Couturier’s hat trick, Hart’s 39 saves help Flyers hold on against Bruins

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It’s not a sustainable winning formula — getting wildly outshot — but the Philadelphia Flyers will take wins any way they can get them these days.

It certainly helps when their players are scoring hat tricks, however. And just scoring in general.

James van Riemsdyk notched his hat trick in a 7-4 win against the Minnesota Wild on Monday, and it was Sean Couturier’s turn with his first career regular season hatty in a 4-3 win against the Boston Bruins on Wednesday Night Hockey on NBCSN.

And it helps to have Carter Hart, who has now won three of his past four starts (and has seen 35 or more shots in four of his past five).

Hart stopped 39 of the 42 pucks sent his way as the Flyers were outshot 42-19.

Hart’s now responsible for two wins on the trot, something the Flyers haven’t experience since Dec. 20. Winning hasn’t come easy in the City of Brotherly love. It’s been a tough season, so silver linings are are the small victories in what appears to be a lost season.

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The Bruins were largely unlucky in the game after controlling two-thirds of the possession, creating 62 shot attempts five-on-five.

Boston had won six of their past eight coming into the game but lost 3-2 in overtime to the Montreal Canadiens on Monday.

With David Backes made a healthy scratch for Wednesday’s game, Boston jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first period, including the first NHL goal by Backes’ replacement, Peter Cehlarik.

The Flyers would go on to score four unanswered, with Oscar Lindblom getting the ball rolling and Couturier’s natural hat trick putting the Flyers into a 4-2 lead in the third.

Cehlarik added to his impressive debut by scoring with 56 seconds left in the game but wasn’t enough to get the Bruins to overtime.

Meanwhile, Jori Lehtera was tossed from the game at 16:48 of the second period when he drilled Ryan Donato right on the numbers, sending the latter’s face crashing into the glass.

Donato was bloodied on the play and needed to leave the game to get cleaned up.

Lehtera was given a five-minute major for boarding and a game misconduct (and likely a long, hard look from the league for the non-sensical hit).

The Bruins were only able to get three shots on goal during the man-advantage.


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

The Buzzer: Nolan Patrick Kane

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Three Stars

1. Nolan Patrick

Nolan Patrick joins Patrick Kane (free commenter handle: Nolan Patrick Kane?) as the two skaters who generated four points on Monday. The struggling sophomore gets the nod for two reasons 1) it allows this to be a joint award with James van Riemsdyk, one of two players who generated a hat trick with the help of an empty-netter, and 2) Patrick’s Flyers won, while Kane’s Blackhawks somehow lost.

Patrick, 20, scored two goals and two assists, generating a +4 rating. He only needed two shots on goal, so he really had the touch on Monday.

No, like, he really had the touch.

JVR is heating up after what’s been a very tough half-season returning to the Flyers. This hat trick extends his multi-point streak to three games, where he’s generated five goals and two assists for seven points. Patrick and JVR are two players the Flyers expected a lot more from in 2018-19, so if both can turn things around heading into 2019-20, it would be a real moral boost for management (especially since it’s tough to imagine the team trading either forward away at or before the deadline).

2. Patrick Kane

Like Patrick, Kane generated two goals and two assists on Monday. Even in defeat, the Blackhawks would have been silly to expect anything more from Kane, who fired nine SOG and had a +2 rating.

Kane has only failed to score a point in one game since Dec. 14, and that was the 2019 Winter Classic (so you can try to manufacture and “indoor point streak” if you’re feeling strange). During this current actual point streak, 88 has five goals and nine assists for 14 points in six contests. He’s now at a whopping 64 points in 47 games in 2018-19.

3. Carl Soderberg

Two players generated hat tricks of two goals plus an empty-netter on Monday: JVR and Soderberg. Soderberg’s hat trick included the game-winning goal, giving him a slight advantage.

The Swede’s shorthanded goal was an impressive showing of willpower. He finished the night with a +2 rating and five SOG.

Check out his hat trick as a part of these highlights, which also includes Mikko Rantanen making everyone look bad, as he’s wont to do.

Other Highlights of the Night

Pretty nifty combination of hand-eye coordination from Jeff Petry on Montreal’s OT GWG:

That game also included a hefty fight, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Maybe a rare goal where Connor McDavid doesn’t “make it look easy,” … although, he kinda sorta still does make it easy, doesn’t he? Either way, you can’t really blame him for smiling:

Factoids

By the way, Andreychuk leads the power-play goal category all-time with 274. Meanwhile, Shanahan ranks 13th in NHL history with 656 goals. Nice symmetry there.

Scores

COL 6 – TOR 3
NJD 8 – CHI 5
PHI 7 – MIN 4
STL 4 – WSH 1
MTL 3 – BOS 2 (OT)
EDM 7 – BUF 2

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.

