Jordan Weal

Flyers' forward grades and outlook for next season — Part 3

Flyers' forward grades and outlook for next season — Part 3

We conclude our evaluations of the Flyers at each position today with a look at Part 3 of the forwards:

After evaluating goaltending and the defense, we turn our attention to the Flyers’ forwards, one of the deepest groups under coach Dave Hakstol and a group that produced nine double-digit scorers in 2017-18.

Travis Konecny

Regular Season: B+

Playoffs: C

Konecny found another gear to his game once he was paired with Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier. He scored 19 of his 24 goals from the beginning of January to the end of March. Still needs work on limiting turnovers and not abandoning defensive responsibilities in favor of the breakaway pass. Konecny saw an extreme variance in playing time from 9:16 in a Game 2 win to 17:56 in a Game 6 loss. Hard to get into a flow and develop chemistry.

2018-19 outlook: Konecny will enter the final year of his entry-level deal, so he could benefit greatly with a solid all-around 2018-19 season and the potential of reaching the 30-goal mark for the first time. 

Nolan Patrick

Regular Season:
 B-

Playoffs: B-

Patrick overcame a rough start to his NHL career, battling concussion symptoms with a solid finish. Patrick gained confidence and comfort in the second half, which was evident in his speed and attacking style in the offensive zone. He showcased a tremendous set of hands, especially on the power play. Scored a big goal in the Game 2 victory over Pittsburgh and was the Flyers’ best forward in a 5-0 Game 4 loss.

2018-19 outlook: Two more years on an entry-level contract.

Michael Raffl 

Regular Season: B-

Playoffs: D

Considering Raffl saw very little playing time on the power play and on the Flyers’ top line, his 13 goals would be considered a respectable bounce-back season. Played a solid two-way game, finishing with a plus-9 and, like Jake Voracek, was strong on pucks while sneaky quick on the forecheck. However, Raffl didn’t appear to have that extra gear in the playoffs, as I thought he would generate more of an offensive attack playing with Patrick and Konecny.   

2018-19 outlook: Entering the final season of a three-year, $7.05 million contract in what could be his final season in Philadelphia. 

Jordan Weal 

Regular Season: D-

Playoffs: Incomplete

There wasn’t a more disappointing season than Weal’s after the promising finish of 2016-17. Had a strong start in his first 10 games, but could never contribute consistently offensively and with that came a loss in confidence. When he had possession of the puck, Weal rarely tried to find an open seam or create a shot, instead electing to find a teammate to pass to.  

2018-19 outlook: The Flyers will likely keep Weal with one more year remaining at $1.75 million. He still has an element of speed to his game, a much-needed attribute, especially on a third line.

Sean Couturier part of collision at Flyers' practice

Sean Couturier part of collision at Flyers' practice

VOORHEES, N.J. — Sean Couturier was the first player off the ice during Tuesday’s practice, and it wasn’t a good scene.

Couturier collided with teammate Radko Gudas and required the assistance of head athletic trainer Jim McCrossin to be taken back to the locker room. Gudas appeared distraught regarding the incidental collision and declined to answer any questions regarding the play that led to the contact.    

However, Wayne Simmonds didn’t seem to express much concern regarding Couturier’s health and his availability for Game 4.

“Coots will be fine,” Simmonds said. “I’m not worried about Coots.”

Dave Hakstol provided no update, but Couturier is unquestionably the Flyers' most indispensable player entering a pivotal Game 4. The Flyers' head coach sensed a change was needed following Sunday’s 5-1 loss, and Hakstol’s latest plan is to reunite Jakub Voracek with Couturier and Claude Giroux on the top line for Wednesday’s game.

“Was I surprised? It’s the playoffs and things like that happen,” Voracek said. “When you lose the game you want to shake things up to help a team win the game. The coaches thought it was the best idea to put us back together, so we’re just going to roll with it.”

Hakstol broke up that dynamic trio after the first 26 games of the season with the Flyers record at 8-11-7. They were the most dominant line in the NHL with a league-leading 25 goals among them, but they had generated 43 percent of the team’s offensive production and Hakstol felt the need to make a change as the Flyers were too top-heavy.

“We haven’t seen it together for a long time,” Hakstol said. “We didn’t like the depth of our forward group at that point in time. I think we feel a little bit differently about our forwards now." 

If Couturier can’t suit up Wednesday night, then Hakstol will likely resort to one of two possibilities. Either slide Giroux to center, despite him playing left wing all season, or elevate rookie Nolan Patrick to the top line and move Scott Laughton back to the center position.  

