Carolina Hurricanes

Smelling first place? Flyers win 8th straight as Metropolitan Division push gets crazier

Smelling first place? Flyers win 8th straight as Metropolitan Division push gets crazier

Updated: 9:48 p.m.

BOX SCORE

Briefly, the Flyers were no longer looking up.

With a 4-1 win Thursday night over the Hurricanes at the Wells Fargo Center, the Flyers temporarily climbed atop the Metropolitan Division.

For 18 minutes exactly.

As the Flyers (40-20-7) closed out their season-best eighth straight victory, the Capitals and Rangers were duking it out at Madison Square Garden.

New York beat Washington, 6-5, in overtime. With that result, though, the Flyers moved back into second place because of tiebreakers. Both the Flyers and Capitals have 87 points and 30 regulation wins, but Washington has more regulation/overtime victories.

The Rangers gained a 5-4 lead late in the third period but could not hold it.

As the third period wore on in Philadelphia, Flyers fans could taste the division lead.

They’ll have to wait for now.

Meanwhile, the Flyers’ run continues to grow in impressiveness. Since Jan. 8, the Flyers are 18-5-1 with an NHL-most 91 goals. Over that stretch, no team has more points than the Flyers’ 37. The Bruins also have 37.

The Hurricanes (35-25-5) played for the first time in five days and have lost four straight.

• The Flyers completed a drastic turnaround from last season.

Thanks to the win over the Hurricanes, the Flyers will finish the 2019-20 regular season with a 10-0-2 record against divisional foes Carolina, Washington and Columbus.

Last season, the Flyers went 0-10-2 against those three teams, all of which made the playoffs.

The Flyers are 16-4-4 with a plus-25 goal differential (90-65) against the Metropolitan Division.

• The Flyers ambushed Carolina in the third period after the Hurricanes crept to within one goal.

Nicolas Aube-Kubel and Sean Couturier scored 26 seconds apart to seize complete control.

• If the Flyers clinch a playoff berth and home ice in the opening round, Carter Hart’s dominance at home will be a huge reason why.

After making 28 saves Thursday, the 21-year-old improved to 19-2-2 at home. He has allowed two or fewer goals in 19 of those 23 outings.

• How about this for some depth?

Michael Raffl and Tyler Pitlick connected during the second period to give the Flyers a 2-0 lead.

Both role forwards have eight goals and 20 points on the season.

• A look at how long the Flyers will be without James van Riemsdyk (broken finger) and how they’ll move forward (see story).

• With van Riemsdyk’s injury, the acquisitions of Derek Grant and Nate Thompson look that much more important.

Grant has given the Flyers a huge lift down the middle. Everyone expected his defensive strengths to fit head coach Alain Vigneault’s system, but his offensive abilities have profiled just as well.

The 29-year-old has five points in his last three games. He’s making only $700,000 in a contract year and can play center or winger — the Flyers will certainly consider re-signing him.

• Coming into the season, it appeared the Flyers’ defensemen could make or break the team’s season.

The play from the blueliners has gotten better and better. The Flyers are consistently pushing north and that’s a credit to their defensemen.

The Flyers are also receiving quality offensive production from the position as Ivan Provorov is four goals away from matching his career of 17.

• The Flyers are off from practice Friday before hosting the Sabres Saturday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

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Flyers vs. Hurricanes: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

Flyers vs. Hurricanes: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

There has been no slowing down Alain Vigneault's team.

The Flyers (39-20-7), riding a season-best seven-game winning streak, will look to keep that going when they host the Hurricanes (35-24-5) Thursday night.

Let's get into the essentials:

When: 7 p.m. ET with Flyers Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m. ET
Where: Wells Fargo Center
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

• Just how far have the Flyers come this season compared to 2018-19?

When you consider this, pretty darn far.

Last season, the Flyers went 0-10-2 against the Capitals, Hurricanes and Blue Jackets — three playoff clubs from the Metropolitan Division.

This season, the Flyers have gone 9-0-2 against those teams and can punctuate their vast improvement tonight at the Wells Fargo Center.

• The Flyers enter Thursday one point back of first-place Washington and holding a 31.4 percent chance to win the Metropolitan Division.

Thursday is a big night in the divisional race as the Capitals and Penguins are also in action, along with the Islanders and Rangers.

