Alex Lyon

Flyers’ Carter Hart to make historic NHL debut vs. Red Wings

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The Philadelphia Flyers remain in a state of change, so why not make a little history while they’re at it?

When prized goalie prospect Carter Hart plays Tuesday night against the Detroit Red Wings, the Flyers will become the first team in NHL history to start six netminders in the opening 35 games of a season. They will also be the 14th team ever and first since the 2013-14 Buffalo Sabres and Edmonton Oilers to start six over the course of a season.

Considering the situation in the Flyers’ crease, who knows how long Hart, 20, will stay up with the NHL club, but this will be a peek into the future as he is expected to be the eventual solution in net. But with Brian Elliott, Michal Neuvirth, Anthony Stolarz, and Alex Lyon in the mix, the short-term answer might be more seasoning in the AHL once there are fewer goaltenders in the trainer’s room.

After a bumpy start to his professional career in AHL Lehigh Valley this season, Hart has settled down and helped the Phantoms win four of his last five starts with a 1.81 goals against average and .938 save percentage.

What helped to make things finally starting to click for him?

“Trusting my game, not trying to overthink plays,” he said on Monday. “Earlier in the year, making the transition from junior to the pro level I was over-analyzing everything. I had talks with the coaches down there and my goalie coaches back home, and I just have to trust my game, got to play to my strengths. When it’s game time it’s just time to play. You can’t think, you’ve got to play.”

Hart, who found out about his call up during the Lehigh Valley Christmas party on Sunday night, will be helped by the familiarity of having his AHL coach, Scott Gordon, a former goalie, acting as the Flyers’ interim bench boss. It’s not the easiest situation to be thrown into, but the franchise has faith in the young goaltender.

“Probably not the ideal time to give Carter a game but Carter’s playing really well,” said Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher. “He’s a professional hockey player, strong kid mentally. He’ll go in and give his best. I have no worries about Carter Hart long term. He’s going to be a really good goalie for this franchise.”

MORE: Stumbling Flyers fire head coach Dave Hakstol

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

It was another rough night for Flyers goalies

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Look, Andreas Johnsson is a pretty good player for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The 24-year-old’s carved out a nice niche for himself, particularly considering the fact that he was a seventh-rounder (202nd overall in 2013). Johnsson would probably be at least a medium-sized deal if he were on a team that wasn’t so loaded with young talent.

Still, it’s not the greatest sign in the world when Johnsson scored a hat trick on you … in a single period. It’s even worse when his hat trick doesn’t even cover all the goals allowed in a troubling 20 minutes.

That’s the plight of the Philadelphia Flyers so far in Saturday’s game, as Johnsson – who came into this game with two goals in 27 career NHL games – delivered such a drubbing, while Patrick Marleau added a goal to provide a 4-0 early edge.

Calvin Pickard ended up allowing four goals while making just two saves, extending what’s been a miserable run with the Flyers. It has to sting a little extra for Pickard, as he went from a respectable backup to something of a journeyman last season, as the expansion draft process scrambled him into the Maple Leafs’ once-deep pipeline of goalies who weren’t quite at the NHL level.

Instead of getting a little bit of revenge against his old club by living well, he instead languished.

By my eyes, Johnsson’s first goal was probably the ugliest, as Pickard really seemed to lose his angle or simply find himself out of sorts:

The second tally was a semi-breakaway that would probably give a lot of goalies trouble, but the third one might be another tally Pickard would want back, although Johnsson was able to wade in with his backhander before any defenders could really give him any trouble.

And that last point is really the thing. You can get in a chicken-and-the-egg argument about who’s most to blame for the Flyers’ goalie issues, at least from a bigger picture standpoint. Because … make no mistake about it, this continues to be a crisis.

Coming into 2018-19, it was somewhat understandable why GM Ron Hextall decided to stand pat, although you could probably charge him with possibly being a little too gunshy.