“We’re not going to jump to conclusions here,” Giroux said. “We’ll see how Coots is, but if it does come down to that, whatever’s best for the team, you go ahead and do it. I think everybody in this room feels like that.”

Regardless of Couturier’s health, Hakstol in all probability will scratch rookie Oskar Lindblom in favor of Jordan Weal, who led the Flyers with four points in four games against the Penguins during the regular season.

“It’s an adjustment. This takes another level,” Hakstol said. “Oskar hasn’t been able to compete probably as much as he would like to with the puck and offensively. There’s a little more on the line and the time for opportunity is a little bit shorter.”

The only combination Hakstol left intact was the fourth line of Laughton, Jori Lehtera and Matt Read.

Regardless of Hakstol’s reconfigured lines, if the Flyers don’t contain Sidney Crosby (three goals, four assists), the series may not return to Philadelphia after Game 4.  

“We’ve got to take care of the puck a little bit more. We can’t be scared making plays out there,” Giroux said. “Sometimes you start playing too safe and that gets you in trouble.

Hornqvist out
Penguins right winger Patric Hornqvist will miss Game 4 with an upper-body injury. Hornqvist is considered an energy player who scored the 1-0 Cup-clinching goal in last year’s Stanley Cup Final.

According to Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Penguins' power play had a 26.2 percent rate with Hornqvist in the lineup and a 12.9 percent rate without him this season.

Flyers steal a point, but not the sweep from Penguins

Flyers steal a point, but not the sweep from Penguins

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH — The Penguins completed a four-game season sweep of the Flyers on Sunday after winning the finale, 5-4, in overtime at PPG Paints Arena.

Sean Couturier tied the game at 4-4 with 43 seconds remaining in regulation as the Flyers peppered goaltender Matt Murray with a season-high 45 shots on net. It gave the Flyers a crucial point in the playoff hunt, but it went for naught as the Bryan Rust deflected the puck past Petr Mrazek, who relieved Alex Lyon in the second period after Pittsburgh's third goal.

The win gave the Pens (92 points) a three-point cushion on the Flyers (89 points) for the third spot in the Metropolitan Division. As of the final horn Sunday, the Flyers are tied with Columbus in the Metro with 89 points. They have a three-point cushion on New Jersey for the final wild-card spot and a six-point cushion on Florida on the outside looking in.

It’s the first time the Penguins have swept a season series from the Flyers since 2006-07. 

Jordan Weal led the Flyers' offensive charge with his first career three-point game, which included a goal with two primary assists.  

Brandon Manning and Travis Sanheim also scored for the Flyers, who are now second behind the Predators with 46 goals from their blue line.

• Sanheim opened the scoring by finding the soft spot in the Penguins' defense underneath the forwards at the end of their shift. Phil Kessel stood still and watched Sanheim snap a perfect shot over Murray’s glove hand. Sanheim has gone more with the quick snap shot for better accuracy rather than the winding slap shot that he used more frequently earlier this season.

• The Flyers displayed a first-period attacking style we hadn’t seen in a while. They caught the Penguins out of position on their second goal, as Manning did an excellent job of leading the rush and then communicating with Weal to get the puck back before Manning uncorked a slapper that beat Murray.

• Murray yielded some big rebounds in the first period the Flyers weren’t able to capitalize on. Coming back from injury, Murray still doesn’t appear as if he’s completely comfortable.

• The Flyers answered with a power-play goal after Travis Konecny drew a cross-check penalty against Brian Dumoulin. Weal jumped in from his position on the half wall to pounce on a rebound and fire it past Murray to tie the game at 3-3 shortly before the second intermission.

• Following the third goal, Dave Hakstol made the decision to replace Lyon with Mrazek. Hakstol has had a quick trigger when he senses his goaltending has been soft or the team needs a jolt.

• Classic Crosby gave the Penguins a 4-3 lead. Using his body as a shield and protecting the puck against the Flyers' best one-on-one defender, Couturier, Crosby fired a wrister that Mrazek, who appeared to be leaning toward the near post, couldn't handle.

• As a result of a Jakub Voracek minor, the Flyers surrendered a power-play goal just 34 seconds into the second period. Respecting Kessel’s lethal shot from the left circle, Radko Gudas came out, which gave Patric Hornqvist room underneath around the crease to make a turnaround move and fire a shot toward the far post and tie the game at 2-2.