With a victory and a Washington loss in regulation, the Flyers would be in first place of the Metropolitan Division by night's end.

• The Flyers will begin life without James van Riemsdyk (broken finger).

Joel Farabee was officially recalled Thursday morning and will jump into the lineup.

Expect to see Derek Grant (four points in last two games), who has size and some net-front ability, on the power play in place of van Riemsdyk.


Projected lineup

Forwards

Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Joel Farabee-Kevin Hayes-Travis Konecny
Scott Laughton-Derek Grant-Tyler Pitlick
Michael Raffl-Nate Thompson-Nicolas Aube-Kubel

Defensemen

Ivan Provorov-Matt Niskanen
Travis Sanheim-Philippe Myers
Robert Hagg-Justin Braun

Goalies

Carter Hart
Brian Elliott

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Flyers finish road trip 1-4-1 and the schedule gets only tougher

Flyers finish road trip 1-4-1 and the schedule gets only tougher

BOX SCORE

A disheartening six-game road swing took a pin to the Flyers' cushion in the standings.

The trip mercifully came to an end Tuesday night with a 5-4 overtime loss to the Hurricanes at PNC Arena.

The Flyers (22-15-6) went 1-4-1 and were outscored 28-16 during the stretch away from the Wells Fargo Center, where they have allowed only 37 goals in 19 games (an NHL-low 1.95 per game).

Because of the three-point trip, the Flyers went from third place in the Metropolitan Division at the holiday break to just barely holding the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot via tiebreaker (see standings).

And nothing gets easier as the Flyers come home. Their next four games are against the Capitals (NHL's best team), Lightning (eight straight wins), Bruins (tied for NHL's second-most points) and Blues (Western Conference's best team).

The Hurricanes (25-16-2) are two points ahead of the Flyers for fourth place in the Metropolitan Division.

• The Flyers lost their structure and style over the road trip.

The opposition took it to them more often than not. When head coach Alain Vigneault's system is at its best, his team is forechecking and limiting odd-man rushes the other way.

The Flyers allowed five or more goals in five of the six games on the trip. In their first 37 games prior, the Flyers had allowed five or more goals only five times.

• It's not like the Flyers are in horrible shape. Their effort was much better Tuesday and they have 50 points through 43 games — they're right there in a competitive division.

However, the struggles away from home are concerning.

"We’re going on the road for 12 days, we’ve got six big games," Vigneault said ahead of the trip. "As a team that considers themselves a playoff team, you need to have a good road record."

The Flyers are 9-13-2 with a minus-31 goal differential on the road compared to 13-2-4 with a plus-35 goal differential at home.

• After a torrid stretch of 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in 13 games, James van Riemsdyk went scoreless for the trip.

Following his 15-point spurt (seven goals, eight assists) in 17 games, Kevin Hayes had only two points (one goal, one assist) on the trip.

The Flyers need those two to be more consistent. When they are, the Flyers are a completely different team.

• It was a positive sign to see the Flyers jump out to a 2-0 lead in the first period. They sustained the lead for 14:50 and went into intermission tied at 2-2.

But given the Flyers had held a lead for only one minute, nine seconds on the trip and allowed 13 first-period goals in the five games prior, the opening 20 minutes Tuesday were a welcomed sight.

• Brian Elliott survived an injury scare in the opening frame after a stellar split save. The Hurricanes got after him following the Flyers' 2-0 lead and he was forced to make 28 saves on 33 shots (see highlights).

• Philippe Myers and Travis Sanheim were a combined minus-5, despite Sanheim's game-tying goal in the third period.

Myers had a difficult time in coverage during the first period when the Hurricanes erased the Flyers' 2-0 advantage.

The team is without veteran defenseman Justin Braun (groin) until after the All-Star break, so Myers must answer the bell in full-time duty.

• Jakub Voracek has 21 points (four goals, 17 assists) and a plus-10 mark in the last 21 games.

The 30-year-old winger has been arguably the Flyers' best player since Nov. 23.

Travis Konecny, Michael Raffl, Nicolas Aube-Kubel and Sanheim were the team's goal-scorers, while no Flyer had a multi-point game.

• The Flyers play six of their next seven games at the Wells Fargo Center, starting Wednesday night when they host the NHL-leading Capitals (7:30 p.m. ET/NBCSN).

 

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