After all, Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth are a) quite experienced, b) cheap options, and c) in expiring contracts. The hope would be that those two veterans could hold down the fort while Carter Hart develops. Hextall also made a reasonable (but so far disastrous) decision to claim Pickard on waivers, rather than going the free agent route.

None of those goalies have solved things, and Alex Lyon looked overmatched in his first appearance at the NHL level (and is now hurt), too.

Now, Hart hasn’t been a brick wall at the AHL level, yet this seems like another beacon to the Flyers: why not just roll the dice and see if Hart could be like Matt Murray. The Pittsburgh Penguins probably wanted to let Murray marinate at lower levels a little longer, but injuries sort of forced their hand, and then Murray forced them to keep him around with strong early play.

For the Flyers, Hart standing above his colleagues would be filed under a “good problem to have.” And, worst-case scenario, Hart could instead fail, but get sent down to the AHL to continue working on his game.

(Even if he struggled, management would likely receive a better understanding of how close Hart is to full-time NHL work, and gain greater insight about how to approach either the next goalie free agent summer [Sergei Bobrovsky reunion tour, you might ask?] or the trade deadline [other Bob opportunity?].)

Speaking of standing pat instead of making more aggressive decisions, this latest hiccup and the wave of coach firings naturally make some wonder – again – about Dave Hakstol.

Is it possible that Flyers goalies aren’t put in ideal situations to succeed, too? Should Philly play a system that possibly plays to the strengths of its roster in ways they don’t now? Perhaps the solution might just be to shrug your shoulders at your Swiss cheese in net, hold your nose, and just try to “outscore your problems?”

There are a lot of questions stemming from a rough period of play, and they’ll only bubble up more often if the Flyers fail to find answers. Granted, these issues have been plaguing this franchise since their GM stopped being their goalie, so it’s obviously a situation of easier said than done.

Either way, something has to give, especially if nights like these continue … right?

The Maple Leafs ended up winning 6-0, with Garret Sparks pitching a 34-save shutout. Anthony Stolarz experienced a busy night in relief of Pickard, stopping 33 out of 35 shots.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

NHL on NBC: Slumping Flyers take on red-hot Rangers in Friday matinee

NBC’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Friday’s NHL Thanksgiving Showdown between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers at 1 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Last year, the Rangers openly admitted that they were going to be rebuilding. So when the team started the season 3-7-1, no one was particularly surprised with the poor results. Heck, they didn’t collect their first regulation win until Oct. 23 against Florida (ninth game of the year). They looked like they were dead in the water. But what’s transpired over the last little while has been remarkable.

Since they dropped a decision on the road in Los Angeles on Oct. 28 to fall to 3-7-1, the Rangers have gone 9-1-1. Their only losses came against a red-hot Detroit team and the Islanders (they ended up beating the Isles 5-0 less than a week later). That’s it. The rest are all victories.

“We were 3-7-1 at one point, and I don’t think the feeling in this room was that (bad),” said forward Kevin Hayes. “We felt we had a chance to win a lot of those games. We stuck with it. We’re a hard-working team. Our coach preaches hard work, and I feel like we do that all year and now we’re stringing together some wins.”

One of the most impressive parts of this streak, is that they’ve had to play without Mats Zuccarello, Pavel Buchnevich and Adam McQuaid.

Chris Kreider has been rolling, as he’s picked up 11 points in his last eight contests. Mika Zibanejad has accumulated 17 points in his last 16 outings and Neal Pionk has eight points in his last nine games. The contributions have come from all over. They even got a shutout from Alexandar Georgiev on Wednesday night, but Henrik Lundqvist will be between the pipes against Philly.

Let’s just say things haven’t been as rosy for the Flyers, who enter this afternoon’s game on a four-game losing skid (0-3-1). The month of November got off to a great start, as they had a six-game point streak dating back to the final game in October. But things have fallen apart in a hurry.

Goaltending has continued to be an issue for Philadelphia. Alex Lyon, who started their last game against Buffalo, was pulled after giving up eight goals on just 12 shots in the first period.

