Philadelphia Flyers

Flyers-Islanders: 5 things you need to know

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Flyers-Islanders: 5 things you need to know

Adding two more points Thursday with a 4-1 win over the Sabres, the Flyers have 11 out of a possible 12 points in their last six games. They’ll look for two more Saturday night.

The Flyers (9-10-2) welcome the Islanders (8-12-3) to South Philadelphia before heading to Florida for games with the Panthers and the Lightning. A win would give them four straight at home after starting the season 2-7-0 in their own building.

Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. at the Wells Fargo Center. The game will be televised on The Comcast Network.

Here are five things you need to know:

1. Third line on fire
How good has the Flyers’ third line been during the team’s six-game point streak?

The trio of Sean Couturier, Steve Downie and Matt Read has collected a combined 14 points during the stretch and nine in the last two games, carrying the Flyers to victories at home.

Couturier scored his first goal in 25 games Tuesday against Ottawa. He has four points during the six-game stretch, including two assists on Thursday. Read added two goals Thursday and has five points during the streak. And Downie padded his stat sheet Thursday with two helpers.

The 26-year-old Downie, acquired from Colorado, returned to the lineup Nov. 12 in Ottawa after missing four games from an injury sustained in fight in his first game with the team. In five games since returning, he has five assists, registering at least one assist in four of those five contests.

Has Downie made a huge difference since returning?

“He’s a smart player out there,” Couturier said of Downie after Thursday’s win (see story). “He’s creating some plays and creating some space for us, me and Reader. Ever since he’s gotten here, it’s been easier. He’s all over the ice and it’s nice to play with him.”

Meanwhile, when Read scores a goal this season, the Flyers are 4-1-0. He tallied a marker in the Flyers’ 5-2 win over the Islanders on Oct. 26.

The takeaway? Get Matt Read a goal.

And play the third line as much as possible tonight against the Islanders. It’s working.

2. Plenty of goals
Remember when the Flyers couldn’t score any goals? You should, it wasn’t that long ago.

There’s no shortage of goal scoring now, as the Flyers have 22 tallies in the last six games, equaling their total in the first 15 games. They went from a team that averaged 1.47 goals per game to a team that’s scoring 3.67 per game in the last two weeks.

What’s changed? The Flyers are getting accustomed to head coach Craig Berube’s system. They’re skating harder, in better shape and working harder, and with that comes more goals, especially in the third period, which the team has outscored opponents, 9-3, during their streak.

“It’s the mentality of the team trying to go out there and win a game in the third period rather than sit back or scared to go win the game,” Berube said (see story). “We’re young and you’re tight in the third period. Now we believe we can win the game.”

Another major issue to start the season that’s been turned around is the team’s power play. The Flyers’ PP started the season 6 for 64 but has six goals in its last 19 opportunities. They’ve gone five straight games with a PP goal.

“Power play was an issue,” Kimmo Timonen said. “I don’t think it was a work ethic. It was more paying attention to detail on the power play and scoring more goals five-on-five.”

Saturday night, the Flyers have to capitalize on their power plays. They didn’t do a good enough job against the Sabres, going 1 for 7 and wasting two two-man advantages.

The Islanders’ penalty kill unit ranks 30th in the NHL, having surrendered 21 power-play goals in 71 times shorthanded. They gave up two power-play goals in a 4-3 loss to the Penguins Friday night.

This is a different Flyers team than the one that faced the Islanders back in October. And that squad scored five goals. What can they do tonight against a reeling New York club?

3. Sixty minutes
As hot as the Flyers are heading into tonight’s matchup, the Islanders are equally cold, with seven losses in their last nine games. The Flyers must pounce early and often and not let up because they should have learned something in Thursday’s win.

No team in the NHL, no matter how bad things are going, is an easy victory.

For the first 35 minutes Thursday, the Sabres carried the play. They carried a 1-0 lead into the first intermission, the first time they did that this season. Eventually, the Flyers woke up and the rest is history. But if the Flyers do that tonight, the outcome will be different.

This Islanders team isn’t the Sabres. It’s a much more talented group and a team that can score goals -- entering the game 12th in the league, scoring 2.74 goals per game, whereas Buffalo scores an anemic 1.67 goals per game, worst in the league.

Captain John Tavares leads the team in scoring with 27 points. The Isles are getting some unexpected offense from Frans Nielsen, who is leading the team with 10 goals. Now that Thomas Vanek has returned from injury, that’s another offensive weapon. He added two goals in his first game back from an upper-body injury Friday.

New York’s problem is simple, but not an easy fix. They give up way too many goals. The Islanders are allowing 3.26 goals per game, third-most in the league behind Calgary and Edmonton. Their goaltenders have the third-worse save percentage (.891) as well.

Evgeni Nabokov was retroactively placed on injured reserve on Monday. He’s nursing a groin injury, but hasn’t been very good even when healthy. The 38-year-old has a .892 save percentage and a 3.30 goals-against average in 14 games.

His replacement Kevin Poulin, who has started the last six games, hasn’t been much better.

