Flyers-Hurricanes 5 things: Same old song as playoff hopes are all but dead

Flyers-Hurricanes 5 things: Same old song as playoff hopes are all but dead

Hurricanes (30-27-12) at Flyers (32-30-8)
7:30 p.m. on CSN/CSNPhilly.com and NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 7

The Flyers return home Sunday night to host the Carolina Hurricanes after a lifeless 6-2 loss to the lowly Devils last Thursday night in New Jersey that all but ended the Flyers' playoff hopes.

Let's take a closer look game No. 71 for the orange and black.

1. Same old song
Inconsistency has plagued the Flyers all season long. One night, they look like a playoff team and the next, they turn in a listless effort like they did Wednesday and Thursday.

Wednesday night's 4-0 blanking of the Pittsburgh Penguins was the Flyers' most complete game this season. It was a 60-minutes effort with very few mistakes. They shut down the NHL's highest-scoring team and did so while also generating offense themselves.

Then comes Thursday's game against the Devils in New Jersey, where the Flyers played like they were the team coming in on a 10-game losing streak. They weren't. Nothing went right in N.J. Steve Mason left with cramps. They were blown out by the Eastern Conference's worst team in an embarrassing defeat. If the dagger had already punctured the skin of the Flyers' playoff hopes, the Devils only dug deeper to send the orange and black back to reality.

"The consistency is something we need to address," Mason said Saturday. "We can't go from having one of our best games of the year against Pittsburgh and then come around the next night against Jersey with that kind of outcome and overall team game.
 
"It's something that we continually seem to be talking about. That's what makes good teams and separates them. Consistency on any given night, what kind of effort they have."

Mason is expected to be in net for the Flyers on Sunday. It would be Mason's eighth start in nine games since the Flyers signed Michal Neuvirth to a two-year contract extension.

2. Playing for draft position
Thursday's 6-2 loss in New Jersey unofficially ended the Flyers' playoff chances. They are not officially eliminated from postseason contention but the odds are astronomically high.

The Flyers have a 0.3 percent chance at making the playoffs, according to SportsClubStats.com. With 72 points, the Flyers would have to win all 12 games in order to reach last season's point total, which was enough to earn the East's second wild-card spot last season. Entering Sunday, they're seven points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for the final spot this year.

Ten of 12 wins would get the Flyers to 92 points, which will not be enough to get in. The magic number to have a realistic shot at the postseason is 11 wins and even then it is still improbable because of tiebreakers. At this point, it'd be better to play for draft position.

At 72 points, the Flyers would be lined up for the ninth pick if the season ended Sunday. Carolina, also with 72 points, could move two points ahead of the Flyers with a win. Big picture, the Flyers are a mediocre team still in a rebuild. With long-term lenses, a higher draft pick this summer would help the cause more than being stuck in the middle of the pack.

However we slice it, this season has been a step back for the Flyers, but it is not the time to panic because they still have kids on the way and it was never about this season anyway.

3. Coming in hot
The Hurricanes come into Sunday's matchup picking up points in their last six games, with a 4-0-2 record and eight of their last 10 games, as they open up a four-game road trip in Philadelphia.

On Saturday night, the 'Canes did away with the Nashville Predators with a 4-2 win thanks to two goals from Jeff Skinner, his fifth multi-goal and sixth multi-point game of the season. Like the Flyers, the Hurricanes are seven points out of a playoff spot. Eddie Lack won his second straight game in net for Carolina against Nashville for his first two-game winning streak as a member of the Hurricanes. Cam Ward is expected to get the starting nod on Sunday night.

This is Carolina's fourth of five meetings with the Flyers. The two teams meet in the season finale on April 9 in Philadelphia. The Hurricanes lost the first two games -- 6-3 in Philadelphia on Oct. 22 and 4-3 in Carolina on Oct. 30 but dominated the orange and black, 5-1, in their last meeting on Jan. 31.

4. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: Let's roll with Brayden Schenn, who tallied his 21st goal of the season Thursday. Schenn has four points in his last three games and enters on a five-game point streak at home. In his last five games at Wells Fargo Center, Schenn has two goals and four assists.

Hurricanes: Elias Lindholm's shorthanded empty-net goal on Saturday night extended his point streak to six games. Lindholm's 29 assists have surpassed his career-high in his fourth season. He had two assists in the Hurricanes' 5-1 win over the Flyers on Jan. 31 but was held scoreless in two other games against the orange and black.

5. This and that
• Claude Giroux extended his point streak to seven games (two goals, four assists) with an assist Thursday. He has a goal and two assists in three games against Carolina this season.

• The Hurricanes are 6-4-3 on the latter half of a back-to-back this season.

• Brandon Manning is expected to return to the lineup Sunday after missing three games with a right shoulder injury. Nick Schultz is expected to sit if Manning can return.

• Skinner's two goals on Saturday moved him ahead of Sami Kapanen on Carolina's career points list since the team moved from Hartford to Raleigh, North Carolina. Skinner now has 315 career points.

NHL Playoffs: Penguins chase Holtby, beat Capitals to take 2-0 series lead

NHL Playoffs: Penguins chase Holtby, beat Capitals to take 2-0 series lead

WASHINGTON -- Phil Kessel scored twice, Sidney Crosby set up more goals and the Pittsburgh Penguins chased Braden Holtby on the way to a 6-2 victory over the Washington Capitals in Game 2 Saturday night that gave them a commanding 2-0 lead in their second-round series.

