Flyers-Sabres Game 6: Leighton In, Flyers Must Win

Flyers-Sabres Game 6: Leighton In, Flyers Must Win

With no single right or wrong answer in net today, we're reminded that this Flyers team was built for that question not to be a dire concern. The depth at every skating position is designed to obviate the need for a true #1. Whether that's actually true or not (especially with recent injuries), we'll have all summer to reflect on it. Today, the forwards and defensmen need to play as though there's a trash can in net. The goalie needs to play like his team may only score a single goal. No more softies. No bad rebounds. The softie allotment has been expended this series. All eyes are on the man in the Flyers' crease.


Just before game time, CSN is reporting that Michael Leighton will start the Flyers, meaning the team will start three different goalies in six games. You couldn't have written this story in training camp, but growing up a Flyers fan, it's not exactly science fiction either...

No matter who's on the ice today from the forwards to the crease, the  Flyers need to play an exceptional game in all facets. The Sabres have  shown us that they will win if given any opening. If they don't come  home with a win, the criticism will be heavy on players and coaching  staff alike. There is no time left to get anything figured out. They  need to win today on their strengths, despite the weaknesses we know  they have.

Perhaps the biggest question is whether the power play can get its act together when it matters most. Tim Panaccio reports that JVR was taking the front-of-the-net role in the limited practice they ran yesterday. He was out with Giroux and Briere, with Richie and Kimmo at the points. I like it. Although JVR's not a garbage goal man, he has the size to protect the real estate and the hands to do the deflection and shovel work the position demands. But more than that, he's been the best player on the ice for the Flyers this series, and I like that Lavvy is saddling him with a big part of the responsibility to get the power play on the board when the team needs it most.

At various points over the past calendar year, the team has played very well in front of each of the goalies. However, it likely wasn't easy for Lavvy to sleep last night, because if the Flyers are downed by the Sabres and his goalie of choice allows even one questionable goal, the decisions throughout the series and especially today will be pointed to as the primary reason.

History may not recall that this has been a very tight series, with each game being very close and very good. Both teams are playing some great hockey, making each other pay for mistakes. But there's no comfort in that if the Flyers do not advance out of this series. For the first time all season, the Flyers face a must-win game. Their fight to come back from a 3-0 deficit on Friday reminded us of what we saw last season, which is that they can't be counted out. They're absolutely good enough to hang a few on Ryan Miller and shut the Sabres' offense out.

As of this writing, we're still waiting on the Chris Pronger status update. Pronger was on the first bus over to the arena, and they'll probably need to tie him down to something if he is not going to play. [Update: Looks like Pronger is indeed going to play. Ben Holmstrom will try to fill Zac Rinaldo's big shoes in taking the Jeff Carter roster spot.]

It's time to pull out all the stops if he can play, and every player on the ice needs to play like the Stanley Cup is waiting in the tunnel. If not, they won't get anywhere near the hardware this spring.

Today's Lineup: Cesar Hernandez (groin) returns

Today's Lineup: Cesar Hernandez (groin) returns

Cesar Hernandez returns to the Phillies' punchless lineup on Saturday afternoon against the Reds (4 p.m./TCN).

Hernandez, who missed Friday night's 5-2 loss with a groin injury, is back at second base and leading off. Hernandez has led off in all 44 games he's started this season. The fifth-year pro has struggled after getting off to a torrid start. He's hitting just .185 (10 for 54) over his last 14 games.

After bouncing around the lineup, centerfielder Odubel Herrera returns to his customary spot in the two-hole. Herrera's season is a microcosm of the Phils' woeful offense. An All-Star in 2016, Herrera is hitting just .227 this season. Manager Pete Mackanin hopes the Venezuelan will hit his way out of it soon (see story).

Here is the rest of today's lineup:
1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Odubel Herrera, CF
3. Aaron Altherr, LF
4. Tommy Joseph, 1B
5. Michael Saunders, RF
6. Maikel Franco, 3B
7. Cameron Rupp, C
8. Freddy Galvis, SS
9. Jerad Eickhoff, P

Top NHL draft prospects Nolan Patrick, Nico Hischier get CHL awards

Top NHL draft prospects Nolan Patrick, Nico Hischier get CHL awards

Brandon center Nolan Patrick and Halifax center Nico Hischier, the projected top two picks in the 2017 NHL draft, on Saturday afternoon added some CHL hardware to their trophy case.

Patrick won the Sherwin-Williams Top Prospect Award, beating out Hischier and Windsor's Gabriel Vilardi, while Hischier edged Swift Current's Aleksi Heponiemi and Guelph's Ryan Merkley for the CCM Rookie of the Year Award.

Injuries forced Patrick to play just 33 games this season, but he still produced at a point-per-game pace for Brandon. He finished with 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists).

Hischier scored 38 goals and 86 points in 57 games with the Mooseheads, his first season in the QMJHL after coming over from Switzerland.

The Flyers have the No. 2 overall pick. If the draft goes as projected, the Flyers will come away with either Patrick or Hischier, whoever the New Jersey Devils do not pick.

The 2017 NHL draft is June 23-24 in Chicago.

Missing history
Flyers prospect Carter Hart had a chance to become the first goalie in CHL history to win the Vaughn CHL Goaltender of the Year Award twice, but this year's award went elsewhere.

Owen Sound goalie Michael McNiven on Saturday afternoon took home the 2016-17 CHL Goaltender of the Year Award. McNiven was 41-9-4 for the Attack this season. He posted a 2.30 goals-against average and .915 save percentage with six shutouts.

McNiven led the Ontario Hockey League in save percentage, and his six shutouts were tied with Windsor's Michael DiPietro for the league lead. His 41 wins were tops in the OHL.

Hart, 18, posted a 32-11-6 record in 54 games with the Everett Silvertips in 2016-17. His 1.99 goals-against average, .927 save percentage and nine shutouts were all ranked No. 1 in the WHL.

Despite missing out on the CHL Goaltender of the Year Award this year, Hart previously did win the Del Wilson Memorial Trophy as the WHL's Goaltender of the Year for the second straight season. He was twice named the Vaughn CHL Goaltender of the Week and had a shutout streak of 193 minutes and 48 seconds during the regular season.

Hart was one of three second-round picks by the Flyers in the 2016 NHL draft.