Flyers

Flyers' lineup decision backfires in chippy loss to Oilers

Flyers' lineup decision backfires in chippy loss to Oilers

BOX SCORE

EDMONTON, Alberta — Just about everything that could go wrong for the Flyers did Thursday night against the Oilers at Rogers Place.
 
Dave Hakstol dressed seven defensemen to get Michael Del Zotto back in the lineup off injury.
 
That backfired because Jordan Weal suffered an upper-body injury in the first period, leaving the club with just 10 forwards.
 
Edmonton targeted Brandon Manning the entire game because of the Connor McDavid fiasco and, as expected, Manning had to drop gloves with 230-pound heavyweight Patrick Maroon. Manning got pounded but didn’t go down (see story).
 
And to top it off, goalie Michal Neuvirth, who had been giving the Flyers chances to win without the team scoring much, had a terrible game as he yielded four goals on the first 12 shots he faced.
 
All of which played a part in the Flyers’ 6-3 defeat (see Instant Replay). Couple that with the Islanders’ 4-2 win over the Rangers, and the Flyers are now behind the Isles at sixth in the Metropolitan Division standings.
 
The game was barely two minutes old when Neuvirth gave up a Mr. Softee goal to Matt Hendricks of all people.
 
“A tough start. The first one I had to have,” Neuvirth said. “I had a tough night.”
 
Now the deal was Mark Letestu appeared offsides and Hakstol challenged. The goal stood, which is how the Flyers’ luck is running these days.
 
Del Zotto, dressed as a seventh defenseman after missing 10 games with a bone bruise in his leg, rotated through four partners in the opening period and was caught on the ice for Leon Draisaitl’s 22nd goal at 15:19 that made it 2-0.
 
What set that up was Manning got slashed by Milan Lucic coming around the Flyers’ net. Yet, he was hit with an embellishment call, which led to the 4-on-4. Del Zotto iced the puck and then the Oilers scored right after the faceoff (see feature highlight).
 
Once Weal went down, the Flyers had a depleted lineup on the second night of a back-to-back set trying to keep up with Edmonton via rotations.
 
“Definitely a factor and that’s the risk,” Hakstol said of the lineup decision. “The one risk you run is exactly what happened. We lost Jordan. … That puts our forwards in a hard situation. They battled awful hard through it.”
 
Unlike the Calgary game when they had significant offensive zone time, the Flyers went the final 9:32 of the first period without a shot. However, they played better in the final two periods.
 
In the second period, Jakub Voracek was stopped on a breakaway by Cam Talbot with the score 2-1. If Voracek ties it, who knows.
 
“It was huge,” Voracek said. “I thought I had less time than I actually did. I should have spread him out more and tried five-hole, but I was a little too quick on that. It was a 2-1 game. Maybe it [would] be a little different.”
 
Hakstol said he felt Del Zotto’s speed would help against Edmonton, but the truth is it didn’t slow the Oilers, who then roared back with two goals in 1:15 to make it 4-1.
 
The Flyers mounted a small comeback after a Wayne Simmonds goal late in the second and a power-play goal from Brayden Schenn near the midpoint of the third period.

But McDavid had the last laugh as he finished off the scoring for the night with a goal late in the third period to run his league-leading point total to 66.
 
That only added to the tough night for the Flyers and Manning, who was marked from the get-go.

“He comes into this building, fans are on him, he steps up and fights a tough guy and got challenged all night,” Schenn said. “He dropped his gloves. Full marks to him. Not easy for a guy like him to fight a guy like that with a size advantage going to Maroon.”
 
Hakstol was very impressed with how Manning handled himself.
 
“We know who Brandon Manning is and anyone who has spent any time around him knows, in terms of the honor of the game, there is no one in front of the line before him,” Hakstol said. “He’s first class. He went out and battled hard and did everything he needed to do.”
 
Simmonds agreed.
 
“They were chasing him all over the ice all game long and he did a great job when he fought,” Simmonds said. “Props to him.”

Picking the best hub city for Flyers in NHL's 24-team Stanley Cup Playoffs plan

Picking the best hub city for Flyers in NHL's 24-team Stanley Cup Playoffs plan

Going End to End today are NBC Sports Philadelphia's Brooke Destra, Katie Emmer, Taryn Hatcher, Joe Fordyce and Jordan Hall.

The topic: Picking the best hub city for the Flyers in the NHL's 24-team Stanley Cup Playoffs plan.

