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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.

The Buzzer: Martinook gets first hatty; Skinner continues heroics

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Three stars

1. Jordan Martinook, Carolina Hurricanes

Martinook put the Hurricanes on his back with a hat-trick on seven shots that helped them to their third straight win. It took Martinook 269 NHL games to get it, scoring his third into an empty net late in the game to make sure the Florida Panthers had no chance of getting back into the game.

2. Calvin Pickard, Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers needed this one. A 31-save shutout by Pickard helped the Flyers end a four-game skid. The Flyers looked the part of a team determined, putting up 46 shots in their 4-0 win. For all that Philly’s crease has endured this season, Pickard provided a bright spot in Friday’s matinee on NBC.

3. Jeff Skinner, Buffalo Sabres

Who are you going to call when you need another late comeback? Well, it’s gotta be one of the hottest players in the NHL at the moment. Jeff Skinner scored his 16th with 2:26 remaining in the third period to send Buffalo to overtime against the Montreal Canadiens and then scored 3:06 into the extra frame on the player to notch his 17th goal of the season and, more importantly, Buffalo’s eighth straight win.

Other notable performances:

  • It’s not every night a shutout doesn’t cut it as a star, but it’s not every night that there is the maximum number of games in the NHL. Marc-Andre Fleury regained the shutout lead in the NHL with his fourth in a 29-save effort for the Golden Knights. He did so against the Flames, who had 13 goals in their previous two games.
  • Speaking of shutouts, Aaron Dell posted his second in as many starts after making 19 saves in a 4-0 win for the Sharks over the Canucks. He blanked the St. Louis Blues on Nov. 17.
  • Two goals and an assist for Sean Couturier in the Flyers win. He’s on a three-game point streak.
  • Another strong outing for John Gibson, stopping 27 shots in a 2-1 win for the Ducks over Edmonton in overtime.
  • Rickard Rakell had the OT winner in that game and also assisted on the Ducks’ other goal in regulation.
  • Nino Niederreiter took a fourth-line demotion in stride, scoring a goal and adding an assist on Eric Staal‘s game-winner as the Wild came back from 2-0 down in the third period to beat the Jets 4-2.
  • Tom Wilson had a goal and an assist to push his point streak to four games. He’s got three goals and five assists in six games this season.
  • Thomas Griess stopped 39 shots in a 4-3 overtime win for the Islanders over the Devils.
  • Cam Atkinson has scored in six straight games.
  • Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog each recorded two-point nights because that’s what they do.
  • Craig Anderson faced 54 shots, stopping 48 of them as Ottawa decided not to play defense in front of their starter.
  • Erik Karlsson had a goal and two assists for the Sharks.

Injury news

Highlights of the night

For this one, we go back to one of the day’s matinees

Eat your heart out, Brian Burke:

Martinook’s hatty:

Boyle scores on Hockey Fights Cancer night in New Jersey:

Madness in Minnesota:

Factoids

Scores

Flyers 4, Rangers 0

Ducks 2, Oilers 1 (OT)

Wild 4, Jets 2

Sabres 3, Canadiens 2 (OT)

Islanders 4, Devils 3 (OT)

Capitals 3, Red Wings 1

Golden Knights 2, Flames 0

Blue Jackets 4, Maple Leafs 2

Bruins 2, Penguins 1 (OT)

Lightning 4, Blackhawks 2

Hurricanes 4, Panthers 1

Avalanche 5, Coyotes 1

Blues 6, Predators 2

Stars 6, Senators 4

Sharks 4, Canucks 0


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Couturier continues offensive surge as Flyers end losing streak

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Henrik Lundqvist did everything he could for the New York Rangers on Friday afternoon, and for most of their game against the Philadelphia Flyers he at least give them a shot to stay in it.

In the end, though, his 42 saves were not anywhere near enough as Sean Couturier and the Flyers eventually wore him and the Rangers’ defense down and broke through on their way to a 4-0 win, snapping what had been a four-game losing streak.

The Flyers received goals from Travis Konecny, Jordan Weal, and a pair from Couturier, as well as 31 saves from goalie Calvin Pickard, to roll to a win that was a lot tighter than the final score might indicate.

