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The Buzzer: Wheeler keeps dealing; big apples

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Three Stars

1. Blake Wheeler

What a night for the wildly underrated Winnipeg Jets captain.

Wheeler scored a goal and four assists, crossing 400 for his (again, wildly underrated) career. That milestone helper came as he read Nathan MacKinnon to create a turnover and set the table for Nikolaj Ehlers. Three of Wheeler’s four assists were primary helpers, too.

As usual, the winger brought a great all-around game, earning a +3 rating and logging a significant 3:13 of shorthanded time.

This virtuoso performance extended Wheeler’s point streak to nine games (two goals, 15 assists). Wheeler’s now at 21 points on the season, with 18 of them being assists, which ranks second in the NHL.

Mark Scheifele had a strong game against the struggling Avs, too, scoring a goal and two assists.

2. Mikael Granlund

The Wild absolutely dominated the Ducks, who seem to have no gear other than “hope John Gibson and a few deadly shooters can save the day.”

Granlund and Jason Zucker both generated three points, so you could consider them tied for the second star. Granlund gets the slight edge because he scored two goals and one assist, while Zucker generated two assists and one goal. Again, you could make the argument that Zucker should get that nod instead (or be the third star, if you’re really being difficult), as he had five SOG to Granlund’s two, and Zucker’s tally was the GWG.

Still, Granlund enjoyed a slightly more impressive night, including really making it easy for Zucker on his goal.

The Wild are quietly heating up, with wins in nine of their last 11 games. Bruce Boudreau just finds ways to keep his team’s regular-season-relevant, doesn’t he? Granlund and Zucker deserve serious credit for stepping up with Eric Staal banged up.

3. Chad Johnson

Friday was a solid night for goalies around the NHL. Sergei Bobrovsky earned praise from Torts and had the same number of saves (33) as Johnson. Like Bob, Frederik Andersen only allowed one goal while making 38 stops.

Chad Johnson is the only goalie who earned a shutout on Friday, though.

Considering Jake Allen‘s substantial struggles, the Blues might want to lean on Johnson for a while, as the journeyman goalie has – on occasion – shown that he can carry a team in net at times during certain stretches. The Blues have been able to occasionally create a really nurturing atmosphere for hot-and-cold goalies (like Brian Elliott, Johnson’s creasemate from last season), so perhaps Johnson could go on a mini-run? If nothing else, this was a nice win, especially if Mike Yeo is in any way looking over his shoulder at Joel Quenneville.

In other Blues news, Ryan O'Reilly is on a nine-game point streak.

Highlights

It didn’t translate to a goal, but this bit of Scheifele wizardry was magical:

Speaking of magical, Nick Foligno‘s beautiful pass to Oliver Bjorkstrand played a trick on three Capitals opponents:

Andreas Athanasiou ranks as one of Friday’s honorable mentions, scoring the goal that sent Detroit’s game against the Rangers into OT, then setting up Dylan Larkin for this OT game-winner:

Lowlight

Here’s hoping referee Brad Meier is feeling OK after this uncomfortable fall:

Factoids

Wheeler’s 400th assist wasn’t the only milestone from Friday. Patrick Marleau didn’t do a whole lot for it (Nazem Kadri ended up batting down a puck for a nice goal), but most of his 600 career assists have surely been impressive. (These two assist milestones explain the big apples part of this post’s headline, in case that wasn’t clear.)

Kinda cool to see his old buddy Joe Thornton on this list with him:

Chad Johnson’s enjoyed some nice peak moments in the NHL, but it’s been a while since he’s enjoyed a night like Friday.

Rarely a bad time to see your name next to Wayne Gretzky’s, eh, Blake Wheeler?

Scores

TOR 6 – NJD 1
CBJ 2 – WSH 1
DET 3 – NYR 2 (OT)
STL 4 – SJS 0
WPG 5 – COL 2
MIN 5 – ANA 1

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.

Flyers’ goaltending situation is looking extra bleak

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There are a few certainties you can always count on in any given NHL season.

The Philadelphia Flyers having a disastrous goalie situation is always going to be at the top of the list, and the 2018-19 season is, of course, no exception.