Destra

This is honestly quite an interesting debate because while fans won’t be in attendance, location will still greatly play a factor in how teams perform based on a number of reasons.

Right off the bat, while some of the West Coast locations could work on paper because of the amount of hotels and facilities close to the arenas that could host a conference during the playoffs, you have to consider the ice. Outdoor temperature always affects rinks, but imagine having playoff hockey in Las Vegas late July with 102-degree weather. 

With the amount of players constantly on the ice, more wear and tear bound to happen because of the high levels of games at a single hub location, in addition to the heat levels — it just seems like a bad recipe. 

Two viable options that make the most sense would be Toronto and Pittsburgh. Both locations would be much more manageable weather-wise, have ample number of local facilities for training and, since they are tourist spots, hotels would be able to put up players, staff and whoever else needed to pull this off successfully. 

The Flyers haven’t been in Toronto for the playoffs since 2004 for the Eastern Conference semifinals — a series that they won in six games, but struggled away from home ice. 

Pittsburgh is a spot the Flyers know well and can be used to their advantage. Their overall record on the road against the Penguins is 58-67-22 and while it’s not the best, the Flyers have had the edge in the playoffs, winning four of the seven matchups between the two teams.

Obviously individual records between the Leafs and Penguins aren’t a huge factor, considering there’s no guarantee the teams would even meet — but having that as a reference for the Flyers’ success at those arenas seemed important to note. 

Either way, playoff hockey — the best kind of hockey — is being discussed and I’m sure the league is going to pull through and make the best choices for their players and fans.

Emmer

I understand there won’t be much of a home-ice advantage without fans in attendance but please, anything but Pittsburgh. I could see how there could be an argument of how the Flyers could possibly be more comfortable in battling in playoff hockey in a setting such as PPG Paints Arena, but there’s just a sense of discomfort I have with the thought of the Flyers having to spend such a lengthy amount of time in the home city of their biggest rival.

With that, I’m going with Columbus, only if that cannon is buried in some storage closet underground far away somewhere. I think Nationwide Arena would be one of the best spots on this list for the Eastern Conference hub city. More specifically, it would be most ideal for the Flyers as it would be the closest option in the country to Philadelphia besides Pittsburgh.  

Hatcher

Before I go picking a city here, there’s a really important issue to address. Out of an abundance of concern for everyone’s health (and understandably so), the Canadian-U.S. border is still closed. Which means that if you’re a non-Canadian, you can enter Canada, but only if you’re healthy and have a work visa. That includes most NHL players and team personnel who are not from Canada but are employed by a Canadian hockey club. Even so, those people with visas must quarantine for 14 days, which makes me wonder how a Canadian hub city would work considering the current guidelines and the number of teams that would hold their camps in the United States. I may just be missing something here, but border barriers still seem to be an issue. 

Operating under the assumption that current guidelines continue, it seems the best way to go would be two cities in the United States (I guess?).

For the East, I’d like to see it in Columbus. That is, if and only if, there are not thousands and thousands of Ohio State students around. From some quick research it seems OSU is aiming to announce its plans in mid-June for the fall semester, which could, and probably would overlap with the NHL’s postseason. If it opts out of in-person classes, Columbus is an ideal location.

The city has two arenas capable of hosting NHL games, Nationwide Arena and Value City, where the Buckeyes play. Both are outfitted with the necessary broadcasting equipment to be able to bring the game to the fans at home. And, while I’ve heard that geography doesn’t actually concern the player that much, it is one of the few cities in the eastern half of the United States.

Fordyce

I’m going to choose a building the Flyers are very familiar with — Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. Familiarity isn’t a bad thing, and the Flyers know Toronto well, it’s a hockey hotbed, and I’m sure the buzz will be palpable. However, with the absence of fans, the Flyers would get to play in a great hockey atmosphere, minus the raucous hostile crowd that usually awaits the orange and black for a game in Maple Leaf country.  

While the idea of playing in a place like Pittsburgh and winning in enemy territory on the Penguins' ice sounds appealing, there are plenty of factors already at play here, namely getting back in game shape, trying to recapture the momentum the Flyers had before the NHL pause, as well as health concerns. The last thing Alain Vigneault and company need is for the arena they’re playing in to become another character in what is already the most complicated script the NHL has ever written.  

