Flyers cap turnaround with playoff-clinching win

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Flyers cap turnaround with playoff-clinching win

BOX SCORE

SUNRISE, Fla. -- They had been beaten up 4-1 by the Penguins a few days earlier. A few days later, on Oct. 21 at its practice site in Voorhees, N.J., team captain Claude Giroux boldly predicted the Flyers would make the playoffs.

They were 1-7 at the time, having fired coach Peter Laviolette and replaced him with Craig Berube just three games into the season.

“Eighty-two games is a lot of games, and it was only eight games and we had to believe in ourselves,” Giroux said Tuesday after his improbable prediction came true.

“When we started believing how good we were, we started winning games. [Someone] looked at me with crazy eyes when I said that, but it’s good to be in the playoffs. I just believed in our team. We had a good team.”

Berube’s Flyers clinched a playoff spot Tuesday with a 5-2 victory over the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center (see Instant Replay).

A four-goal outburst in the second period made it 4-0 as Giroux scored twice.

“Last year, not making the playoffs, it’s Philadelphia and it’s unacceptable and we were aware of that,” he said. “For us to make the playoffs this year after the start we had, we got to be proud of ourselves and make sure we keep playing like that.”

Truth be told, the Flyers had a poor start to this game after a scoreless opening period, a great second period and then, in the words of goalie Steve Mason, a “terrible” third period when the Flyers -- knowing they had it clinched -- let up and allowed the Panthers back into the game at 4-2.

“Our third period was terrible and we all know it and we addressed it after the game,” Mason said. “Come playoff time, we’re going to have to be better with it.”

Several individual heroes besides Giroux contributed. Vinny Lecavalier scored a goal and had a nifty assist on Tye McGinn’s marker. Adam Hall had two assists.

And lastly, Mason had 38 saves, including 14 in the third period when the Flyers were a defensive wreck for long stretches.

“The last seven or eight minutes we played some pretty good hockey, but there might have a little bit of a letdown,” Lecavalier said.

“Overall, we played a good game. First period, both sides weren't all that great but we came out in the second and scored four goals and had a lot of good chances offensively and it paid off.”

Lecavalier, who turns 34 this month, has been on five previous playoffs teams, including with Tampa Bay where he won a Stanley Cup in 2004.

The Flyers could have clinched a spot last weekend, but a four-game losing skid ended that chance. Lecavalier admitted there was a sense of relief in the dressing room tonight.

“It’s nice. You always want to finish strong and the right way, but we accomplished a lot from the start of the year, the first 10 games,” Lecavalier said. “We have to be proud of what we’ve done. We have to finish strong and make sure we’re ready and confident for that first round.”

The Flyers remain likely to face the Rangers and open in New York next week. The Rangers (93 points) won, 4-1, over Carolina to stay two points ahead of the Flyers (91) in the Metro Division. Columbus won, 4-3, in overtime against Phoenix to remain two behind the Flyers.

Berube’s team almost has to win out to overtake the Rangers. The Flyers have a game in hand.

“I told the guys you should be proud of yourselves,” Berube said. “They went through a lot. They battled hard all year. They’re a good group of guys. Good character and they deserve a lot of credit for making the playoffs.”

Berube’s focal point of what was the turning point in the season wasn’t back in October, but after Christmas when the Flyers went on a 5-1 road trip through Western Canada -- sweeping Edmonton, Vancouver and Calgary for the first time since 1996 -- then finishing up in the Western U.S. against Colorado and Phoenix and finally, New Jersey.

“That trip after Christmas was a very important road trip,” Berube said. “I believe we went there with a purpose on that trip and came back with five wins out of six. That made believers out of our team more than anything. It put us in a good situation.”

The Flyers were 4-1 in February, then 9-3-2 in March to solidly position themselves as a playoff contender. However, they recently lost four games in succession mostly because they couldn’t score a goal even though they weren’t giving up any, either.

They can’t relax if they want to catch New York.

“It’s a great accomplishment, but within this organization, it’s something that is expected,” Mason said. “It’s one goal achieved and now we have an even bigger one.”

NHL Notes: Oilers trade Jordan Eberle to Islanders

NHL Notes: Oilers trade Jordan Eberle to Islanders

EDMONTON, Alberta -- The Edmonton Oilers have traded forward Jordan Eberle to the New York Islanders in exchange for forward Ryan Strome.

Eberle has 165 goals and 217 assists over 507 career NHL games, all with Edmonton. He has scored at least 20 goals in each of the past four seasons, and had a career-high 34 in 2011-12.

The Oilers selected Eberle with the 22nd-overall pick in the 2008 NHL draft.

Strome was selected fifth overall by the Islanders in 2011. He has 45 goals and 81 assists in 258 career games with the Isles (see full story).

Panthers: Former Flyer Pronger added to front office
SUNRISE, Fla. -- Former NHL MVP Chris Pronger has joined the Florida Panthers' front office as a senior adviser to team president Dale Tallon.

Pronger played in five All-Star games, represented Canada in the Olympics four times, won a Stanley Cup with Anaheim and appeared in 1,167 regular-season games with five clubs.

The 42-year-old Pronger joins the Panthers after almost three years in the NHL's department of player safety. He joined the league office in October 2014.

The Hall of Fame defenseman's contract expired after this season. He hasn't played in an NHL game since 2012 because of post-concussion symptoms. He got a stick to the eye, which ended his playing career. Philadelphia traded his contract to Arizona in the summer of 2015 (see full story).

Flyers 2017 mock draft: More than just No. 2 pick in Rounds 1-4

Flyers 2017 mock draft: More than just No. 2 pick in Rounds 1-4

Nolan or Nico.

