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Could a Hart and a Lyon be the future in Philly’s crease?

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It’s a place where goalies go to die.

Just ask Ilya Bryzgalov, who famously said as much when talking about coming to the Philadelphia Flyers in the lead up to the Winter Classic in 2012 against New York Rangers.

‘Bryz’ righty predicted his own fate, sharing the same doom as many others who came before him in the City of Brotherly Love, falling off the map not long after and never finding his way back.

Recent memory hasn’t been kind to the Flyers at the goalie position. They once had Sergei Bobrovsky, but traded him, essentially, for a bag of pucks to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

There, Bob went on to supplant Steve Mason in goal and win two Vezina’s.

Mason ended up signing with the Flyers and managed a decent season in his first year. But from there he started to spiral downward. This summer, after an injury-plagued season with the Winnipeg Jets, who signed him last summer as a free agent, was bought out by the Montreal Canadiens following a trade right before Free Agent Frenzy kicked off as the Jets looked to dump salary.

We can go back further, too.

There was the Robert Esche era, the Antero Niittymaki experiment, Martin Biron, Brian Boucher and a host of other failures in the Flyers’ crease.

Last season, Brian Elliott wasn’t exactly earth-shattering acquisition that the Flyers hope he’d be when they snapped him up for two years a year ago. And backup Michal Neuvirth, who might have the potential to be a starter in the NHL, can’t stay healthy for long enough to see it through.

It leaves the Flyers in a precarious position, despite a stable of goaltenders heading into this season.

Both Elliott and Neuvirth’s contracts will expire at the end of this season. The Flyers signed Alex Lyon to a two-year deal on Saturday, ensuring the guy who helped the Flyers into the playoffs last season down the stretch would be around to fight for a spot in the NHL next season (and provide some much-needed depth should Neuvirth go down, again).

The Flyers seemingly have their ace in the hole in Carter Hart, a highly-touted 2016 draft pick out of the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League.

Hart led Team Canada to a gold medal the World Junior Hockey Championships this past winter and was named the WHL’s Player of the Year, the WHL Goalie of the Year and the Canadian Hockey League’s Goalie of the Year (for the second time) this past season — his last in junior hockey.

His junior stats put him among the pantheon of CHL’s best ever to man the crease.

And all of that has led to a hype train going full-steam ahead for Flyers’ fans, who’ve been starving for a legitimate superstar netminder for years, if not decades.

It remains to be seen what general manager Ron Hextall does with Hart this season but managing Hart’s progression as a pro is paramount.

The last thing the Flyers want to do is rush Hart and stunt his growth. Elliott and Neuvirth can hold down the fort for another season, allowing Hart to get a year of pro hockey under his belt in Lehigh Valley, while having Lyon ready to answer the call should someone get injured on the big club.

If the Flyers move Neuvirth via trade, Lyon seems the de facto replacement to back up Elliott, still leaving Hart time to hone his craft in the minors.

There’s hope, it seems, in Philadelphia.

There has been before.

Whether or not this time is any different, only time will tell.

Hart’s going to have to handle more than just his on-ice game as he works his way into the NHL. Lyon showed some good signs last year under pressure late in the season.

For now, they’re the future beyond next season.

Perhaps, finally, the curse can be broken for Flyers’ fans.

What’s your take, Philly fans?


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: Maple Leafs win records tumble, Caps win fifth straight

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Players of the Night:

Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals: He didn’t score on Wednesday, but his two assists were vital for the Capitals. Backstrom’s first helped tie the game with 33 seconds left in the first period. And with 65 seconds left in the game, his second apple of the night set up the tying goal that forced overtime, which Washington won via Evgeny Kuznetsov 38 seconds into the extra frame.

Kevin Connauton, Arizona Coyotes: Not a name you’re probably accustomed to seeing here, but Connauton put in a solid effort tonight, The 28-year-old opened the scoring for the Coyotes and then scored the game-winner in the second period to see off the Vegas Golden Knights.

Highlights of the Night: 

Roberto Luongo and Frederik Andersen put on an incredible-save clinic on Wednesday:

Luongo’s blocker save:

Andersen’s glove save:

The saves kept coming:

Kuznetsov fires home the winner and his sixth straight game with multiple points:

Factoids of the Night:

Scores:

Maple Leafs 4, Panthers 3

Capitals 3, Rangers 2

Flyers 2, Avalanche 1

Coyotes 3, Golden Knights 2


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

Desperate for goaltending help, Flyers acquire Petr Mrazek

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The deal: The Philadelphia Flyers acquired goaltender Petr Mrazek from the Detroit Red Wings for a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft and a conditional third-round pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.

