After digging themselves into a significant hole early on this season, the Philadelphia Flyers found a way to get themselves back in the playoff conversation thanks to an outstanding last few weeks.
Thanks to some steady goaltending from Carter Hart and a more aggressive approach overall, the Flyers were able to rattle off 12 victories in 14 games between Jan. 14 – Feb. 17. That’s very impressive. But last night’s loss to Montreal combined with Carolina’s win over the Florida Panthers was a serious blow to their chances of playing meaningful games in the spring.
If general manager Chuck Fletcher was using this final week before the trade deadline to decide whether or not he’d hold on to Wayne Simmonds, he got his answer.
Philadelphia dropped a 5-2 decision to the first-place Lightning, who were playing their second game in two nights when they went head-to-head against the Flyers. But anytime should be able to stomach a loss to Tampa Bay. Thursday’s no-show in Montreal, however, is a different story.
From the start of the game to the very end, they were dominated by a quicker, hungrier and better Canadiens team. The Habs aren’t one of the elite teams in the conference, but they went into last night’s game sitting in the first Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. Still, the Flyers couldn’t afford to drop those two points if they wanted to stay in the hunt.
For the second game in a row, Hart was pulled after playing just 10 minutes. This time, he got the hook after allowing a goal to Brendan Gallagher from a horrendous angle.
“We’re not in the position we’re in without him,” James van Riemsdyk said of Hart, per Philly.com. “He’s come in and does a tremendous job. There are games like that when there are going to be tough bounces. Again, he has nothing to hang his head on. He’s been unbelievable since he got here.”
So going into Saturday’s Stadium Series game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia finds themselves eight points behind their state rivals, who are in the third spot in the Metropolitan Division. A win at Lincoln Financial Field would bring them to within six points, but they’d still have Carolina and Columbus ahead of them.
Given the position they’re in, they have to absolutely unload Simmonds before Monday’s 3 p.m. ET deadline. Holding on to him and losing him for nothing at the end of the year isn’t an option. Although it’s hard not to blame the players for the way they played on Thursday night, they deserve credit for not giving up on the season when they easily could have done so in December, January and February.
For now though, it looks like they’ll have to start looking toward next season.
• Speaking of Stone, he’d be a nice fit in Boston, but there’s other guys the Bruins could target, too. (Stanley Cup of Chowder)
• Can Kovalchuk be a useful asset to a team that’s not the Los Angeles Kings? Rotoworld’s Gus Katsaros takes a deeper look at the advanced stats. (Rotoworld)
• The Lightning are blessed with a ton of depth all over their roster, but which defenseman should they sit once the playoffs begin? (Raw Charge)
• It might be a boring trade deadline for the Toronto Maple Leafs and their fans. (Pension Plan Puppets)
• Check out Gritty’s Stadium Series diary ahead of Saturday night’s outdoor game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. (NHL.com)
• Buffalo’s KeyBank center has become a little outdated. That barn is now 22 years old. (Buffalo News)
1. Brendan Gallagher, Montreal Canadiens. The Montreal Canadiens were dominant on Thursday night in a 5-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers, turning in one of their best overall performances of the season. At the center of it was Brendan Gallagher who recorded his first career hat trick to continue his great season. After his performance on Thursday he is now up to a team-leading 26 goals.
2. Tomas Hertl, San Jose Sharks. The Pittsburgh Penguins were no match for the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night who looked like the Stanley Cup contender that they are. Tomas Hertl was one of the big driving forces in the win as he scored a pair of power play goals, including one in the game’s first two minutes to set the tone for what would go on to be a decisive win. This game ended up getting very heated late.
3. Justin Williams, Carolina Hurricanes. The Carolina Hurricanes are back in a playoff spot after their come-from-behind win over the Florida Panthers. Captain Justin Williams had a huge game by scoring a pair of goals, including one off of his face. His second goal was a bit more conventional and went in the books as the game-winner. Nino Neiderreiter and Teuvo Teravainen also had multi-point games for the Hurricanes in the win.
More Notable Performances From Thursday
- The Dallas Stars were 5-2 winners over the St. Louis Blues, snapping what had been an 11-game winning streak. Jamie Benn eclipsed the 20-goal mark in the win for the Stars.
- The Nashville Predators reclaimed the top spot in the Central Division with a 2-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings. You can read about it and what is ahead for the Predators here.
- Big night for New Jersey Devils goalie Cory Schneider as he recorded his first shutout of the season in blanking what is left of the Ottawa Senators’ roster.
- The Arizona Coyotes are not going away. Their overtime win against the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday was huge and now has them just one point out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Given where they were coming from a year ago and the injury situation they have dealt with this season it is an impressive accomplishment to still be in this race.
Highlights of the Night
This sequence early in the Washington Capitals-Toronto Maple Leafs game was bonkers.
Tomas Hertl may never score an easier goal in the NHL.
- Connor McDavid recorded his 25th multi-point game of the season in leading the Edmonton Oilers to a 4-3 win over the New York Islanders. One of those points was the game-winner in overtime. His 25 multi-point games are the third-most in the NHL this season. He also had a questionable hit on Nick Leddy in the first period that could result in a review from the NHL’s DoPS. Eventful night. [NHL PR]
- Nikita Kucherov reached the 100-point mark faster than any other player over the past 22 years. [NHL PR]
- Alex Ovechkin scored career goal No. 650 in the Washington Capitals’ win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. [NHL PR]
Washington Capitals 3, Toronto Maple Leafs 2
Carolina Hurricanes 4, Florida Panthers 3
New Jersey Devils 4, Ottawa Senators 0
Minnesota Wild 4, New York Rangers 1
San Jose Sharks 4, Pittsburgh Penguins 0
Montreal Canadiens 5, Philadelphia Flyers 1
Tampa Bay Lightning 2, Buffalo Sabres 1 (SO)
Nashville Predators 2, Los Angeles Kings 1
Dallas Stars 5, St. Louis Blues 2
Edmonton Oilers 4, New York Islanders 3 (OT)
Arizona Coyotes 3, Vancouver Canucks 2 (OT)
The Nashville Predators, at least for now, are back on top of the Central Division standings.
Thanks to their 2-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night they were able to reclaim first place by temporarily jumping over the Winnipeg Jets.
Yes, it is true that the Predators probably haven’t been playing their best hockey as of late and still have a lot of room to improve before the playoffs begin. And yes, it is also true the Jets still have three games in hand on the Predators as of Thursday, so this position might prove to be short-lived.
But the recent slump of the Jets has put the division back up for grabs and the Predators look poised to try and take advantage of that situation.
Especially given what their upcoming schedule looks like.
After effectively shutting down a Kings team that is going nowhere on Thursday, the Predators continue their current home stand against a fading Colorado Avalanche team and then get to play Edmonton two nights later.
After that, they have head-to-head matchups against St. Louis and Winnipeg, which are followed by back-to-back games against a Minnesota Wild team that has gone into sellers mode ahead of the trade deadline.
They not only have some favorable matchups in front of them, but they also have an opportunity to really gain some ground and create some distance for themselves by playing the teams they are directly competing with. Nothing is a guarantee, obviously, but the opportunity is there.
You also have to assume that general manager David Poile is going to be active ahead of the NHL trade deadline as he has a rare luxury that most Stanley Cup contenders do not have — salary cap space. And a lot of it.
Josi’s goal, which proved to be the game-winner, was an especially beautiful play that was set up by Viktor Arvidsson.
Thursday’s loss extended the Kings’ current losing streak to six games and leaves them in the bottom spot in the Western Conference.