Marc-Andre Fleury was brilliant again in stopping 34 of the 36 shots he faced for Pittsburgh, which also got goals by Matt Cullen, Jake Guentzel and Evgeni Malkin. The Penguins scored three goals on 14 shots on Holtby, who was pulled in favor of Philipp Grubauer after the second period.

Grubauer didn't fare much better, allowing two goals on nine shots. Matt Niskanen and Nicklas Backstrom scored for the Capitals, who outshot the Penguins 36-23 but still face an uphill task of trying to become just the 19th team to win a series after losing the first two games at home.

Guentzel added an empty-net goal to seal it for the Penguins, his playoff-best seventh (see full recap).

Pageau gets 4th goal in 2OT to lift Sens over Rangers
OTTAWA, Ontario -- Jean-Gabriel Pageau got his fourth goal of the game in the second overtime after scoring twice late in regulation, lifting the Ottawa Senators over the New York Rangers 6-5 Saturday in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Ottawa leads the series 2-0 despite trailing by two goals after Brady Skjei's score with 14:50 left in the third. Pageau cut it to 5-4 with 3:19 left in the period, then tied it with 1:02 remaining.

Pageau scored again 2:54 into the second OT, snapping in a shot during a 2-on-1 rush alongside Tommy Wingels. Pageau is the first Senator ever with four goals in a playoff game.

Marc Methot and Mark Stone also scored for Ottawa, and Craig Anderson had 43 saves.

Skjei had two goals for New York and Michael Grabner, Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan also scored. Henrik Lundqvist stopped 28 shots.

The series heads to New York for Game 3 on Tuesday night (see full recap).

Ron Hextall on landing No. 2 overall pick: 'This is a big day for our franchise'

Ron Hextall on landing No. 2 overall pick: 'This is a big day for our franchise'

You remember the 2007 NHL draft?

The Flyers were robbed that year in the draft lottery and were forced to settle for the No. 2 overall pick later that June.

They chose James van Riemsdyk and the Chicago Blackhawks — drafting first — tabbed Patrick Kane.

Well, the Flyers got some needed payback Saturday night in Toronto at the 2017 draft lottery.
 
While the Flyers didn't win the top overall pick in this year's draft, they pretty much won the lottery just the same, moving from 13th overall to the No. 2 selection (see story).

"This is a big day for our franchise," said general manager Ron Hextall, who was an assistant general manager with Los Angeles in 2007 when it was Paul Holmgren's team in Philadelphia.

"When the 13th pick went by there and we knew we were one, two or three, that was a huge move for our franchise. We couldn't be more excited."

New Jersey will pick No. 1 and Dallas will pick third. Neither Colorado, the worst team in the NHL, nor Vegas, the newcomer to the NHL, made the top three.

The Flyers bucked enormous odds to advance from 13th to No. 2. They had a 2.4 percent chance of pulling it off. They were nearly 89 percent certain to remain at 13.

Maybe their luck is changing.

"We had a lot of bad luck this year," Hextall said. "I'm hoping this is a turning point for some of that to be turned around. This is a big point for our franchise. We're obviously going to get a very good player and hopefully in years, we'll look back on this as a turning point for us."

Depending on what the Devils do, the Flyers, who need offensive pop, are expected to select either Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier, both promising forwards who are considered impact players.

While this draft is nowhere near as deep as last year's with Auston Matthews or Patrik Laine, it still holds quality in the first round and the Flyers are guaranteed a player who should make a difference.

"This isn't as bad as a draft as people say it is," Hextall said. "We felt with the 13th pick, we would get a good player. It's probably an average draft.

"The last couple drafts have been bumper but this is a good draft. Obviously, moving up to No. 2, we're going to get an even better player."

Patrick, from Winnipeg, Manitoba, played for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League and was named the top skater by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau despite missing parts of the season with a lingering groin/abdominal injury.

The 6-foot-2, 198-pound center had 20 goals and 46 points in 33 games and still was a consensus No. 1 or 2 player by most scouts. His lineage is excellent, as his uncle, James Patrick, played 1,280 games.

Hischier is trying to become the highest-drafted Swiss player in NHL history. Nino Niederreiter was taken fifth overall by the New York Islanders in 2010.

The 6-foot, 176-pound Hischier led the QMJHL rookie class with 38 goals and 86 points in 57 games this season.

Can either Patrick or Hischier play right now?

"I don't know who that player is going to be," Hextall said. "Any player, as you know from my history, they've got to come in and earn it.

"If we draft a player at No. 2 and he comes in and earns it, then he'll be on our team. If he needs more time, he needs more time."

That said, Hextall admitted his scouting staff had paid attention to pick anywhere from No. 1 to 13th or worse, especially after things started going south for the Flyers in late winter and the playoffs began slipping away.

Hextall would not compare this year's draft-eligible players, talk about them individually or indicate which player he felt might be available at No. 2.

For now, Hextall envisions keeping the second pick but wouldn't rule out trading down if the right offer was there.

"You can't say no to anything because you don't know what will come your way," Hextall said.

The Avalanche, who had the best shot at winning the No. 1 pick, will draft fourth. Vancouver is fifth and Vegas will pick sixth.

Hextall watched the draft lottery on TV after returning home from Finland.

"Sometimes you get some good luck and sometimes you get some bad luck," Hextall said. "This was a fortunate day for our franchise. This was a big one."