Flyers

Ron Hextall, Flyers could address goalie position with trade at NHL draft

Ron Hextall, Flyers could address goalie position with trade at NHL draft

CHICAGO — Besides coming home with a prized first-round forward, who might even play this season in the NHL, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall has another goal at the NHL draft this weekend.

Shore up his goaltending.

As of now, the Flyers are going into next fall with oft-injured veteran Michal Neuvirth and young Anthony Stolarz, who is coming off knee surgery and is progressing in rehab.

Hextall would prefer to get a jump on free agency this weekend by making a deal to obtain a veteran goaltender that has two years or less on his contract and is not looking to break the bank. Or obtain a UFA's rights if a deal can be struck.

There are some possibilities. Dallas, for instance, has three goalies on its roster in Ben Bishop, Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi. Lehtonen and Niemi each have a year left on their contracts.

Other possibilities are Anders Nilsson, a free agent in Buffalo, or Jonathan Bernier, a free agent in Anaheim.

There is also Calvin Pickard, one of the goalies Las Vegas took in the expansion draft.

"We're going to look for the best option and we'll act on it," Hextall said Thursday night. "The option is figuring out the timing and who is available.

"It's not one of those things where I can sit and say it's going to be in place tomorrow or July 1 or July 2."

Hextall reiterated he's not comfortable going with Neuvirth and Stolarz as his duo for next season because of the former's injury history and Stolarz's inexperience.

"Let's see if we can find an option that is better for us short term," Hextall said. "There is always an option. Is [Stolarz] the best option? I don't know if you can say that."

Loose pucks
Hextall said if forward Jordan Weal wants to wait and test free agency, then so be it. He added he does plan to speak to Weal's agent, J.P. Barry, at the draft to try and get this deal done before July 1. ... Hextall said he protected Scott Laughton in the expansion draft because he feels the 23-year-old has greatly improved his overall game after last year's season in Lehigh Valley and can make the Flyers' roster. "I don't know why people are surprised about [Laughton being protected]," he said. "Personally, for Scotty, I think a lot of things came to him very quickly and it hurt Scotty. Last year, he figured it out."

Flyers weekly observations: A glaring concern goes on full display

Flyers weekly observations: A glaring concern goes on full display

The Flyers lost all three games this week and ended a five-game homestand a mediocre 2-2-1. Some observations:

• James van Riemsdyk put up a goal and two assists in Saturday's 6-5 overtime loss to the Lightning. In his second game back from injury, the Flyers scored three power-play goals, matching their total from Oct. 13 to Nov. 16, which spanned 43 opportunities.

Think he's a difference-maker?

However, what is truly worrisome is that a glaring concern entering the 2018-19 season was on full display Saturday. We knew the Flyers could score. This team has talent, the power play won't be this bad, pucks will be put in the net.

But can the Flyers stop teams?

With the situation in net and the ongoing penalty-kill woes, the Flyers can score all they want — it might not make a difference.

- Hall

• I didn't think Calvin Pickard played bad Saturday against the Lightning. I believe he was the victim of circumstance.

The Lightning's second goal was leaky but the rest? Ivan Provorov played soft and was outmuscled by Brayden Point, who is two inches shorter and 35 pounds lighter, on the third goal. Wayne Simmonds lost his man on the overtime winner. The other two were PPGs.

Still, Pickard finished with a .769 save percentage. His last start wasn't much better — .778 save percentage. He has a .852 save percentage in eight games. Pickard wasn't bad against Tampa, but the bottom line is, you need your goalie to makes saves and Pickard hasn't shown he's capable of doing it on a consistent basis.

With Brian Elliott out at least two weeks, the Flyers gave Pickard first swing Saturday. It's time to end this experiment. Alex Lyon deserves an opportunity.

- Dougherty

• The Flyers outshot their opponent in each of the three losses during the week.

Overall, they outshot the opposition 105-83 but were outscored 11-6.

For some context, this past week the Maple Leafs registered 104 shots and allowed 107 in three games but went 3-0-0 and outscored the competition 12-6.

