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Trade: Flyers add Talbot, Oilers open up space for Sekera

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Cam Talbot is lucky No. 8.

The Philadelphia Flyers added Talbot to the fold late Friday night, acquiring the 31-year-old goaltender from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for Anthony Stolarz.

Should Talbot get into one of the Flyers’ final 25 games — which he likely will — they will be the first team in NHL history to use eight goalies in a season. That just shows how weird this season has been on Broad Street. After some early season struggles, which saw general manager Ron Hextall and head coach Dave Hakstol fired within a 21-day span, they’ve ripped off a run that has seen them take 23 points from their last 14 games, putting them eight points out of an Eastern Conference wild card place and the third seed in the Metropolitan Division.

Emerging from the goalie carousel has been Carter Hart, the franchise’s goaltender of the future up until Dec. 17. He’s assumed the title of “goalie of the now” since after helping the Flyers win eight starts in a row and being a vital part of their recent run.

Talbot, who can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, comes to Philadelphia with an established relationship with Hart. The two have worked out together in the summer. “He’s a good mentor, a great guy, a good goalie,” Hart said on Thursday, adding that he called Talbot the night before his NHL debut for some advice.

This stablizes the goalie situation for the moment as Brian Elliott works his way back from injury down in the AHL on a conditioning stint and Michal Neuvirth is currently on injured reserve. In net had been Hart and Stolarz, the 25-year-old who was their second-round pick in 2012. Mike McKenna‘s been in the mix as well, but he’s only played twice since Dec. 28.

GM Chuck Fletcher will now get a good couple of months to see up close if Talbot, who’s posted a .909 even strength save percentage in 31 appearances with the Oilers, should be considered for an extension beyond this season and possibly act as a veteran backup/1B to Hart going forward.

This move for the Oilers helped them shed salary in order to have room to activate defenseman Andrej Sekera, who had surgery in August to repair a torn Achilles tendon. Stolarz can be a restricted free agent this summer, while they already have Mikko Koskinen locked up after extending the netminder for three years in January.

MORE: PHT NHL Trade Tracker

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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.

Streaking Flyers boosted by phenomenal Carter Hart

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The Philadelphia Flyers’ streaky nature shouldn’t come as much of a surprise in the City of Brotherly Love.

If anything, it’s only become natural over the past few seasons.

The NHL sends out daily emails filled with wonderful statistics for the media to sink its teeth into. On Thursday, they keyed in on the Flyers current eight-game winning streak (one they will look to push to nine against the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night).

Streaky has been the name of the game for the Flyers, and they’ve had mixed success within that formula. For instance, last year the Flyers became the fourth team in NHL history to rebound from a winless streak of at least 10 games (0-5-5) to make the playoffs.

But the year before in 2016-17, the Flyers won 10 straight before ultimately missing out on the postseason, becoming the only team in league’s then 99-year history to do so.

What the future holds for the Flyers this season is anyone’s guess. Three weeks ago, no one would have been talking playoffs and Flyers in the same sentence, but their current heater has changed the conversation. They’ve gone from 15 points adrift to seven, passing five teams along the way as they began their ascent from the basement of the NHL.

The Flyers eight-game winning run comes after an eight-game slide, and a 10-game stretch where they won just one game. You don’t have to dig all that deep to figure out why the wins and losses have come in waves.

Looking at the eight-game block prior to the current one, they scored just 13 goals and allowed 27. Math is hard, but it’s easy to sort out this one. They scored less than half the goals they allowed. You don’t win like that.

Conversely, they’ve scored 30 during their current run and have allowed just 17.

A big part of that has been the play of Carter Hart.

He’s allowed three goals or fewer in five of his seven straight wins — a .934 save percentage. The 20-year-old’s fine play, coupled with the extra run support, has made Philly a dangerous team to contend with. They’ve knocked off Winnipeg, Boston, Montreal and Minnesota — all teams in playoff position — during their run. The string of wins could get a little longer, too, with their next two games coming against Los Angeles and Anaheim.

Can the streak reach 10 for the second straight year?

How many wins in a row would Hart need to put himself in the Calder Trophy conversation? (Or is he already there now?) He has to be, right?

Sure, Elias Pettersson is having a great season and still the runaway leader at this point. But let’s say Hart puts the Flyers into the playoffs… sprinkle in a little east-coast bias and some recency bias and Voilà, some first-place votes may head his way.

Hell, if that happens, Hart would surely have to be on the long list of Hart Trophy candidates, too.

Yes, we’re putting the cart before the horse here. The Flyers still have a mountain to climb. Their eight-game winning streak has only improved their lot in life by eight points when looking at the standings. They’re still eight points behind the third-place Penguins in the Metropolitan Division and seven out of a wild card spot. And they won 10 straight last year and still couldn’t walk in the back door to get to the playoffs.

But they’re heating up at the right time and they have a goalie who is playing with all sorts of confidence (with a team the following suit thanks to their netminder’s play).

There’s hope in Philly these days.

MORE: Good and bad of Flyers’ remarkable winning streak

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

Beyond Pettersson: A look at the rest of the Calder Trophy field

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It has been a foregone conclusion for most of the season that Vancouver Canucks phenom Elias Pettersson is going to walk away with the Calder Trophy this season as the league’s rookie of the year. He has instantly transformed the Canucks’ lineup and at times been an unstoppable force when he is on the ice.

He is clearly the favorite and head and shoulders above the rest of the class.

Still, even with Pettersson’s dominance there are three other rookies in this class that are making a pretty strong push to at least make the discussion interesting.

Carter Hart, Philadelphia Flyers

Hart is a recent entry into the discussion, but he is making a pretty compelling case for himself with the way he has played since his mid-season call-up from the American Hockey League.

