Deja vu: Bruins crush Flyers 5-1 to take 3-0 lead in series

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette tried to turn the pressure around on the Bruins saying that the Flyers would win and they’d come out and get after it tonight in Game 3. Turns out it took just over a minute of play to show the Flyers that these Bruins aren’t the same ones they dealt with last season.

30 seconds into the game Zdeno Chara scores the first of two goals ripping a loose puck past Brian Boucher to make it 1-0. Just 33 seconds later David Krejci would put one past Boucher to make it 2-0. Laviolette would call a timeout to settle things down but it was just a sign of what was to come as the Bruins rolled to a 5-1 win and a 3-0 series lead on the Flyers.

Anything that could go right for the Bruins did tonight. Hell, they even had a power play goal, Chara’s second of the game late in the third, to snap the 0-for streak in the playoffs.  Getting a three point night out of their captain as well as the first goal of the playoffs from Daniel Paille as well as another goal for Nathan Horton showed that everything is going right for the Bruins.

The only blemish on the night came when Andrej Meszaros scored late in the second period to make it 4-1. Tim Thomas aside from that was awesome yet again stopping 37 shots. The real goaltending story came, again, from the Flyers as they would press both goalies into duty tonight as Boucher was chased after giving up four and stopped 16 shots on the night. Sergei Bobrovsky would play the final 25 minutes or so of the game stopping seven of eight shots.

While previous games blame could be placed on the Flyers defense for not playing smart enough, tonight it all falls on Boucher. He flat out didn’t have it tonight and after getting pounced on immediately in the first period, he was rattled. The Flyers play like a team trying to do too much in their own zone and flat out Brian Boucher is not good enough to handle this series.

Some fans might start firing up the bogeyman talk about the Bruins being up 3-0 on the Flyers for a second straight year and that anything can happen. Sure, anything can happen, but it’s not going to this time around. These Bruins are motivated and loaded with more talent than last year’s team. Also having a healthy and on point Tim Thomas in goal makes a world of difference.

The Flyers simply haven’t had answers for anything the Bruins do. They can’t match up with Krejci’s line, they’re getting outworked all over the ice by anyone in a B’s sweater, and their goaltending is not playing well. The Flyers needed strong defensive play and for their goaltending not to be hide-your-eyes bad to go at it with the Bruins and they’ve gotten neither of those things.

It’s hard to see how Philadelphia will turn things around, if they do that at all and while last year taught us that anything can happen in the playoffs, anything isn’t happening here. These Flyers are a mess.

Maple Leafs may look to Russia to improve defense (again)

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Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reports that the Toronto Maple Leafs confirmed that Mike Babcock and Lou Lamoriello recently made a visit to Russia, but they didn’t admit why they went.

It turns out that they were scoping out KHL defenseman Igor Ozhiganov, who plays for CSKA, according to Johnston and others.

Ozhiganov, 24, did not go drafted. He does, however, have some interesting NHL connections. For one thing, he suited up for the same team that Nikita Zaitsev did, so that experiment has already worked out quite well for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

As you can see from the tweet above, Ozhiganov will play in the KHL through 2017-18. That’s impressive due diligence from the Leafs’ brass, although you wonder if such maneuverings might put the defenseman higher on the radars of other teams hoping to add depth to their bluelines in the future.

Raw Charge notes that Ozhiganov is a buddy of Tampa Bay Lightning star Nikita Kucherov, who definitely sings the defenseman’s praises. Even with Mikhail Sergachev in the mix, the Bolts are a group that will probably want to bolster their mix (especially in the uncomfortably likely event that Dan Girardi disappoints).

Either way, NHL fans will need to wait at least a season to see what Ozhiganov is capable of … and where he lands.

Devils give Jimmy Hayes a shot with PTO

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The New Jersey Devils have made dramatic moves to improve their forward group over the last few years, but even with Taylor Hall, Marcus Johansson, and Kyle Palmieri in the mix, there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

With that and the Devils’ recent struggles in mind, it only makes sense for GM Ray Shero to be open-minded to “reclamation projects.”

