Josh Bailey

Getty

Flyers could use breakout season from Nolan Patrick

1 Comment

Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Philadelphia Flyers.

The success or failure of the 2019-20 Philadelphia Flyers will largely depend on the performance of starting goalie Carter Hart.

If he is good, the Flyers will probably be good. If he is not, there is a pretty good chance it will be more of the same from a year ago.

But for as important as Hart’s development is, the Flyers have another talented, highly touted young player on this roster that could help move them closer to a playoff sport with a big season. That player is 2017 No. 2 overall pick Nolan Patrick.

Thanks to some lottery luck the Flyers were able to rocket up the draft board and land Patrick, adding a potential impact player to the organization at a time when it probably was not expected. Two years into his career and he has shown some flashes of the potential that made him such a promising draft prospect, especially during the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs when he was one of the Flyers’ best players in their Round 1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. During that series he was always looking like he had a chance to do something spectacular on any given shift. It may not have resulted in big numbers, but you could easily see the talent.

He seemed to be a prime breakout candidate heading into 2018-19 based on that showing and progression throughout his rookie year. It did not quite happen as he pretty much duplicated his mostly solid but unspectacular rookie performance while also seeing a concerning dip in his possession and shot attempt numbers.

[More: 2018-19 Review | Three Questions | Under Pressure]

A top draft pick not immediately becoming an All-Star level player isn’t necessarily a huge concern. Not everyone is going to step right into the NHL and be Sidney Crosby or Connor McDavid. Those players are rare, and there is usually a pretty steep learning curve for players trying to break into the league at 18, 19, or 20. There are a lot of really accomplished forwards in the league today that were high first-round draft picks and whose first two years were comparable to Patrick’s at a similar age, including Aleksander Barkov, Phil Kessel, Bo Horvat, Elias Lindholm, Josh Bailey and even Patrick’s own teammate, Sean Couturier.

Most of those players (specifically Barkov and Kessel, also top-five picks) started to take significant steps in year three.

That has to be what the Flyers are looking for from Patrick this season.

He does not need to be an All-Star right now, but there should at least be some kind of sign in his production and performance that he can start to trend in that direction.

If it does not happen in year three, it will probably be time to start wondering just what type of player he is capable of becoming.

The Flyers still have a couple of All-Stars at the top of their lineup in Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, and Couturier, they still have some really good secondary players, and they might finally have the goalie they have been trying to find for decades. There are question marks and holes that still need to be filled for sure, but there is the basic framework of a potentially good team here at some key positions at the top of the roster. Patrick emerging as a top-line player would help them get a lot closer to actually being a good team once again.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 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.

The Wraparound: Islanders still believe they ‘can turn this around’

3 Comments

The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down each day’s matchups with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

It’s not an ideal spot to be in, but the Islanders still believe they can come back to win their second-round series against the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Isles have their work cut out for them starting in Game 3 (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN), as they dropped the first two games on home ice. But the margin between winning and losing in this series has been slim. In Game 1, they lost 1-0 in overtime. In Game 2, they had a 1-0 lead for most of the game but they allowed the Hurricanes to score twice in the third frame.

“That’s the way it goes sometimes,” forward Josh Bailey said. “It could be 2-0 us, but it’s 0-2. We can’t get down. We still feel good about our group and have confidence that we can turn this around… They play very structured. I feel like it’s similar to the way we play. You can’t let frustration set in. We’ve found ways to frustrate teams throughout the year and in the playoffs. You can’t let them reverse it back on you. You’ve got to just stick with it, and we will.”

As Bailey points out, why wouldn’t the Islanders be confident?

Under head coach Barry Trotz, they put together a 103-point season and they totally revamped the way they defended as a team. They’ve received some really good goaltending from Robin Lehner and their better offensive players have chipped in at opportune times (before this series).

Assuming they can extend this series, they’ll have to find a way to use home-ice as an advantage again. In the first round, Nassau Coliseum was rocking and intimidating. It looked like the Isles were invincible there. Unfortunately for them, they’ve moved to Barclays Center in Round 2 and that feeling of invincibility is gone.

But before they can return home, they have to win at least one of these two upcoming games in Raleigh.

“I said to them, ‘Hey, we’re going to Carolina to win two games, plain and simple.’ You can’t win two unless you focus on the first, so we’ll focus on the first and go from there,” head coach Barry Trotz said.

Of course, the fact that the Hurricanes are so banged up should play into the Islanders’ favor. Goalie Curtis McElhinney made a few great stops when he entered Game 2 in relief of Petr Mrazek, but it’ll be interesting to see if the veteran can keep that up for an entire game or multiple games. Andrei Svechnikov, Jordan Martinook and Micheal Ferland have also missed extended periods of time, while Trevor van Riemsdyk and Saku Maenalanen are expected to miss the rest of the series.

