Michael Raffl

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.

Flyers put themselves on cusp of playoff berth with comeback

Flyers put themselves on cusp of playoff berth with comeback

BOX SCORE

The Flyers did their part … barely.

In Game 81 and with an opportunity to clinch a playoff spot Thursday night, Dave Hakstol's team dusted itself off from the Islanders letdown by beating the Hurricanes, 4-3, in a wild, back-and-forth contest at the Wells Fargo Center.

The Flyers (41-26-14) had to get some help, though, to secure a postseason bid before Saturday's regular-season finale.

Holding the Eastern Conference's second wild-card position, the Flyers came into Thursday two points behind the Penguins and Blue Jackets, one back of the Devils and four ahead of the Panthers.

All four teams were in action (see scoreboard).

To punch their ticket Thursday, the Flyers needed a win (in any fashion) and a Panthers’ loss to the Bruins (in any fashion), or to gain one point and the Panthers lose in regulation.

Florida beat Boston, 3-2, and has two more games remaining to the Flyers' one. While the Flyers finish the regular season Saturday at home against the Rangers, the Panthers host the Sabres Saturday and travel to the Bruins Sunday.

For the Flyers, it's win and they're in (see story).

They haven't missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons since the 1992-93 and 1993-94 campaigns. The last time they won a postseason series was 2011-12.

The 96 points and 41 wins match Hakstol's career bests set in 2015-16, his first season leading the Flyers.

• Jakub Voracek made a terrific play up ice before sniping the game-winner late in the third period just after the Hurricanes scored the equalizer. The Wells Fargo Center went from dead quiet to elation.

• Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux teamed up for a dandy go-ahead goal midway through the third period. Surrounded by two Hurricanes skaters, Couturier snatched the puck out of midair, put it to the ice and then spun to feed Giroux for a nasty wrist shot. Giroux's 31st goal and 98th point of his career season elicited a standing ovation from fans.

• Ivan Provorov has turned up the offense in a big way. With just over five minutes left in the second period and the Flyers trailing, 2-1, Provorov went to the net and batted home a pass from Couturier to knot the score. Couturier stayed patient with the puck before finding Provorov, who has three goals and three assists in the last five games. The Flyers desperately needed that tally before second intermission. 

• The Flyers put together a more than adequate first period. In the opening 12 minutes, they sustained pressure and were all over the Hurricanes. However, at first intermission, the Flyers found themselves down, 2-1. Brian Elliott allowed a pair of preventable goals to Klas Dahlbeck and Sebastian Aho.

• Michael Raffl did what he always does, going straight to the net to punch home a loose puck for the 1-1 equalizer at 14:38 of the first. That's when Aho scored his goal 14 seconds later, sneaking the puck past Elliott to erase any momentum the Flyers had gained at the time.

• The Flyers entered Thursday allowing 3.53 goals per game since March 1. Elliott's return from core muscle surgery on Feb. 13 was warmly welcomed, but he struggled mightily. All three goals allowed were considerably weak, the worst being Jordan Staal's third-period marker to tie the game at 3-3. He flung an innocuous shot along the goal line that somehow squeaked between the post and Elliott's pad. Voracek saved him 34 seconds later.

Hurricanes goalie Scott Darling was under pressure from start to finish, making 30 saves.

• Andrew MacDonald did not have his best night. He whiffed on a puck near the Hurricanes' blue line and also appeared to skate into the Flyers' goal post while trying to break up a Carolina scoring chance.

• The recipients of the Flyers' annual end-of-the-season awards:

Bobby Clarke Trophy (MVP) — Claude Giroux

Barry Ashbee Trophy (Best defenseman) — Shayne Gostisbehere

Yanick Dupre Class Guy Memorial Award (Best character) — Sean Couturier

Pelle Lindbergh Memorial Trophy (Most improved) — Sean Couturier

Gene Hart Memorial Award (Most heart) — Sean Couturier 

• The Flyers close the regular season when they host the Rangers Saturday (3 p.m./NBC). New York is playing for nothing. The Flyers, for plenty.

No 2nd chances for Flyers against NHL-best Lightning

No 2nd chances for Flyers against NHL-best Lightning

BOX SCORE

The Flyers discovered Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center why the Tampa Bay Lightning have the best record in the entire NHL.

The Lightning scored three of their goals in the second period to defeat the Flyers, 5-1. Vladislav Namestnikov scored twice for Tampa Bay. Brayden Point, Yanni Gourde and Ryan Callahan also scored for the Bolts. Callahan’s goal came shorthanded, the eighth goal the Flyers have surrendered on their power play.