Why wait to trade for Wayne Simmonds?

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A shrewd contender should ask themselves a simple question regarding a Wayne Simmonds trade: “Why wait?”

Simmonds’ name has been surfacing in trade rumblings lately, including when Darren Dreger weighed in on the matter during Tuesday’s edition of TSN’s Insider Trading. Dreger and others indicate that Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher is still mulling over options, with at least some possibility for Philly to simply re-sign the 30-year-old power-play whiz.

The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reports (sub required) that Simmonds’ reps are expected to increase pressure on Fletcher to make a decision soon (maybe by the end of the week), and while that might lead to some sweaty palms, it’s likely for the best overall.

In fact, it could end up being a situation where everyone – the Flyers, Simmonds, and a potential new team – wins.

Consider the many factors at hand.

Lame duck: Let’s face it, the Flyers essentially sealed their fate without Simmonds when they handed James van Riemsdyk $7 million per season with considerable term. The two players are just too similar from an age and role (power play ace, big body) perspective.

Unfortunately, it’s been a tough season for Simmonds and an even rougher one for JVR. Maybe it would be better just to move on?

On one hand, Simmonds has motivation as his near-$4M cap hit is set to expire, as his next contract is a true mystery. Could he get big money and big term? Would a slower season really hurt his bargaining power? The current situation doesn’t seem particularly happy for Simmonds, and the Flyers might not have a ton of luck driving his value any higher.

Plenty of selling points: Luckily, Simmonds brings a lot to the table already.

We’re talking about a forward who’s not that far removed from regular 30-goal seasons, and while his next contract could be risky, he’s a better bargain rental than that Oscar winner you nabbed at RedBox.

Naturally, he checks a bunch of old-school “intangibles” boxes. He’s a hard-nosed winger who plays with an edge and scores goals in the vaunted “dirty areas.” That style of play makes him risky for a long-term contract, but for a rental?

(Cuts to GMs salivating.)

Buying time: The waiting game may or may not make sense for the Flyers, but there are some significant reasons why a contender should get him sooner rather than later.

For one thing, there’s the stupidly simple logic: if you land Simmonds, that means your competitors don’t get him.

It’s also worth noting that, giving Simmonds’ affordable cap hit, that same contender might be able to land another big fish. Considering rumors about the Golden Knights allegedly running out of time to trade for Erik Karlsson, it might help to cross an item off of the to-do list.

Let’s not forget human elements, either.

When a player’s traded, that person has to find somewhere new to live, possibly relocating family too. Some players are creatures of habit almost to a Rick Spielman level of zaniness (looking at you, Jack Eichel, hopefully with more reasonable pants policies). Disrupting those habits could be a real bother, particularly mid-season.

The sooner you’d land Simmonds, the more likely you’d be able to get him comfortable with new teammates and new surroundings before the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs kick in.

You’d get more time to make sure you’re optimizing strategies on the power play, where Simmonds seems like a dynamite difference-maker.

And, hey, getting extra looks at Simmonds could be crucial if said contender is thinking long and hard about signing the winger beyond this season. It would be dangerous to make such a decision based on, say, 30+ games, but that would sure beat about 15 regular-season contests.

***

The proactive argument makes sense for quite a few would-be trade targets, yet Simmonds ranks as one of the clearer cases, as he’s one of those UFAs whose teams have been noncommittal about the future.

(In other words, he’s not being wooed with free vodka to stay in town, like Artemi Panarin is with Columbus.)

Seeing Simmonds score big goals for a contender might sting for the Flyers and their fans, yet trading him might help that franchise get back to a place where they’re doing the contending. Sometimes that means making tough decisions, and this is a great time to pull off that Band-Aid.

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: Flyers visit Capitals on NBCSN

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Tuesday night’s matchup between the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals with coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The defending Stanley Cup champions are off to another great start to their season – with 54 points through the first half of the regular season, the Capitals sit first in the Metropolitan Division. The Flyers, meanwhile, are the bottom-dwellers of the division and the in-season coaching change has not helped as Philadelphia has dropped seven straight after losing to St. Louis last night, 3-0. Blues’ goalie Jordan Binnington pitched a shutout in his first NHL start as the Flyers were booed off the ice after the game.

Washington is coming off a 3-2 win at Detroit on Sunday in which Michal Kempny scored the game-winning goal with 3:52 remaining in regulation. The victory snapped a three-game losing streak, which was the Capitals’ longest winless stretch of the season. Dating back to Dec. 6, Washington has won 10 of its last 14 games (10-3-1). The Caps will now return to D.C. after a three-game road trip and boast a 12-6-2 home record this season.