 [NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

TODAY’S SCHEDULE: 

Game 4: St. Louis Blues at Dallas Stars, 9:30 p.m. ET, Blues lead 2-1: The Stars were able to battle back from three one-goal deficits in Game 3, but they ultimately fell on a late goal by Blues forward Patrick Maroon. As much as they traded punches with St. Louis in that game, they need to find a way to stop chasing the game and they have to get off to a better start. Ben Bishop didn’t have his best game either, so getting him back to Vezina Trophy form will be a key if the Stars are going to head back to St. Louis tied, 2-2. (NBCSN; 9:30 p.m. ET)

TUESDAY’S SCORES:
Blue Jackets 2, Bruins 1
Sharks 4, Avalanche 2

PHT’s Round 2 previews
Round 2 schedule, TV info
Questions for the final eight teams
PHT Roundtable
Blue Jackets vs. Bruins
Hurricanes vs. Islanders
Blues vs. Stars
Avalanche vs. Sharks

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.

The Playoff Buzzer: Another shutout for Mrazek; Burns dominates for Sharks

Getty
  • Jordan Staal scores another huge goal for the Carolina Hurricanes as they continue their playoff run.
  • Kevin Labanc scored a beauty of a goal for the Sharks.
  • Brent Burns dominated and made a little bit of history for the Sharks.

Carolina Hurricanes 1, New York Islanders 0 [OT] (CAR leads series 1-0)

If you like defense and goaltending, this might be the series for you. It took a little more than 64 minutes for someone to find the back of the net in this one, but Carolina’s Jordan Staal finally did it for the Hurricanes in their 1-0 win over the Islanders. Petr Mrazek was also outstanding in net by turning aside all 31 shots he faced for the Hurricanes as they continue their magical run.

San Jose Sharks 5, Colorado Avalanche 2 (SJS leads series 1-0)

Even without Joe Pavelski in their lineup the Sharks still have enough depth to beat just about any team on any given night, and they showed that in their 5-2 Game 1 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Friday night. The Sharks’ third line of Joe Thornton, Marcus Sorensen, and Kevin Labanc combined to score three consecutive goals in the win, while defender Brent Burns had a huge four-point night. While the offense was a huge part of the win, the Sharks’ penalty kill also came through in the second period as they successfully killed off a four-minute high-sticking penalty on Brenden Dillon to help swing the momentum in their favor. They responded by scoring three consecutive goals over the next eight minutes to take the lead.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Three Stars

1. Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks. It was the Brent Burns show for the Sharks on Friday night as he tallied four points in their 5-2 win over the Avalanche. Along with the offense, he also made a couple of great defensive plays, including an outstanding play to break up a 2-on-1 odd-man rush involving Nathan MacKinnon and Tyson Barrie in the third period. It is games like this that made him a Norris Trophy finalist for the third time in the past four years. He is just the seventh defender since 2010 to record at least four points in a postseason game.

2. Jordan Staal, Carolina Hurricanes. Here is a quick look at how Staal’s week has been for the Hurricanes. He scored the game-winning goal in Game 6 against the Washington Capitals to send the game to a decisive Game 7. In that Game 7 he scored the game-tying goal in the third period to help send the game to overtime where they would eliminate the defending Stanley Cup champions. Then on Friday night he scored the game-winning goal in overtime to give the Hurricanes a 1-0 series lead. He has always been an outstanding defensive center and strong two-way player, and he is having an incredible postseason for the Hurricanes.

3. Petr Mrazek, Carolina Hurricanes. While Staal provided the only offense for the night, Mrazek did his part to keep the Islanders off the board with a 31-save shutout. It is already Mrazek’s second shutout of the postseason and the fifth shutout of his postseason career. That is an impressive number when you remember he has only appeared in 19 NHL postseason games and only has nine career postseason wins.

Highlights Of The Night

This was probably Mrazek’s best save of the night as he shut down New York’s Josh Bailey in the first period with this awesome glove save.

San Jose’s Kevin Labanc got the better of Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen on this play with an incredible move to set up the go-ahead goal for the Sharks.

Robin Lehner was not the problem for the New York Islanders on Friday as he matched Mrazek save-for-save during regulation. This second period stop on Gregg McKegg was his best of the night.

 

Factoids Of The Night

  • Jordan Staal’s overtime goal for the Hurricanes came 13 years to the day of his older brother, Eric Staal, scoring an overtime playoff game-winner during the 2006 playoffs. That was a pretty good postseason for the Hurricanes as they went on to win the Stanley Cup. [NHL PR]
  • This was the seventh consecutive day of playoff hockey that at least one game went to overtime. The longest such streak is nine consecutive days during the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs. [NHL PR]
  • Burns set a new Sharks franchise record for most career postseason points by a defender. [NHL PR]
  • Big night for Joe Thornton as he became just the 24th player, and only third active player, to record at least 100 postseason assists. [NHL PR]
  • Mrazek became the third goalie in Hurricanes history to record multiple shutouts in a single postseason. [NHL PR]

Saturday’s Games

Game 2: Dallas Stars at St. Louis Blues, 3 p.m. ET, NBC (Live Stream)
Game 2: Columbus Blue Jackets at Boston Bruins, 8 p.m. ET, NBC (Live Stream)

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.