Why is Philadelphia is making this deal? Simple: With the injuries to Brian Elliott (out five-to-six weeks with a core muscle injury) and Michal Neuvirth (out indefinitely with a lower-body injury), the Flyers had Alex Lyon, a veteran of just four NHL games, left to shoulder the load. Philly needed help after Neuvirth went down on Sunday and they went out and got it in 25-year-old Mrazek. The Flyers are currently third in the Metropolitan Division. Even with their six-point cushion from the second wildcard spot, relying on a rookie to see out the rest of the regular season could have been met with disastrous consequences.

Why is Detroit is making this deal? Sam Carchidi of Philly.com said Flyers general manager Ron Hextall had spoken with the Red Wings about Mrazek prior to Neuvirth’s injury, but the Detroit Free Press reported that the Flyers turned down a deal that would see a third-round pick go the other way. With the Red Wings being sellers, and with Hextall even more desperate for help after Sunday, he had no choice but to fold to Detroit’s demands.

Who won the trade? Pretty even. The Red Wings get a couple of picks over the next two years as they rebuild their team. The Flyers get immediate goaltending relief and perhaps an upgrade on the oft-injured Neuvirth. And Flyers fans will like that the team didn’t overpay to fix their problems. A good move from Hextall.


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

Chandler Stephenson scores twice in Caps 5-3 win over Flyers

Coming into Wednesday’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Washington Capitals had lost three of their last four games.

In a different vein, the Philadelphia Flyers were, well, flying.

Winners of nine of their past 11, they were heading into the nation’s capital against a team without a win in three straight at Capital One Arena.

None of the preambles mattered, however, as the Caps snapped their skid at home in a 5-3 win, scoring five unanswered and battling back from a 2-0 first-period deficit to increase their Metropolitan Division lead to six points over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Washington became the fourth team in the NHL to reach 30 wins behind the Tampa Bay Lightning, Vegas Golden Knights and Winnipeg Jets.

Philly got off to a quick start, with the second pick in the 2017 NHL Draft opened the scoring.

Nolan Patrick took a nice feed from Wayne Simmonds pulled the puck to his backhand and potted it up and over Braden Holby for a 1-0 lead 1:18 into the first period.

The Flyers doubled their lead before the eight-minute mark.

A nice rush from Sean Couturier resulted saved shot, but the rebound found its way to the stick of Travis Konecny, who buried his 11th of the season with Holtby down and out after getting knocked over by his own defender.

The Caps needed 47 seconds to erase the lead in the second period.

Rookie Chandler Stephensen stepped up in a big way, scoring both of the goals.

Stephenson cleaned up some garbage that Michal Neuvirth couldn’t manage in front for the first goal at 2:14.

Stephenson’s second came on the heels of a beautiful 150-foot pass by Madison Bowey to send the former in alone on Neuvirth.

Stephenson made no mistake, tying the game 2-2 at 3:01.

The Caps took their first lead of the night before periods’ end.

Andre Burakovsky got his stick on Lars Eller‘s centering pass, beating Neuvirth for a third time in the second frame to give the Caps a 3-2 lead.

T.J. Oshie made it 4-2 early in the third period and Washington’s fifth unanswered goal by Devante Smith-Pelly meant the end of Neuvirth’s night after allowing five goals on 20 shots.

Jakub Voracek hit double digits with his 10th of the season late.


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

PHT Morning Skate: Putin, Ovechkin, Malkin vs. students

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

To start the school year, Russian president Vladimir Putin skated on a team that included Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, and Pavel Bure and faced off against students. You can see footage of that below:


(H/T Puck Daddy and the Associated Press)

Jake Dowell, who is a veteran of 157 NHL games, has been invited to AHL Rockford’s training camp on a tryout basis. (IceHogs.com)

Braden Holtby’s retro-styled mask has been unveiled. (CSN Mid-Atlantic)

In the same vein, Michal Neuvirth’s “Rocky” mask has been revealed. (NHL.com)

Red Wings GM Ken Holland reflects on some of the changes in strategy and challenges the Red Wings have endured over the cap era as they look to make the playoffs for a 25th consecutive campaign. (RedWings.nhl.com)

Evgeny Kuznetsov hopes to spend his entire career with the Washington Capitals. (Washington Post)