Since firing head coach Dave Hakstol last month, Philadelphia is 3-6-2 under interim coach Scott Gordon. The Flyers won their first two games under Gordon but are now in the midst of their worst slump this season, having not won a game since before Christmas (last win: Dec. 23 at New York Rangers). Scoring has especially been a struggle of late, with Philadelphia putting up no more than two goals in five of their last six games (seven goals total in span).

The Flyers have used an NHL-high sx goalies this season, and that does not include recently claimed Mike McKenna. Philly claimed the 35-year-old off waivers from Vancouver last week as he backed up 20-year-old Carter Hart last night, who stopped 34 of 36 shots against the Blues. McKenna could lucky No. 7 on Tuesday night.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What: Philadelphia Flyers at Washington Capitals
Where: Capital One Center
When: Tuesday, Jan. 8, 6:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Flyers-Capitals stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

FLYERS
Claude GirouxSean CouturierTravis Konecny
Oskar LindblomNolan PatrickJakub Voracek
James van RiemsdykJordan WealWayne Simmonds
Michael RafflScott LaughtonDale Weise

Ivan ProvorovTravis Sanheim
Shayne GostisbehereRadko Gudas
Robert HaggChristian Folin

Starting goalie: Mike McKenna

CAPITALS
Alex OvechkinEvgeny KuznetsovTom Wilson
Jakub VranaLars EllerT.J. Oshie
Andre BurakovskyTravis BoydBrett Connolly
Chandler StephensonNic DowdDevante Smith-Pelly
(*Nicklas Backstrom is a game-time decision)

Michal Kempny – John Carlson
Dmitry OrlovMatt Niskanen
Brooks OrpikJonas Siegenthaler

Starting goalie: Pheonix Copley

Chris Cuthbert (play-by-play) and Brian Boucher (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will call Flyers-Capitals from Capital One Arena. Paul Burmeister, Keith Jones and Anson Carter will handle studio coverage.

MORE: Should Chuck Fletcher blow up or retool Flyers?

WATCH LIVE: Flyers visit Lightning on NBCSN

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Thursday night’s matchup between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Philadelphia Flyers with coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Since firing head coach Dave Hakstol, the Flyers are 3-1-0 under interim coach Scott Gordon. All four games were decided by one goal. Gordon’s Flyers debut behind the bench coincided with the NHL debut of goalie prospect Carter Hart, who has played in three of those four games.

The Flyers enter Thursday right points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for third in the Metropolitan Division. They were exactly eight points back of third place in the division last season after the Christmas Break. They went 27-13-6 the rest of the way and finished third in the division to make the playoffs.

Tampa is the hottest team in the league at 10-0-1 during the month of December. The last team to go a full calendar month without a regulation loss was the Blue Jackets in December of 2016 (14-0-0) en route to recording the 2nd-longest winning streak in NHL history (16 games). Their 58 points through 37 games are their most in franchise history, two points more than they had through 37 games last season when they also set a franchise record.

Captain Steven Stamkos has been red hot with 10 goals in his last seven games. He lit the lamp twice on Saturday to mark his 10th career 20-goal campaign. That ties Martin St. Louis for the 2nd-most in team history and trails only Vincent Lecavalier (12).

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What: Philadelphia Flyers at Tampa Bay Lightning
Where: Amalie Arena
When: Thursday, Dec. 27, 6:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Flyers-Lightning stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

FLYERS
James van RiemsdykClaude GirouxTravis Konecny
Wayne SimmondsSean CouturierJakub Voracek
Scott LaughtonNolan PatrickMichael Raffl
Oskar LindblomPhil VaroneDale Weise

Ivan ProvorovTravis Sanheim
Shayne GostisbehereRobert Hagg
Andrew MacDonaldRadko Gudas

Starting goalie: Michal Neuvirth

LIGHTNING
Ondrej Palat – Steven Stamkos – Yanni Gourde
Tyler JohnsonBrayden PointNikita Kucherov
Alex KillornAnthony Cirelli J.T. Miller
Adam ErneCedric PaquetteRyan Callahan

Victor HedmanDan Girardi
Ryan McDonaghAnton Stralman
Braydon CoburnMikhail Sergachev

Starting goalie: Andrei Vasilevskiy

Rick Peckham (play-by-play) and Brian Boucher (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will call Flyers-Lightning from Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla.

A new episode of the critically-acclaimed Road To The NHL Winter Classic™ docuseries, which takes viewers inside the dressing rooms and homes of the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks as they prepare to meet in the Winter Classic on Jan. 1., will debut on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, leading into coverage of Flyers-Lightning on NBCSN. An encore presentation will air at 11 p.m. ET on NBCSN, immediately following coverage of Flyers-Lightning.

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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.