Not to overstate things, but he is probably the single biggest reason for optimism if you’re a Flyers fan because he at least has the potential — the potential! — to finally solve the long-standing problem in net. He has been a highly anticipated prospect ever since he joined the organization and his first look in the NHL has been everything even the most wildly optimistic Flyers fan could have hoped for it to be.

After backstopping the Flyers to a 3-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Monday night, he is now up to a .922 save percentage in his first 13 appearances and is top-10 among the 65 goalies that have played in at least 10 games. His .924 even-strength mark is 16th out of that group. Yes, it’s a smal sample size but for a rookie goalie to jump right into the mess that has been the Flyers’ season and settle the position the way he has is extremely impressive.

It’s been a decade since a goalie last won the Calder (Steven Mason did it in 2009 for the Columbus Blue Jackets) but if Hart can maintain this momentum through the second half of the season he will at least give himself a chance to counted among the finalists.

Rasmus Dahlin, Buffalo Sabres

Defenders typically have an uphill battle for this award as only four of them have won it since 1990. Still, two of the top contenders this season are defenders and the best of the bunch so far has been No. 1 overall pick Rasmus Dahlin of the Sabres.

After years of near-misses in the draft lottery the Sabres finally had the ping-pong balls go their way this past year and landed the potential No. 1 defender their rebuild has been lacking.

[NHL Awards 2019: PHT hands out hardware at the All-Star break]

Dahlin has been tremendous from day one.

He is not only playing more than 20 minutes per night, he has been a positive possession driver (51 percent Corsi percentage) and showed superstar potential offensively. Entering play on Tuesday he has already recored 26 points in his first 48 games and is on track for around 45 points on the season.

As an 18-year-old.

In the history of the league only two defenders in their age 18 season have ever topped the 40-point mark. Phil Housley, Dahlin’s current head coach, had 66 during the 1982-83 season and Bobby Orr had 41 back in 1966-67.

As it stands right now his 26 points already the seventh-most all-time for an 18-year-old defender.

Miro Heiskanen, Dallas Stars

Then we have Heiskanen, who has probably been one of the few bright spots in what has become a tumultuous season for the Stars.

Given all of the injuries on the Stars’ blue line this season (John Klingberg has missed time, as has Marc Methot and Stephen Johns) they have thrown their prized rookie right into the deep end of the pool and asked him to play more than 23 minutes per night. That is three more minutes per game than Dahlin, and a workload that is almost unheard of for a rookie. Since the start of the 2005-06 season only seven rookies that have played in at least 45 games averaged more ice time per game. Five of those seven were age 22 or older in their rookie seasons.

Heiskanen is still only 19 years old.

To his credit, he has not looked at all out of place in that role. He already has 20 points (nine goals, 11 assists) in 49 games while the Stars have been on the positive side of the scoring chance and high-danger scoring chance differentials with him on the ice (via Natural Stat Trick).

The Stars have their flaws, and they haven’t always drafted well in recent years, but with Klingberg and Heiskanen they at least have the makings of a dominant duo on defense for the next decade.

More: PHT Power Rankings: 10 people that will impact the NHL playoff race

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.

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

Carter Hart giving Flyers much-needed boost in goal

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If you haven’t heard, things have been pretty messy in Philadelphia this season. They’re the only team in the NHL that has fired their GM and coach in 2018-19. It’s been bad…really, really bad. So when the Flyers decided to recall top prospect Carter Hart, many wondered whether or not the team was putting him in position to succeed. But so far, so good.

After the Flyers dropped all four games of their Western Canada road trip, they’ve found a way to win back-to-back games on home ice. Hart has been named the first start in each of those outings. In two games against the Red Wings and Predators, Hart has looked pretty good. He was particularly impressive in Thursday’s victory against Nashville, as he turned aside 31 of 32 shots.

Hart became just the third goalie in franchise history to win their first two starts (Antero Niittymaki and Ron Hextall also managed to do that). And he’s also the seventh-youngest netminder in league history to win his first two games. Impressive.

Late in the second period of Thursday’s game, the Flyers managed to kill off five-on-three man-advantage, and Hart was obviously a big part of that. After the game, Preds forward Ryan Johansen admitted that the rookie goalie left them frustrated.

“We had some good looks,” Johansen said, per NHL.com. “[Hart] made some good saves, made our 5-on-3 look bad. It was frustrating. We came in here at the intermission and we were all frustrated. I think we did a good job of settling down and understanding that we needed to just go out and play a good 20 minutes of hard hockey the way we can, and I thought we competed really hard. Good hockey game, good close game, we just couldn’t find a way.”

The 20-year-old admitted he was nervous before his NHL debut on Tuesday, but he was much calmer heading into his second appearance.

“I could feel it in warmups. I wasn’t as anxious,” Hart said, per Philly.com. “I had a good chat with my sports psychologist [Wednesday]. I was bit overwhelmed Tuesday and just had to bring things back to reality.

“I mean, playing against Nashville, there are obviously guys that are good players and players you’ve watched growing up. But they’re the same as you and me. They bleed when you cut them and all that. So that’s kind of the chat I had [with the psychologist] and I felt a lot more relaxed tonight.”

The question becomes: how long can he keep this up? Clearly, he’s going to lose at some point, but can he help his team get back into the playoff race? As of right now, they’re eight points behind the Penguins for third in the Metropolitan Division (the Flyers have two games in hand).

Taking a look at their upcoming schedule, Philly will play a home game against Columbus on Saturday afternoon before they hit the road for a couple of weeks (they’ll visit the Rangers, Lightning, Panthers, Hurricanes and Predators).

That’ll be a huge test for Hart.

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.