Caps Eliminate Boston, Flyers Won't Play Rangers: A look at second-round scenarios

Caps Eliminate Boston, Flyers Won't Play Rangers: A look at second-round scenarios

With the Flyers idle all week after being the first Eastern Conference team to advance while every other series went the full seven-game distance, we've had literally no idea who they might face in the second round. Depending on how the three game 7s went, it could have been anyone. Tonight, we learned that it won't be the Boston Bruins, who lost to the seventh-seeded Washington Capitals, nor will it be the top-seeded New York Rangers, as there will now be at least one team seeded lower than the fifth-seeded Flyers playing in the next round. 
Tomorrow night, two more game 7's will be played—New Jersey at Florida and Ottawa at New York. A mile from the first round of the NFL draft at Radio City Music Hall, the Rangers' season is on the line at Madison Square Garden. Of all these series, it's somewhat amazing the 4-5 matchup between the Flyers and Penguins was the first to end. Let the rust vs rest debate begin if it hasn't already.
Up in Boston, as if the game 7 drama weren't enough, the Capitals' win came in overtime, when Mike Knuble collected a blocked Bruins dump-in, skated it through the neutral zone and all the way to the goal, then put a tough backhand shot on Tim Thomas. Joel Ward put home the winner, and TD Garden fell silent.
A look at the goal, which was controversial, plus how tomorrow night's games will dictate the Flyers' second-round opponent, below.  
Knuble has had a rough season in Washington, often relegated to low-line work and plenty of time as a healthy scratch. His PT became a bone of contention with a vocal segment of fans, and he came through for them on Wednesday night. Knuble's always had a nose for the net, and let's be clear, if the Flyers got bounced on the OT winner that just ended the Bruins' season, I'd be livid. Knuble's momentum continued into the crease, where he made contact (nothing crazy, but contact nonetheless) with Thomas, seemingly affecting the goalie's ability to make a save on the rebound attempt by Ward. 

Credit the Bruins—they didn't linger or flip out on the non-call. They waited out the goal celebration and lined up for the handshake, and the congratulatory exchange seemed as genuine as this tradition gets.  
Last year's Cup winners and runners up are out in round one. The latter were President's Trophy winners, and the 2012 Vegas favorites for winning it all (the Pens) are also out. Gotta love playoff hockey. 
So who will the Flyers play?
If New York and New Jersey win, the Flyers play the Devils.
If New York and Florida win, the Flyers play the Panthers.
If Ottawa and New Jersey win, the Flyers play the Senators. 
If Ottawa and Florida win, the Flyers play the Capitals. 
It's still pretty wide open, but we know it won't be the Rangers. And we're not ashamed to be happy about that. 
Who do you want next? 

Flyers Notes: Wayne Simmonds defends hit on Andrei Markov

Flyers Notes: Wayne Simmonds defends hit on Andrei Markov

MONTREAL — Wayne Simmonds didn’t feel as though he did anything wrong. Or that he even touched Andrei Markov.
Thing is, however, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety may have a different view of it come Tuesday morning.
Early during first-period play Monday night, the Flyers' winger came out of the penalty box after serving a minor for holding and cross-checked Markov from behind.
The Canadiens' defenseman went face-first into the boards and fell to the ice, where he appeared to try and sell a penalty. Nothing came of it, but the hit will likely be reviewed anyway.
“I barely touched him,” Simmonds. “When you got a bunch of guys diving all over the place, what are you going to do? Stand on your feet.”