Red-hot Travis Konecny lit the lamp once again. The Flyers’ second-year winger now has a goal in four straight games and also reached the double-digit mark with his 10th of the season. Konecny is one goal shy of last season’s total of 11.

Michal Neuvirth made 17 saves on 22 shots. Andrei Vasilevskiy, the NHL’s best goaltender in the first half of the season, stopped 36 of 37 shots. 

Despite the loss, the Flyers enter the All-Star Break having won eight of their last 10 games.

The Flyers will open the post-All-Star break portion of their schedule next Wednesday with back-to-back road games against the Capitals and Devils.

• I didn’t like how the Flyers came out to start the second period. Just seconds after killing off a Lightning power play, Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux couldn’t corral a centering pass that led to a chain reaction in the Flyers’ coverage. 

Robert Hagg vacated his spot in front of the net, which left a wide-open passing lane to Point. Giroux couldn’t get between Point and the net and Andrew MacDonald positioned himself perhaps a little too high to allow for an easy goal that should’ve never happened.

Two Lightning players outworked four Flyers to grab a 1-0 lead. Tampa came into this game with a 22-4-0 record when scoring first.

• Point was flying around the Flyers’ zone for much of the second period. Defensively, the Flyers gave Point too much freedom and space with the puck.

• The Lightning took advantage of the Flyers’ fourth line and their third defense pair, in particular Brandon Manning, who was stationed on the right side (which is typically Gudas). Manning, for whatever reason, glided over and left the right side of Neuvirth completely unmanned as the rookie Gourde capitalized and flipped the puck over Neuvirth for a 2-0 Tampa Bay lead.

• The disastrous second period continued as the Flyers’ power play coughed up its eighth shorthanded goal of the season. Jakub Voracek came up from near the blue line to keep the puck in the offensive zone. Once it got past Voracek, Couturier raced back to take away the pass, which left Shayne Gostisbehere to play Callahan 1-on-1. Callahan, with one goal in 38 games this season, completely wheeled around Gostisbehere and beat Neuvirth for the score and a 3-0 Lightning lead.  

• The Flyers’ power play not only surrendered a goal, but failed to score for the fifth time in the last six games. The possession time is there and it has moved the puck, but it hasn't moved personnel around. Sometimes we’ve seen Giroux operate behind the net or “Ghost” position himself in the right circle. The power play also hasn't generated any quality scoring chances from in, around and below the hash marks. The Flyers’ PP has converted just once in the last 17 opportunities.

• Late in the third period, the Flyers finally found that open seam as Konecny worked his way into the slot in the middle of the Lightning’s four-man box. Voracek hit Konecny for a one-timer that beat Vasilevskiy. When you’re hot, you’re hot. Good to see Dave Hakstol reward Konecny with power-play time with that top unit. 

• The Flyers held the Lightning without a shot for the first 7:06 of the game. While on the surface it would appear the Flyers were solid defensively, they were actually sloppy to start with early icings, sloppy puck play in the neutral zone and a failure to work the puck deep into the Lightning zone. 

• However, I liked how the defense communicated and won the 1-on-1 battles. Hagg made a switch with MacDonald, who had the angle on Gourde and stripped him of the puck. After Ivan Provorov had a pass picked off, Gostisbehere erased Callahan with a solid individual effort. In both instances, the Lightning could have had quality scoring chances, but the defense stepped up.

• Michael Raffl committed the only penalty in the first period on a holding penalty he telegraphed to the referees after he raised his arms, which served as a dead giveaway. Tampa’s power play wasn’t able to generate a shot with the Flyers’ PK nearly creating a chance of its own, but Jori Lehtera simply couldn’t make anything happen that included a 2-on-1 with Gostisbehere. 

• The Lightning look noticeably different without All-Star defenseman Victor Hedman with his 6-6 frame and long stick. In the final two minutes of the first period, the Flyers’ top line had sustained time in the offensive zone, cycling the puck and outworking Tampa’s defense.

Lineups, pairings & scratches

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Travis Konecny
Michael Raffl-Valtteri Filppula-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Tyrell Goulbourne-Scott Laughton-Jori Lehtera

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Shayne Gostisbehere
Robert Hagg-Andrew MacDonald
Brandon Manning-Radko Gudas

Goalies
Michal Neuvirth
Alex Lyon

Scratches: Forwards Taylor Leier (healthy) and Dale Weise (healthy), defenseman Mark Alt (healthy) and goalie Brian Elliott (lower body).