17 points in the final 25 games, which translates to a respectable 0.68 points per game clip and 55 points over an 82-game schedule. Not too bad for a rookie who couldn't actually train during his previous two offseasons.

"My coaches pushed me throughout the year. Then they gave me more opportunity," Patrick told the NHL Network. "Jake Voracek was huge for me. He thinks the game so well. The puck protection that guy has, you just got to get open for him.

"I think my body also just felt better as the year went on. I kind of took a while to get my skating legs there, so I think in the second half, I had a little more pep in my step."

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