Somehow, things seem to be getting worse for them.

Already plagued with one of the worst team save percentages in the league through their first 14 games, the Flyers find themselves entering Monday night’s game in Arizona with a possible goaltender duo of Calvin Pickard and Alex Lyon.

The team announced on Monday that Lyon has been recalled from Lehigh Valley of the American Hockey League, and that Michal Neuvirth, who has played in just one game this season, has been placed on injured reserve.

Lyon will be available for Monday’s game, and will probably have to backup Pickard.

Why could he be backing up Pickard and not regular starter Brian Elliott? Well, that would be because Elliott was injured in practice on Sunday when he was involved in a collision with forward Travis Konecny. He is currently listed as being day-to-day and his status for Monday night’s game is currently doubtful.

This is obviously not ideal if you are the Flyers, a team that, again, already has a less than ideal goalie situation.

In his four appearances so far this season Pickard has already given up 15 goals on just 101 shots (that is an .851 save percentage), while the 25-year-old Lyon appeared in just 11 NHL games a season and recorded a .905 save percentage.

Even when Elliott has been healthy this season he has struggled mightily with a sub-.900 save percentage.

The fact the Flyers are in this situation should not be much of a surprise. Injuries have plagued Neuvirth’s entire time in Philadelphia, while Elliott has always been alarmingly inconsistent and the team was perfectly willing to enter another season with them manning the position. Add in a sprinkle of bad luck (Elliott’s injury on Sunday) and you have the perfect storm of Flyers goaltending.

It is truly remarkable how this team always finds itself with this exact same hole. In the end, all of these guys are simply placeholders until prized prospect Carter Hart is ready for NHL action. But if the Flyers’ history at the position over the past 30 years is any indication of what is to come, Hart should maybe hope for a trade to a team that isn’t perpetually cursed at the position.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Blowout loss to Sharks shows Flyers still have some big flaws

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Before the start of the season I wrote about the Philadelphia Flyers being one of the ultimate boom-or-bust teams in the NHL. On paper they have the talent to make the playoffs again and maybe even win a round. Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek are outstanding, and they have some excellent young players to help complement them. We saw their “boom” potential in the season opener when they went into Vegas and chased Marc-Andre Fleury.

Over their past two games, and especially in Tuesday’s 8-2 blowout loss to the San Jose Sharks in their home opener, we saw the “bust” potential. That potential comes from the fact that for all of the talent they have up front, and for all of the promise their young defense has, they still have some potentially significant flaws on their blue line and in net.

That was all on display on Tuesday where the Sharks spent the entire night doing pretty much whatever they wanted with the puck, systematically dismantling the Flyers in all three zones and in all situations.

Five-on-five? All Sharks as they outscored the Flyers 5-0 and outshot them by a 34-23 margin at even-strength.

Their inconsistent power play that entered the night 0-for-10 on the season, after finishing 16th a season ago? It went 2-for-5.

Even though the Sharks’ penalty kill surrendered a pair of goals, it also helped make up for it with a shorthanded goal.

[Related: Gritty makes grand entrance before Flyers’ home opener]

It was just total domination. San Jose’s offensive onslaught started early with four goals in the first period, including two 11 seconds apart from Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski.

From there, the Flyers never had an answer for anything the Sharks did, getting outshot 48-33 while starting goalie Brian Elliott was unable to stop anything, giving up all eight goals. It was the first time in his career that he has given up eight goals in a single game. The Flyers likely kept him in to “take one for the team” because they play again on Wednesday night where Calvin Pickard is expected to get the start.

These were the big question marks for the Flyers entering the season that would ultimately make-or-break their season: Would their young defense take a step forward and be good enough to insulate a questionable, unsettled goaltending situation; and would that goaltending situation be able to find a way to give them some acceptable level of play.

You can’t reach any definitive conclusions after three games, because that is all that it is … just three games. This is, after all, a team that at one point last season lost 11 games in a row and still managed to make the playoffs. But there are still very real flaws on this team that can hold them back and on Tuesday night those flaws were out there for everyone to see.