Perhaps that will be the case with towering forward Jimmy Hayes, then. The Devils announced that the winger has been invited to training camp on a PTO.

Look, there’s no doubt that Hayes has frequently struggled to make a difference at the NHL level. Not that long ago, he broke a 35-game pointless streak.

Still, it’s probably fair to give him an incomplete grade instead of a failing mark from 2016-17. After all, there are only so many players who can produce much offense when they’re receiving 9:14 TOI per game.

Hayes went from averaging 15:09 per contest in his best season (2014-15, when he scored 19 goals for Florida) to 13:50 TOI with Boston in 2015-16 and then that new low last season.

So, no doubt about it, Hayes’ stock couldn’t get much lower.

We’ve seen fringe guys become valuable assets after getting clean slates, including with bigger forwards. Zack Kassian resurrected his career following some significant struggles, just to name a recent example.

The Devils could use another NHL-caliber forward, particularly with valuable center Travis Zajac slated to miss a chunk of 2017-18. Maybe Hayes can be part of the solution.

No need for Flyers to rush Nolan Patrick after injury-plagued year

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This post is part of Flyers day at PHT…

It wasn’t long before Nolan Patrick began lighting up the Western Hockey League.

Two years before he was even selected second overall by the Philadelphia Flyers, he had scored 30 goals in his first full season with the Brandon Wheat Kings. A year later, he had 102 points, vaulting him into the position as the likely No. 1 overall pick for the 2017 Entry Draft.

Dating back more than a year, however, Patrick has been sidetracked by injury.

He underwent sports hernia surgery last summer. He played in only 33 games for Brandon this past season and couldn’t play for Canada at the World Juniors. In June, just prior to his selection by Philly, he had another operation — an abdominal surgery, the Flyers later announced — with a window of four to six weeks before he could resume full activity.

The Flyers had only a 2.2 per cent chance of winning the first overall selection, yet they still made a massive move up the board when the lottery had concluded. The first pick would come down to Patrick or Nico Hischier, who worked his way into the conversation for No. 1 overall as his QMJHL season continued.

In the end, the lottery-winning Devils took Hischier and Patrick fell right to the Flyers.

In Patrick, the Flyers get a center that stands at 6-foot-2 tall and 198 pounds, and is capable of producing significant numbers offensively — at least that’s what he showed in junior. Even if his 2016-17 season was hampered, Patrick still managed 20 goals and 46 points.

“And then playing and not being a 100 percent. I didn’t play one game this year feeling [like] myself. I’ve got the summer to get where I need to be,” said Patrick, per CSN Philly.

“My skating was kind of bugging me throughout the season. I needed to get my conditioning back to where I wanted it to be. I did as much as I could, but I wasn’t pouting about it.”

Patrick turns 19 years old next month during training camp and will look to make the Flyers for this upcoming season. Given everything he’s dealt with over the last several months, it would be, despite the talent that made him a top prospect in the draft, unreasonable to place lofty expectations on him right away, as he makes the transition into the NHL.

Having him healthy and ready for camp is a good start, but there really is no need to rush him along, particularly if it’s at the expense of future gains.

“We’re looking at the big picture here,” said general manager Ron Hextall earlier this summer, per the Courier-Post. “We’re not looking at next season. We’re looking at hopefully the next 10 to 15 seasons. We will do what’s best for Nolan long-term.”

Report: College free agent Alex Kerfoot opts to join Avalanche

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The wait appears to be over.

College free agent Alex Kerfoot has reportedly made his decision, choosing to join the Colorado Avalanche, according to Darren Dreger of TSN.

The news comes days after it was reported the New York Rangers were among the finalists to land the Harvard product, which would’ve provided a boost in depth at center for that club.

The 23-year-old center was also targeted by the Vancouver Canucks, which is hardly surprising given Kerfoot is from that area and played his junior hockey in nearby Coquitlam.

Kerfoot, originally drafted by the New Jersey Devils, was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award this past season, after scoring 16 goals and 45 points in 36 games with Harvard.

He decided not to sign in New Jersey, becoming an unrestricted free agent on Aug. 15.