The Philadelphia Flyers must be a maddening team to cheer for.
They can score goals with the best teams in the NHL. They also give up goals with the worst teams in the NHL.
A month ago they were in the middle of a 10-game winning streak that was launching them up the Eastern Conference standings and seemed to solidify their hold on a playoff spot.
After their ugly 6-3 loss in Boston on Saturday, they have followed up that winning streak by losing 10 of the next 13. Depending on what happens on Saturday night, they could be just one point up on a Hurricanes team that still has two games in hand on them for the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.
An 82-game season is always going to be full of peaks and valleys, but the 2016-17 Flyers seem to be taking that to the extreme.
Saturday’s game was particularly ugly for the Flyers. Not just because it was yet another loss, but because the entire day was simply a total nightmare.
A quick rundown of what all went wrong.
- They gave up six goals to a Bruins team that had scored more than five goals in a game just once all season. That was in the season opener … 45 games ago. They had scored more than four goals just four times entering Saturday.
- They were outshot 39-24 for the game, including a ridiculous 13-5 deficit in the third period when you have expected a team down by two goals to be able to push the pace a little.
- They allowed Brad Marchand to record five points, including a shorthanded goal where he never actually shot the puck.
- When they were on the verge of getting back into the game in the second period, just seconds after Brayden Schenn scored to pull them to within one goal, Jakub Voracek was given a five-minute major for boarding Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller, knocking him out of the game. The Bruins scored on the ensuing power play and never looked back.
The day got off to an ominous start when it was revealed that defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere was going to be a healthy scratch for the second time this season.
It would not be unfair to suggest that Gostisbehere has struggled a bit lately, or that his play has not quite matched what he did for the Flyers in his breakthrough rookie season. But it is still a curious move to take him out of the lineup given what the rest of the team’s blue line looks like. All of the Flyers defensemen are struggling at the moment. Taking out the one guy that at least has the potential to be a game-breaking player seems to be … well … not the best way to get your team out of a slump. That move on its own is not why the Flyers were blown out. Nobody else really showed up for them, either. But it did seem to at least set the stage for what would go on to be a rough day.
They get a chance to bounce back on Sunday afternoon against a Washington Capitals team that has won eight games in a row by a combined score of 35-11. That includes their most recent wins against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks by a combined score of 11-2.
In other words: It is not going to get any easier.
We can debate all day how much the NHL, Vegas Golden Knights and others involved really want to do this, but they’re making the right choice with the expansion draft nonetheless. The league will make protected and available players lists available at the same time they’re shared with teams, according to NHL.com’s Nick Cotsonika.
(The NHL tweeted out as much, too.)
Could this lead to feelings being hurt or perhaps even certain sneaky deals being scuttled? Perhaps, but those are headaches that management should be expected to absorb.
The bottom line is that an expansion draft is a dream come true for armchair GMs, rumor enthusiasts, fantasy sports fans and … really, just about anyone interested in hockey. It would be a bewildering decision to try to keep all of this information locked down, even for a league that frequently garners a reputation for choosing comfort over entertainment value.
Cotsonika reports that such lists will probably be made available on June 18, though that isn’t set in stone.
(If you’re the type to take off work if a trade deadline was exciting, you might want to start drumming up excuses/putting aside vacation time/practicing your best “I’m sick” voice just in case …)
Even though Jake Allen has played extremely well of late, Carter Hutton will get the call when the Blues take on the Coyotes in Arizona tonight.
Some of this could have to do with the opponent. The Coyotes are playing out the string on a forgettable campaign, and have lost six of their last seven. That includes a 4-1 defeat in St. Louis on Monday (in which Allen stopped 27 of 28 shots for the win).
As mentioned above, Allen has been great in March and deserves huge praise for turning his season around. He’s gone 8-1-1 this month with a remarkable .951 save percentage, allowing a mere 14 goals over his 10 appearances.
