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Flyers tie NHL record as McKenna becomes 7th starting goalie

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The Philadelphia Flyers tied an NHL record by starting their seventh different goalie in the same season, and the netminder and coach involved make it an even better story.

(Granted, McKenna would have preferred avoiding a 5-3 loss while allowing four goals on 24 shots, but oh well.)

Journeyman goalie Mike McKenna has been tabbed for the start. The 35-year-old is suiting up for his third NHL team so far in 2018-19; he didn’t play a game for the Vancouver Canucks, while he appeared in 10 for the Ottawa Senators and is about to play for Philly. McKenna also played six games in the AHL this season. McKenna’s played for seven NHL teams overall, according to NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti.

[This post is worth it just for the gallery of Flyers goalies alone.]

As Sam Carchidi reports for the Philadelphia Inquirer, the goalie is well-traveled (just look at his hockeydb page), and McKenna has a good sense of humor about it.

“There’s probably a lot of punch lines associated with what I’ve done,” McKenna said. “You have to be able to laugh at yourself. I take my profession really serious, but there is some inherent dark comedy in this, too.”

From dark comedy to irony (or at least Alanis Morissette irony?), consider the coach involved. NHL.com’s Adam Kimelman notes that interim Flyers coach Scott Gordon was the sixth of seven goalies used by the 1989-90 Quebec Nordiques, the team the Flyers will share this record with.

That’s an almost spooky coincidence, right? Here’s a shot of Gordon as a Nordiques goalie, via Getty:

via Getty

Of course, the Flyers would probably argue that this is less funny and more sad/employment-threatening. It shouldn’t be lost on you that the Flyers have already tied this league record with almost half of the season remaining, as this is just their 43rd of 82 games.

Here’s a breakdown of how the other six goalies have fared over the first 42 games of the Flyers’ season:

Brian Elliott: 6-7-0, 2.59 GAA, .911 save percentage (14 games, 13 starts)
Calvin Pickard: 4-2-2, 4.01 GAA, .863% (11 GP, 8 GS)
Anthony Stolarz: 2-3-2, 3.90 GAA, .880% (9 GP, 7 GS)
Michal Neuvirth: 1-4-1, 4.27 GAA, .859% (7 GP, 6 GS)
Carter Hart: 2-4-1, 2.68 GAA, .909% (7 GP, 7 GS), giving some hope.
Alex Lyon: 0-1-0, 5.08 GAA, .806% (2 GP, 1 GS)

Well, at least the bar is low for this being a quality start.

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.

Please welcome Mike McKenna to the Flyers’ goalie carousel

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Six goalies have played for the Philadelphia Flyers this season and there may very well soon be a seventh.

The Flyers plucked Mike McKenna off waivers on Friday, two days after the netminder was traded from the Ottawa Senators to the Vancouver Canucks. Just another day in the crease for that organization.

“Mike provides our organization added depth as we continue to battle injuries at the goaltending position,” said Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher. “He is a veteran goaltender with a tremendous amount of professional experience.”

Here’s an overview of the Flyers’ current goaltending situation:

Brian Elliott remains out with a lower-body injury but is “progressing pretty well,” according to Fletcher. He could be practicing again within the next two weeks.

Michal Neuvirth is dealing with a lower-body injury, according to interim head coach Scott Gordon. He’s set to miss Saturday’s game against the Calgary Flames and is considered day-to-day. He suffered the injury during Thursday night’s loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.

Anthony Stolarz may get back on the ice this weekend as he’s on the mend with a lower-body injury.

Carter Hart, who is healthy, has made five starts since being called up and posted a .900 even strength save percentage.

• Alex Lyon stays in the AHL and has helped the Phantoms win three of his last four starts.

• McKenna is a 35-year-old journeyman who’s played only 34 NHL games in his career while suiting up for nearly two dozen teams in The Show and the American Hockey League since 2006-07.

• Former GM Ron Hextall is still under contract with the team.

(Calvin Pickard was claimed on waivers by the Arizona Coyotes on Nov. 29.)

The Flyers became the 14th team in NHL history to start six goalies in a season when Hart made his debut. Could McKenna help them make more history as lucky No. 7?