Lehner, Mrazek put on Game 1 show as single bounce is the difference

2 Comments

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Game 1 between the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Islanders quickly developed into a night where a single shot was going to make all the difference. Fortunately for the Hurricanes, their goaltender kept all the shots he faced from going into his net.

Robin Lehner and Petr Mrazek put on a show Friday night at Barclays Center during the Hurricanes’ 1-0 overtime victory. Each goaltender finished with 31 saves and showed early on it was going to be a very tight, low-scoring affair.

Mrzaek got everything started off when Josh Bailey broke in on a breakaway. Bailey, the overtime hero in Game 1 against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Round 1, couldn’t beat Mrazek with a backhand attempt:

“[Mrazek’] been great,” said Hurricanes defenseman Calvin de Haan. “The grade A’s that we are giving up, he’s usually making the first stop and that’s all you can ask of your goalie, and we’ve just got to try to clear rebounds.”

Lehner put himself on the highlight-reel with a big pad stop to deny Gregg McKegg a golden opportunity:

Much like their teams, no one expected Lehner and Mrazek to do what they did during the regular season and be the focal points of why they’re still playing into Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Lehner and Mrazek both entered the 2018-19 NHL season at important points in their careers and separately grabbed control the No. 1 jobs on their respective teams. Mrazek finished top 10 in even strength save percentage (.931), three spots below Lehner (.935), who’s season was impressive enough to make him a Vezina Trophy finalist. 

They will be richly rewarded for their play this summer as both are eligible for unrestricted free agency.

“Robin’s consistently our best player,” said Islanders forward Matt Martin. “He’s solid in there, he’s composed, he makes big saves when we need them. … Robin’s the backbone of our team, there’s no question about that. He’s outstanding every time he’s in there.”

“He’s been great all year and now in the playoffs he’s coming up huge,” said Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour of his goaltender.

Lehner and Mrazek entered Friday’s Game 1 coming off quite different amounts of rest. Lehner had just experienced 10 days of rest after sweeping the Penguins in Round 1. Mrazek had to quickly shift from an emotional seven-game series that ended in double overtime Wednesday night to the opening game of Round 2, which was Carolina’s third game of the postseason requiring more than 60 minutes to determine a winner.

Time and time again Mrazek, who can now boast that five of his career playoff wins have come via shutout, was there to make a big stop as the Islanders kept managing to get to the dangerous areas in front of his net for opportunities. The one goal the Hurricanes did allow was quickly waved off for goaltender interference. By traditional scoring methods, the 27-year-old Czech native answered the call every time when needed, frustrating the Islanders and showing that this could be a very long, very tight series.

“That’s what your goaltender is for,” said Hurricanes forward Jordan Staal, who netted the overtime winner. “[Mrazek’s] a gamer. He can find ways to make those big saves at the right time and that’s what you want in your goaltender.”

Game 2 of Hurricanes-Islanders is Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on NBC (Live stream).

————

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.

Staal’s OT goal lifts Hurricanes to Game 1 win over Islanders

5 Comments

After scoring the game-tying goal in the third period of their Game 7 win in Round 1, Jordan Staal scored another massive goal for the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night when he scored at the 4:04 mark of overtime to lift his team to a 1-0 win over the New York Islanders, giving them an early 1-0 lead in the series.

It is Staal’s fourth goal of the playoffs and capped off a defensive slugfest that was highlighted by great goaltending, close calls, and a couple of premature celebrations for Islanders fans that probably only added to their frustration in the loss.

Maybe it was just a feeling out process between two teams that are new to this stage.

Or maybe it was the result of the Islanders still shaking off the rust from a week-long layoff and the Hurricanes still trying to come down from a double overtime Game 7 in Washington.

Or perhaps it was simply the play of goalies Robin Lehner and Petr Mrazek (or more accurately a combination of all three factors), but offense was nearly impossible to come by on Friday night.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Both goalies made stunning stops on breakaways, with Mrazek making a beautiful glove save to rob Josh Bailey in the first period, and Lehner stoning Greg McKegg in the second period with a sprawling toe save. 

The Islanders had two other close calls throughout the night.

In the second period, Mathew Barzal appeared to score when he deposited the puck into an open net only to have it immediately called back because of a goaltender interference penalty on Anders Lee, even though Lee appeared to be shoved into Mrazek by Carolina’s Lucas Wallmark.

With under six minutes to play in regulation, Ryan Pulock blasted a one-timer that sounded the goal horn at the Barclays Center and ignited the crowd, only for everyone to realize the puck did not actually go in, but was instead lodged on the outside of the net.

They never really came close to scoring after that.

After sweeping the Pittsburgh Penguins in Round 1, this is the Islanders’ first loss of the 2019 playoffs.

Game 2 of Hurricanes-Islanders will take place on Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.

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.