There are a lot of reasons to like this team and the potential that it has.

There are also reasons to be skeptical of it.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

WATCH LIVE: Flyers, Sharks meet on NBCSN

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NBC’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Tuesday night’s matchup between the San Jose Sharks and Philadelphia Flyers at 7:30 p.m. ET. You can watch that game online by clicking here

The San Jose Sharks started their current five-game road trip with a solid 3-2 overtime win against the Los Angeles Kings on Friday. On Monday, they followed that up with a flat performance during a 4-0 loss to the New York Islanders. They don’t have much time to regroup as they face the Philadelphia Flyers a little more than 36 hours later.

In this particular matchup, the Sharks have dominated and won 18 of their last 23 meetings with the Flyers dating back to 2002.

Joe Thornton (knee) and James van Riemsdyk (lower body) will both miss out.

What could help get the Sharks going is waking up their power play, which is a shocking 0-for-10 so far. They did have nine chances Monday in Brookyln, but failed to capitalize on four opportunities.

Brian Elliott has started every game for the Flyers this season as Michal Neuvirth heals up and they allow Calvin Pickard to settle in after being claimed on waivers from Toronto last week. Philadelphia plays the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday, which would be a good opportunity to give their No. 1 in Elliott a rest.

What: San Jose Sharks at Philadelphia Flyers
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia
When: Tuesday, October 9th, 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Sharks-Flyers stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

Sharks
Timo MeierJoe PavelskiMelker Karlsson
Tomas HertlLogan CoutureKevin Labanc
Evander KaneAntti SuomelaJoonas Donskoi
Barclay Goodrow – Rourke Chartier – Marcus Sorensen

Marc-Edouard VlasicErik Karlsson
Joakim RyanBrent Burns
Brenden DillonJustin Braun

Starting goalie: TBA

[WATCH LIVE – 7:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

Flyers
Claude GirouxSean CouturierJakub Voracek
Oskar LindblomNolan PatrickTravis Konecny
Jordan WealMikhail VorobyovWayne Simmonds
Scott LaughtonJori LehteraMichael Raffl

Ivan ProvorovShayne Gostisbehere
Robert HaggAndrew MacDonald
Travis SanheimRadko Gudas

Starting goalie: Brian Elliott

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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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.

Flyers overwhelm Fleury, Golden Knights

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The Vegas Golden Knights’ magical first season ended with Marc-Andre Fleury struggling against the Capitals, a rival from his Penguins days. Their second season began in a similar way.

Fleury experienced his ups and downs during his career starts against the Philadelphia Flyers, and you can file his first start of 2018-19 as a big letdown. “MAF” only made it halfway through an eventual 5-2 win for the Flyers, as Fleury gave up five goals on 16 shots.

With two goals, Wayne Simmonds began his contract year with impressive work. Robert Hagg also enjoyed a strong showing, collecting a goal and an assist for Philly. The Flyers shook off an early Jonathan Marchessault goal, rattling off five unanswered goals.

While the Flyers spoiled the party tonight, it’s not as though the Golden Knights totally looked like pumpkins in trying to follow up their Cinderella first season in the NHL.

There were moments where Vegas’ speed seemed as overwhelming as it did in 2017-18, forcing a strong night from Flyers goalie Brian Elliott. Both of the Golden Knights’ goals were quite pretty, as it seemed like anything less would be gobbled up by a game Elliott.

Getting too high or too low is foolish during an 82-game season. Merely glance at the Bruins’ 48 hours, as they went from losing 7-0 last night to swaggering their way to a 4-0 win on Thursday.

Still, nights like these serve as a reminder of how fantastic Fleury was last season, and how difficult it will be for “The Flower” to match or even approach his efforts once again.

[Think of Happier Days for the Golden Knights.]

How much did the hard-charging Golden Knights’ formula depend upon luck and superlative goaltending? Time will tell, yet the Flyers reminded many of Fleury’s tougher times — and how difficult it is to consistently win in the NHL.

Now, for an alternate recap that should entertain people who loved the way the Stars announced Tyler Seguin‘s extension:

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.