“We didn’t give our goaltender a chance to get into this hockey game,” head coach Dave Hakstol said after the loss to the Sabres. “And on the flip side, he didn’t give us a save early on either. The two go hand in hand.”

With Michal Neuvirth and Brian Elliott on the shelf, the Flyers will have to continue rolling with Lyon or Calvin Pickard. Neither one is a fantastic option, but they’ll have to find a way to stop the bleeding.

“We’ll roll with the best that’s out there, whether it’s what we have or something else,” GM Ron Hextall said. “Same as always. We’re always looking to upgrade our team if we can. We picked Calvin up because we believe in him and we also believe that Alex is pretty close. They’re gonna have a chance here and we’ll see how it goes.”

One way the Flyers could help their goalies is by executing on the man-advantage. Philadelphia’s 25th ranked power play has gone six-for-49 over their last 17 games, and three of those goals came in a 6-5 overtime loss to Tampa last weekend. They’ve got to get it done on special teams.

Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick, Eddie Olczyk, and ‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst Pierre McGuire will have the call from Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Flyers can’t cool off red-hot Sabres

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The Buffalo Sabres are so hot right now.

Buffalo roared to a 4-0 first period, ending Alex Lyon‘s first 2018-19 appearance for the Philadelphia Flyers early. Philly made a game of it, but the Sabres ultimately prevailed by a score of 5-2, giving Buffalo an impressive seven straight wins.

If you needed a reminder, consider that the NBCSN telecast noted that this is Buffalo’s first seven-game winning streak since October 2006.

This was Buffalo’s first sellout since opening night, and a national audience witnessed an affirming win for the Sabres.

Jeff Skinner began the scoring early, giving Buffalo a 1-0 lead just 3:38 in. Tage Thompson and Evan Rodrigues followed with goals of their own, putting the Sabres up 3-0 less than nine minutes into the game.

There were stretches during that opening frame where it felt like things might get even uglier for Alex Lyon, who appeared overmatched for a Flyers team that just isn’t enjoying any luck in net this season.

Johan Larsson showed nice touch on the 4-0 goal, but it’s also the sort that Lyon can’t yield, particularly with the Flyers already reeling:

Credit the Flyers for coming back with two goals in the second period, rather than rolling over altogether. Sure, it’s plausible that the Sabres might have relented a bit with such a lead, but Philly at least made a game of it. Jack Eichel‘s hustle helped set up Sam Reinhart‘s 5-2 empty-netter to wrap up the scoring.

Wednesday’s loss felt like a lot of the same for a Flyers team that’s been frustratingly middling, right down to the seemingly perennial headaches about goaltending.

There was one thing that was different, though: the not-quite-bullies got into their first fight of 2018-19, as Scott Laughton dropped the gloves with Larsson following his 4-0 goal.

Did that scrap spark that mini-rally for the Flyers? Believe that if you want to, but it wasn’t enough for Philly to end the Sabres’ impressive run.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

WATCH LIVE: Sabres host Flyers on Wednesday Night Hockey

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NBC’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Wednesday night’s matchup between the Philadelphia Flyers at the Buffalo Sabres at 7:30 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports App by clicking here.

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FLYERS

Claude GirouxSean CouturierTravis Konecny

Oskar LindblomNolan PatrickJakub Voracek

James van RiemsdykJordan WealWayne Simmonds

Dale WeiseScott LaughtonJori Lehtera

Ivan ProvorovRobert Hagg

Shayne GostisbehereChristian Folin

Travis SanheimRadko Gudas

Starting goalie: Alex Lyon

[WATCH LIVE – 7:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

SABRES

Jeff SkinnerJack EichelJason Pominville

Tage ThompsonVladimir SobotkaSam Reinhart

Conor ShearyCasey MittelstadtKyle Okposo

Zemgus GirgensonsJohan LarssonEvan Rodrigues

Jake McCabeRasmus Ristolainen

Rasmus DahlinZach Bogosian

Nathan BeaulieuCasey Nelson

Starting goalie: Carter Hutton