After weeks of debate, it's the 2017 NHL draft eve. Round 1 kicks off Friday in Chicago. The Flyers have 11 picks in total, including the third-round pick from Boston via the Zac Rinaldo trade.

The Flyers have the No. 2 overall pick. They'll select whomever the Devils do not draft at No. 1. They won't decide between Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier.

Seven of the Flyers' 11 picks fall in the first four rounds. They have one in the fifth, one in the sixth and two in the seventh. Will they make all 11 picks? My bet is no.

With enough ammo, we could see general manager Ron Hextall move up in the middle rounds. This mock draft does not take trades into account. We're only mocking Rounds 1-4.

Each team has its own internal rankings that differ from Central Scouting's rankings and those of experts who study the draft. Mock drafts are good fun but largely a guessing game.

Here is our only look at how we think the NHL draft could shake out for the Flyers.

First round (second overall): Nolan Patrick, C, 6-3/198, Brandon (WHL)
Whether it's Patrick or Hischier, it's a win-win situation for the Flyers. The optics here are simple: the Flyers jumped 11 spots during the draft lottery to be in this position; it doesn't matter which one comes to Philly, either will be a significantly better option than at No. 13.

With that said, I still believe the Devils will ultimately draft Hischier, leaving Patrick for the Flyers. Patrick has three years under his belt in the Western Hockey League and may be ready to graduate to the professional ranks, but that will be settled in training camp.

Patrick checks all the boxes as a true 200-foot player who might not necessarily excel at any one aspect of the game but does everything well. Brandon GM Grant Armstrong said the Winnipeg, Manitoba, native "won't let anybody down," and his uncle, James Patrick, knew from when his nephew was 8 years old, he was destined for big things in hockey.

Second round (44th overall): Marcus Davidsson, C, 18, 6-0/191, Djurgårdens IF (SHL)
Hextall said recently if the Flyers keep all 11 picks, they'd prefer to draft seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender. With a system heavy on D-men and goalies and a forward-heavy draft, the Flyers should stick with the forward route in the second round.

Brynäs IF center Jesper Boqvist would be an exciting option here but I don't see him falling to the Flyers at No. 44. Still, the Flyers stay in Sweden with Djurgårdens center Davidsson.

Davidsson is a two-way playmaking pivot known for his speed and work ethic. He scored nine points in 45 games last season in the SHL — eighth-best among junior-aged players. He models his game after Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog. He would be more of a long-term pick than receiving immediate dividends. He still needs more seasoning.

Third round (75th overall): Josh Brook, D, 18, 6-1/191, Moose Jaw (WHL)
With four picks in the first three rounds, I wouldn't be shocked if the Flyers draft a defenseman in the third round. They should add a right-handed shot in Brook here.

Brook, who finished as the 13th-best North American defenseman by Central Scouting, plays a strong positional game with good size. He emulates Penguins blueliner Kris Letang.

He's touted as a smart defender who also has offensive upside. He doesn't project to be a piece to build around but could fit well on a third pair with second-pair potential. In 69 games last season for Moose Jaw, Brook scored eight goals and 40 points.

Third round (80th overall, from BOS): Nick Henry, RW, 18, 5-11/190, Regina (WHL)
With the Rinaldo pick, the Flyers add their first natural winger into the mix in Henry, who registered 35 goals in his rookie season with Regina last season in the WHL.

Henry likens his game to Bruins forward David Krejci. He's a good skater with a decent shot that he'll benefit to utilize more often but has solid playmaking skills to boot.

He's not a big winger but in today's game, size isn't necessarily as important as it used to be. He'll need to add more muscle, though. The skill is there as evidenced by 1.13 points-per-game clip in his first year in the WHL. He'll end up being a solid prospect.

Fourth round (106th overall): Evan Barratt, C, 18, 5-11/187, USNTDP
The Flyers have three straight picks beginning with this pick — my prediction is they won't make all three — and they will bring the Penn State commit into the fold here.

Barratt is a Philly-area kid and a product of the USNTDP. He was born in Bristol, Pennsylvania, a town in Bucks County. He's an underrated prospect with good vision and playmaking ability and a high ceiling. Has defensive flaws but that's an area he'll need to work on at PSU.

The 18-year-old scored 18 goals and 56 points in 63 games for the USNTDP U-18 team in 2016-17, where he served as an alternate captain. He added 24 points in 26 USHL games.

Fourth round (107th overall, from TB): Kirill Maksimov, RW, 18, 6-2/201, Niagara (OHL)
Maksimov shot up from 185th in the midterm rankings to 66th on Central Scouting's final North American skater rankings and comes with plenty of upside as a middle-round pick.

The Moscow, Russia, native benefitted from a midseason trade from Saginaw. He scored 15 goals and 22 points in 29 games with Niagara and just 16 points in 37 games with Saginaw.

A speedy winger who forechecks well, Maksimov's draft stock has been helped with his strong second half and may get him into the third round, but this is a safe spot for him.

Fourth round (108th overall, from NYI): Tobias Geisser, D, 6-4/200, EV Zug (Swiss-2)
With five forwards in their first six picks, the Flyers go back to the blue line here with Geisser, a big mobile left-handed shot who will be a long-term project.

Geisser spent time in both the Swiss A and B league last year. He scored 10 points in 34 games with EV Zug of the Swiss B league and had one assist for Zug in the Swiss A league.

He has a ton of tools to work with, but will definitely have to get stronger and then adjust to the North American game once he comes overseas whenever that would be.