With less than nine minutes to play in regulation the Flyers were clinging to a 1-0 lead as they continued to fire shots at Lundqvist, unable to break through and add any extra cushion on the scoreboard. It was during that time that Pickard made his best save of the day when he made a point-blank stop on a wide open Lias Andersson following a defensive breakdown by the Flyers, and then had a little luck on his side when an Anthony DeAngelo shot rang off the post.

Just 20 seconds after DeAngelo struck iron, Couturier scored his first goal of the day to double the Flyers’ lead.

That was when the floodgates finally opened for the Flyers offensively.

Weal added an empty net goal just three minutes later, and then with Lundqvist back in the net Couturier scored his second of the game just 25 seconds later. He also assisted on Konecny’s goal in the first period to give him his fourth multi-point game of the season.

Couturier’s big performance continued what has been a massive hot streak for him. After recording just three points in his first 11 games, Couturier has been on a roll ever since and has now scored seven goals and eight assists in his past 11 games. He is now up to 10 goals and 18 total points in 22 games this season. After a breakout season a year ago offensively that saw him top the 30-goal and 75-point mark, he is now on pace to top his goal-scoring numbers (now on a 37-goal pace) and once again come close to 70 points.

Along with the three points, he also finished with a game-high 11 total shot attempts, including eight on goal. When he was on the ice during 5-on-5 play the Flyers attempted 70 percent of the total shot attempts. It was a truly dominant showing by him and his line.

The Rangers, who have been an early surprise this season and were 9-2-1 in their previous 12 games entering Friday, maintain a spot in the top-three of the Metropolitan Division even with the loss, while the Flyers were able to get two points closer in the standings.

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: Rangers visit Flyers in 2018 NHL Thanksgiving Showdown

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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.

It’s a meeting of two teams currently heading in different directions. The Flyers have spun their wheels for most of the season while dealing with numerous injuries to their goaltending. That’s led to a 9-10-2 start and a seat near the bottom of the Eastern Conference. It was only two weeks ago they were on a nice 5-0-1 run.

The Rangers, on the other hand, have come around after a slow start under new head coach David Quinn. The Blueshirts are 9-1-1 in their last 11 games and find themselves tied with the Columbus Blue Jackets atop the Metropolitan Division.

“We were 3-7-1 at one point, and I don’t think the feeling in this room was that (bad). We felt we had a chance to win a lot of those games,” said forward Kevin Hayes. “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 nice surprises during this run has been 19-year-old Filip Chytil, who is riding a five-game goal streak. That makes him the 20th different teenager in NHL history to record a goal in five or more consecutive team games

How important is playoff position on Thanksgiving Day? History says it’s a good indication of which teams will be in the postseason. Here are how things have shaped up since the NHL adopted its current playoff format:

Since 2001-02, at least three teams each season have reached the Stanley Cup Playoffs after being outside the postseason picture at Thanksgiving.

While Philadelphia does not currently occupy a playoff spot, the Flyers were not in playoff position on Thanksgiving last season and ultimately made the playoffs by going 34-17-9 (77 pts) the rest of the way.

[WATCH LIVE – 1 PM ET – NBC]

What: New York Rangers at Philadelphia Flyers
Where: Wells Fargo Center
When: Friday, November 23rd, 1 p.m. ET
TV: NBC
Live stream: You can watch the Rangers-Flyers stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

RANGERS
Vladislav NamestnikovMika ZibanejadJesper Fast
Mats ZuccarelloLias AnderssonSteven Fogarty
Chris Kreider – Kevin Hayes – Filip Chytil
Jimmy VeseyBrett HowdenRyan Strome

Brady SkjeiTony DeAngelo
Marc StaalNeal Pionk
Fredrik ClaessonKevin Shattenkirk

Starting goalie: Henrik Lundqvist

FLYERS
Claude GirouxSean CouturierTravis Konecny
Dale WeiseNolan PatrickJakub Voracek
James van RiemsdykJordan WealWayne Simmonds
Oskar LindblomScott Laughton – Tyrell Goulbourne

Ivan ProvorovRobert Hagg
Shayne GostisbehereChristian Folin
Travis SanheimRadko Gudas

Starting goalie: Calvin Pickard

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

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.