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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.

Can Coyotes keep playoff hopes alive without Raanta?

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One of the saddest phrases in sports is “[Player X] would really have been something, if only they could stay healthy.”

Some argue that avoiding injuries counts as a “skill,” and it’s plausible that certain players may simply be better at staying healthy than others, but there are still instances when the injury gods feel awfully cruel.

We’re rapidly approaching that point with Arizona Coyotes goalie Antti Raanta.

Even with a challenging start to 2018-19 (just a .906 save percentage over 12 games), Raanta’s been fantastic for the Coyotes so far … when he’s been able to actually play.

That caveat was frustrating last season, as Raanta missed crucial chunks of time – most painfully being unhealthy as the Coyotes went without a win in October 2017 – yet was essentially elite when he could play, generating a splendid .930 save percentage in 47 games.

Unfortunately for the Coyotes, it’s looking like 47 Raanta appearances would have been a gift compared to the likely reality. The team announced that the 29-year-old goalie is out “indefinitely,” while The Athletic’s Craig Morgan provided a more detailed (and more troubling) update: Raanta might miss the rest of this season.

Brutal.

It’s fair to wonder if this might become the story of Raanta’s career.

Again, the Finn fought nagging injuries last season, and this year’s been even worse. At 29, he’s not ancient, but Raanta isn’t exactly a spring chicken, either. (If you need a glum example of how quickly a goalie can start looking older-and-more-fragile, look at all of the injury headaches Carey Price has been dealing with at just 31.)

That said, Raanta’s limited starts pre-Arizona came from him being a backup, not necessarily from injuries. There’s the hope that, in hindsight, these past two years will look like speed bumps rather than Raanta’s promising career hitting a brick wall. If nothing else, Raanta is listed at just 6-0, so he’s not one of those prototypical towering goalies whose huge frames only increase odds of additional injuries.

Either way, Raanta’s lengthy absence deals an enormous blow to the Coyotes’ fledgling playoff hopes.

You could argue that they’d be in tough to land a spot in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs even with a keyed-in Raanta. As of this writing, Arizona’s record is 13-13-2 for 28 points in as many games, leaving them in 12th place in the West (five points behind Vegas for the final wild card spot, and seven behind Anaheim for the Pacific’s third seed).

Various projections aren’t totally dismissing the Coyotes’ chances of waging a comeback, but few give them much better than a 20-percent shot to pull that off … and those odds likely only drop once you factor in Raanta’s absence.

The Coyotes haven’t just been without Raanta, who’s been sidelined since Nov. 27. Backup goalie Darcy Kuemper has been hurt, too, making way for Adin Hill and waiver claim Calvin Pickard. To Hill’s credit, he began with a four-game winning streak and currently boasts a .939 save percentage, but his larger history indicates that he probably won’t be able to produce such results over the long haul.

All of this leaves Coyotes GM John Chayka in a tough spot.

If you’re the Coyotes, do you try to trade for a more seasoned goalie, particularly one on an expiring contract?

Or, do you do the uncomfortable and all-too-familiar, and punt on the season?

This Coyotes team is structured largely to compete, with an increasing number of longer-term contracts crowding the team’s salary cap.

Granted, the Coyotes have an interesting player or two. Would someone pay up some futures to land, say, Alex Galchenyuk? The 24-year-old’s endured a quiet first season with Arizona (just 11 points in 21 games), but there’s plenty of talent there. While Galchenyuk isn’t on an easy-to-move expiring contract, his deal doesn’t last much longer, as his affordable $4.9 million cap hit runs out after 2019-20. If you’re a contender, would you hand the Coyotes some futures to add some skill for Galchenyuk, particularly if the Coyotes absorbed a contract you wanted to get rid of (and/or retained some of Galchenyuk’s salary?).

It’s not pleasant to discuss who the Coyotes might sell off in a trade, and it’s even more unpleasant to wonder if Raanta will be injury-prone for the remainder of his career, but Arizona at least needs to ponder these scenarios. They might not have much of a choice, even if Raanta technically finds a way to play a bit toward the end of this season.

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.

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