Hall

It's important to note that the Eastern Conference's tournament could be held in a Western Conference city, so the 10 cities under consideration — Chicago, Columbus, Ohio, Dallas, Edmonton, Alberta, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Vancouver, British Columbia — are all possibilities for the Flyers.

Picking the best city for the Flyers, let's go with Pittsburgh. There's a familiarity with the trip and PPG Paints Arena, where the Flyers are 14-4-4 in 22 regular-season games. With no fans, the idea of winning in Pittsburgh could be a fun source of motivation for the Flyers, even providing an underdog type of feel. The Flyers have always seemed to relish the opportunity of playing and winning in Pittsburgh.

"The ideal hub city is a place where there’s enough room for players to have a life, they’re not going to be sent back to their hotel rooms and stay there 24/7 when they’re not practicing and playing, but it’s going to be a contained environment and it’s going to be a secure environment," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said last Friday. "It’s going to give the players some opportunity for some entertainment and some freedom, but within a contained environment."

From that perspective, Pittsburgh might not be the most attractive city among the 10. But from a hockey standpoint, it feels like a good fit for the Flyers.

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Former Flyers share their favorite all-time teammates

Former Flyers share their favorite all-time teammates

As my family has spent a great deal of time together at home the last few months, I found myself repeating the same thing (as parents often do) to my children, ages 9 and 11: Help out when you can, be a good teammate.

That led me down the path to ask a handful of former Flyers players this question: Who was your favorite teammate when you played in the NHL?

Chris Therien (Flyers defenseman, 1994-04, 2005-06)

"That's a good question and there was a lot of great ones. I roomed with John LeClair and played with a lot of really, really high-caliber guys that were high-caliber people, as well.

"I'm going to say, at the end of the day, Luke Richardson was the best teammate on the ice and probably the best teammate off the ice, as well. He had great leadership qualities. He knew team bonding. You understood the long season that guys deal with. He helped me keep the room light a lot of the time. Just an absolutely sensational human being.

"Easily a person I will never forget until the day I die because of those great qualities that he possessed as a friend, a teammate and a leader."

Rick Tocchet (Flyers right winger, 1984-92, 2000-02)

"Craig Berube is definitely one for me. Whether he played two minutes or 15 minutes, he always thought of the team. A very unselfish player and was an excellent leader even though sometimes he didn’t play a lot in some games. Kept the room loose and serious at the same time."

Brian Boucher (Flyers goalie, 1999-02, 2009-11, 2013)

Phantoms, 1997-98:


Neil Little

"The greatest guy I played with! This guy was always willing to lend a hand, advice, share a story and laugh. He was my first goalie partner in pro hockey and he set the bar incredibly high. To this day, he’s still helping me. He was responsible for getting me back to Philly from San Jose and also helped land a spot for my son Tyler to live in Plymouth, Michigan, by setting him up with his childhood buddy Chris Osgood while he’s playing for the U.S. national team development program. He’s the best!

"

Flyers, 1999-00
:

Mark Recchi

"As a rookie that year, Rex always made me feel welcome to dinners, golf and whatever else was going on. He always was generous too!

"

Rick Tocchet  

"Late addition to the team but had instant respect the minute we got him. He too like Rex always included me and made me feel like I had been a teammate for years. Extreme work ethic and showed me as a young guy how hard you have to work to be a pro.

"

Keith Jones

"Same as the other two guys. He was great to me. He always had a line for me the minute Beezer (former Flyers goalie John Vanbiesbrouck) gave up a goal. He’d say, 'Start stretching, kid!' He’s always been there for me. Even up to this day! Love Jonesy!

"

Later years:

Jody Shelley

"Played with Jody in Columbus, San Jose and Philly. Team guy! Great friend. Spent lots of time with him doing extra practice because we weren’t playing much."



Joe Thornton

"Never met a guy who loves being at the rink and being with the guys as much as Jumbo. He rarely had a bad day. Played with him in San Jose.
"

Bill Clement (Flyers center, 1971-75)

"Bernie Parent: He was never in a bad mood. All he did was smile and laugh and keep us loose. No matter how difficult certain situations seemed, he was the messenger that let me know life would go on and be better than it was yesterday. Maybe it was because he knew he could single-handedly control outcomes on the ice."

Keith Jones (Flyers right winger, 1998-00)

Craig Berube. Protected my [butt] on a game-to-game basis!”

Anything else made him a great teammate?

“Nothing!”

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