It makes you wonder — are the Flyers getting the quality shots you need on a consistent basis to win games?

"We did give up some shots, but they weren’t scoring chances," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said after the Flyers outshot Tampa 45-26, "so you can shoot a lot of pucks and it’s going to look good on the stat line, but if they’re not quality chances, it’s two-fold."

The Flyers have eight losses when they outshoot an opponent, which is tied for most in the NHL.
 
- Hall

• Through 20 games, the Flyers are 9-9-2. This was expected to be a season this team takes a step forward and a quarter of the way in, the Flyers are again average at best with huge gaping deficiencies. Team defense remains a problem, the goaltending situation has been a total miscalculation by general manager Ron Hextall and the penalty kill has been a disaster.

The Flyers ended this week tying a season high three-game losing streak and while they did so by showing fight — something they didn't do three weeks ago — there needs to be accountability. There's a reason opposing players no longer fear Wells Fargo Center. The fans have been patient than ever but patience grows tired and it's reaching its tipping point.

Just look at the penalty kill — which allowed four power-play goals last week. It's been brutal for the past four seasons and it's been worse than ever. Yet, there's been no change in structure or coach, no accountability. Why?

- Dougherty

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This time, Flyers didn't crumble in face of adversity and that says a lot

This time, Flyers didn't crumble in face of adversity and that says a lot

Three weeks ago, this would not have happened. In fact, we have hard evidence to back this up. The Flyers were gut-punched by the Islanders on Oct. 27 at the Wells Fargo Center and laid down. The end result was a barbarous 6-1 defeat that created social media angst among fans.

On Saturday afternoon, the Flyers’ will was tested again. But this time, the outcome showed us just how far they’ve come since that depressing October Saturday three weeks ago. If there’s such a thing as a character loss, the Flyers’ 6-5 overtime defeat to the Lightning is the face of it (see observations).

This had the making of a story we’ve written before, one in which the Flyers face adversity on home ice and crumble. The Flyers were behind 5-1 in the third period after Tampa capitalized on a 5-on-3 power play for two goals in 51 seconds. Three weeks ago, that’s game, set, match.

Instead, the Flyers rung off four goals in 6:04 to force OT. It’s the ninth time in league history that a team erased a four-goal deficit in a game’s final 10 minutes.

“We showed some good character,” James van Riemsdyk said. “Any time you can get a point when you’re down four goals in the third period, I’d say that’s a pretty good thing. … 

“You want to have good responses. We had some pretty good process-related stuff as far as carrying the play, but we’re paid here and we’re here to get results, so it’s not good enough.”

van Riemsdyk, in his second game back from a knee injury, was a major part of the Flyers’ comeback. He snapped the team’s 0-for-15 power-play drought in the second period with his first goal of the season and had assists on the goal that began the comeback and completed it.

There is a lot to unpack after Saturday. The loss capped off a five-game homestand that began promising but ended leaving much more to be desired — 2-2-1. The Flyers have now lost three straight, tying their season-high losing streak that came after the Islanders loss on Oct. 27. The penalty kill had another merciless effort, allowing three more power-play goals. The Flyers have now allowed an NHL-worst 22 power-play goals and the PK ranks 30th at 68.6 percent.

Claude Giroux became just the fourth player in franchise history to reach 700 points with a two-assist game, which put his total up to 701 (see story). He also moved into a tie with Brian Propp for second all-time in team history with 480 helpers. The Flyers dominated just about every play-driving metric and outshot the Lightning, 45-26. Their power play awoke with three goals.

“It’s hard. We want to take a lot of positives out of that,” said Travis Konecny, who had his fourth career two-goal game. “It shows what we have in the locker room. It’s just tough to look at it that way. (Head coach Dave Hakstol) comes in between the second and third and says we’re actually playing a good game, it’s just we got to get our bounces and stick together.”

Stuck together they did, and if we want to take anything away from Saturday’s OTL, it’s that. That didn’t happen three weeks ago.

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