Hutton, though, has played equally well when called upon. He’s gone 4-1-0 over his last five starts, posting a .962 save percentage and a pair of shutouts. In his last outing, on Mar. 16, he allowed just one goal in a victory in San Jose.
For the Coyotes, Louis Domingue is in goal.
— A good matchup in Pittsburgh tonight, as the two defending Stanley Cup champions go head-to-head. Marc-Andre Fleury starts for the Penguins, while Corey Crawford goes for the Blackhawks.
— Calgary can clinch a playoff spot with a win tonight so, unsurprisingly, it’ll go with No. 1 Brian Elliott. No word yet on who starts for the visiting Kings, though it could be Ben Bishop after Jonathan Quick lost last night in Edmonton.
— Philipp Grubauer gets the call for Washington, after Braden Holtby led the Caps to victory in Minnesota on Tuesday. Grubauer will take on Calvin Pickard, who starts for the Avs.
Golden Knights GM George McPhee continued to list the characteristics he wants from a head coach this week, explaining that he’s searching for a forward-thinking bench boss.
“We want someone who is very current on the game, who is progressive on how the game should be played,” McPhee said in a recent phone call with season ticket holders, per the club website. “We’re looking for that progressive guy that can really help us through the early years and help develop our team and our players.”
So, time to connect the dots.
Back in November, Vegas owner Bill Foley laid the initial groundwork for McPhee’s coaching profile, saying he wanted to hire an experienced head coach.
“He’s not looking for a first-termer,” said Foley. “Some may or may not be available. … I would say the coach that we name is going to be a recognizable individual.”
Among the names that have already been floated, many fit the above billing: Jack Capuano, Gerard Gallant, Ken Hitchcock and Michel Therrien, among others.
Vegas has already spoken with Gallant and reportedly made contact with Capuano as well, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Gallant was nominated for last year’s Jack Adams as the NHL’s top coach, and McPhee is familiar with Capuano, having worked as an adviser to Isles GM Garth Snow prior to taking the Golden Knights gig.
It’s also believed former Flyers head coach Craig Berube is being considered, along with current Montreal associate Kirk Muller.
— Up top, the Calgary Flames don’t want Matthew Tkachuk to play any differently — even though Drew Doughty called the rookie winger a “pretty dirty player” after taking the 19-year-old’s elbow to the face earlier this month.
— Tkachuk was suspended two games for that elbow. Still, there could be fireworks tonight when the Flames and the Kings meet again in Calgary. Especially after Tkachuk replied to Doughty’s remarks with the following: “I expected more from him, honestly, than to go right to the media and start complaining after a loss.” (Calgary Sun)
— TSN’s Gary Lawless thinks Sergei Bobrovsky should win the Hart Trophy over Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby. Lawless writes: “No other player has been as important to his team and its results as Bobrovsky has to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Take Bobrovsky off the C-bus and it’s not necessarily in the ditch but it isn’t nipping at the Capitals for the league lead.” (TSN)
— Coyotes captain Shane Doan is understandably frustrated about the lower-body injury that’s kept him out of the lineup the past six games. At 40, this could be Doan’s last year in the NHL, so hopefully he’s able to return and play at least once more in front of all his fans. (Arizona Republic)
— Golden Knights owner Bill Foley doesn’t want each team’s protected list to be made public ahead of the expansion draft. That being said, Foley is also realistic: “I’d rather we know what each team has left unprotected and we make our picks and it’s a big surprise. I think there’s going to be a lot of leaks, though. I found one thing about the NHL that … everyone talks.” (Yahoo)
— An appreciation of the Detroit Red Wings playoff streak, which will finally come to an end this season. The last time the Wings missed was 1990. As noted by Nick Cotsonika: “No player in the NHL today was in the NHL then, not even Jaromir Jagr. Nine of the franchises in the NHL today weren’t in the NHL, 10 if you include the Vegas Golden Knights, who begin play next season.” (NHL.com)
Enjoy the games!