There were a number of tough hits from both sides in the Flyers' 3-1 loss to the Canadiens (see game recap). It was evenly played and the Flyers deserved a point.
“We played a solid game,” Simmonds said. “Obviously, we lost and it’s not what we wanted but we have four more games this week.
“We go home and we've got to be focused on the positive things that we did and carry it over the rest of the week.”
Gudas eligible
Radko Gudas has yet to play a real game this season.
The Flyers' bruising defenseman has been serving a six-game suspension for a careless hit in Boston that closed out exhibition play earlier this month.
Tuesday night, the Flyers will play the back end of a back-to-back against Buffalo at the Wells Fargo Center and Gudas likely will return to the lineup now that his suspension has ended.
“It seems like forever,” Gudas said. “I could use more games behind me. I think I’m ready with my conditioning and skill level, so I can’t wait to get back in there.”
The decision as to who comes out will be difficult. A good guess right now would be Nick Schultz.
“We've got the information at this point,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “It will be a tough decision, no question, if we are healthy.”
At some point — Nov. 5 — Michael Del Zotto will be eligible to come off LTIR. That means another veteran blueliner would become available and an even bigger problem will arise because Del Zotto carries a $3.875 million cap hit.
Barring injury or trade, when Del Zotto returns, the Flyers will have to move two players off their roster entirely just to be cap compliant.
For now, following Monday’s loss, Hakstol has to decide whether to stick with his current defense or put Gudas back in. Given the Flyers have missed Gudas’ physical presence — teams have taken liberties on smallish rookie Travis Konecny — it makes sense to reinsert Gudas.
“Obviously, teams are going to take advantage of smaller guys,” Gudas said. “I would love to be out there if anything happened. All the guys here are responsible and I think they did a pretty good job defending that. It’s not happening a lot.”
No, but it’s happened enough that the Flyers should take note of it.
Hakstol said his decision does not have to come until Tuesday.
“That’s not to say we haven’t looked at things and thought about the [issue], but that decision comes after tonight,” he said.
Meanwhile, Gudas finally has come to the conclusion that the NHL is watching his every hit.
“They’re looking at me since Day 1 I got here,” he said. “The guys made up their minds. I have to make sure I don’t give them an opportunity to call again.”
Maybe he should change his ringtone to say, “Player Safety calling.”

Loose pucks
Simmonds and Matt Read saw their four-game goal-scoring streaks come to an end. ... The Flyers were credited with 39 hits, the most they’ve had since 41 in a home game against Montreal on Jan. 5, 2016. Simmonds, Brayden Schenn and Schultz were credited with five apiece. ... Ice-time leaders: Ivan Provorov (21:31), Shayne Gostisbehere (21:27) and Brandon Manning (20:36). … Boyd Gordon was 10 for 12 (83 percent) on faceoffs. ... Jakub Voracek had five shots, giving him 21 overall, which ties him for 10th in the league. His goal gave him eight points and ties him with five other players for fourth in the NHL.

RT Halapoulivaati Vaitai 'calms the storm,' rebounds in 2nd start

RT Halapoulivaati Vaitai 'calms the storm,' rebounds in 2nd start

Halapoulivaati Vaitai wasn’t Lane Johnson on Sunday against the Vikings.

But he didn’t look like Halapoulivaati Vaitai either ... at least the version that was a revolving door last week in Washington.

In his NFL debut last week, Big V gave up two sacks, a quarterback hit and a hurry. Against the Vikings, he gave up just one QB hurry.

What led to the change?

“I just think learning from the week before, quite honestly,” head coach Doug Pederson said on Monday. “He really, again, detailed his work during the week. He practiced extremely well. He used his hands better.

“He was able to calm the storm, so to speak, and played a fine football game. He played the type that we saw [in] him and he’s capable of doing. Now it’s something that he can continue to build on.”

While it seemed like Pederson curtailed his offense some to counteract what could be a shaky offensive line, he said it was more about utilizing his team’s strengths. Still, Carson Wentz attempted just four passes that traveled over 20 yards on Sunday and didn’t complete a pass that went more than nine yards in the air.

Despite Vaitai’s scary performance in his debut, Pederson decided to stick to his plan and leave him at right tackle instead of shuffling the offensive line by moving Allen Barbre to tackle and replacing him with Stefen Wisniewski.

The jury is still out on the decision, but the Eagles probably have more confidence in their offensive line for the next eight games of Johnson’s suspension than they did before playing the Vikings.

The Eagles' O-line didn’t give up a sack to the Vikings after giving up five the previous week.

“I thought our guys [Sunday] did a great job of no sacks against a team that had 19 coming in,” Pederson said. “Protected [Wentz], kept him clean and it just gives him confidence now and gives our whole unit confidence moving forward and coming away.”