Poulin, 23, has a 2.92 GAA, a .896 save percentage and has allowed at least three goals in seven of his 10 games played. He was in net against the Flyers in that Oct. 26 meeting -- giving up four goals, the fifth was an empty-netter.

The Flyers have scored plenty of goals of late, and they face a team that gives up a ton on a daily basis, but turning in anything less than a 60-minute effort against the Islanders will equal a loss. Go for the knockout in the first and keep punching until its finished.

4. Special teams matter
When these two teams met in October, the Islanders’ power play was the league’s top unit, with 10 goals in 33 chances. Then the Flyers shut them out on the power play, 0 for 3, and that commenced the team’s PP struggles.

In their last 13 games, the Islanders have converted only four times in 49 chances (8.2 percent). Perhaps trading Matt Moulson, who had five PP goals in 11 games with the Isles, could be an explanation for the team’s struggles there.

Regardless, the Islanders’ power play isn’t clicking, which is good for the orange and black because the Flyers’ penalty kill has struggled lately, giving up at least one PP goal in each of the last four games.

Whichever unit blinks first will likely determine the team who comes away with two points.

5. This and that
• The Flyers’ 5-2 win over the Islanders on Oct. 26 was the first time the team scored more than three goals. Overall, the Flyers have five games with at least three goals. They’re 5-0 in those games.

• Islanders D Andrew MacDonald leads the NHL with 83 blocked shots. Flyers D Nick Grossmann is tied in fifth two players with 56 blocked shots -- he had four Thursday against Buffalo.

• Your daily Adam Hall faceoff update: He won two of three draws against the Sabres and has lost just eight in his last seven games (43 for 51). He’s won 63.4 percent of his faceoffs this season (see story).

• Vanek's two goals Friday give him three in seven games with the Islanders. He had four in 13 with the Sabres. But before Friday night, the 29-year-old had just one goal in six games before missing five games with an upper-body injury. He has 13 goals and 26 points in 30 career games vs. the Flyers.

• The Islanders are 2-9-0 when they give up the first goal, and the Flyers are 8-3-1 when they’ve scored the first goal. Thursday was the first time this season the Flyers won a game after going down 1-0.

End to End: Jaromir Jagr is still available … Flyers?

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End to End: Jaromir Jagr is still available … Flyers?

Throughout the offseason, we’ll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End today are CSNPhilly.com reporters John Boruk, Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone.

The topic: Jaromir Jagr is still available … Flyers?

Boruk
It’s extremely rare for Philadelphia to have this endearing loyalty to any athlete following a one-year love affair, but from Day 1, Jagr connected with hockey fans on South Broad. He had the hair, the smile, the occasional salute, his tireless dedication to his craft, but there was more to it than that.

Understand one of the biggest reasons Jagr is so revered in Philadelphia was his decision to spurn the Penguins at the last minute to sign with the Flyers. He rejected old friend and former teammate Mario Lemieux so he could join their most heated rival. You just can’t buy that level of respect and admiration!

Playing on a line with Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell for much of that 2011-12 season, Jagr turned in a respectable 54-point season. That trio clicked for the first three months of the season, but Jagr started to fade after December as he re-acclimated his body and conditioning to the NHL’s 82-game schedule, which came four years after his last season in the NHL with the Rangers. He also struggled to contribute in the playoffs with one goal in the Flyers' 11 postseason games.

Since that season, Jagr has bounced around the league, playing for four different teams since 2012 — the Stars, Bruins, Devils and Panthers. His act would play perfectly on the Vegas strip, and Jagr has proven he can still contribute into his mid-40s. He’s recorded 30 assists in each of the past four seasons — a total that only 35 other players have achieved.

At the very least, Jagr deserves to outlast the NHL career of Chris Chelios, who played seven games for the Atlanta Thrashers at the age of 48.

If this Flyers team needs Jaromir Jagr to reach the playoffs again, then it's in some serious trouble. After further thought, why not bring Jagr in on a training camp invite, if anything, to make training camp fun again? He could fill our smartphones and tape recorders with quotes for half a season. He could mentor the prospects and put a smile on Little Mario (his nickname for Giroux). In fact, I could probably sway Jagr to return with little more than a gift card to Costco. He took $2 million for one year to join the Devils and then proceeded to score 24 goals and 67 points in 2014. If Ron Hextall was so inclined, he could sign Jagr at a 50 percent discount. One million dollars for one season would get it done.

Dougherty 
Flyers GM Hextall vehemently downplayed the idea of signing Jagr, or any other veteran free agent that would block the youth movement, on July 2. “Not the direction we're going in,” he said then. But as we enter the dog days of the NHL summer, Jagr remains without an NHL contract.

I don’t believe signing Jagr would fit into the Flyers’ plans. It doesn’t align with how Hextall runs his operations, and Hextall is on the record saying Jagr isn’t where he’s headed. But. How Jagr still doesn’t have a contract baffles me. He’s still productive and would improve any team that signs him. He would be an instant upgrade to the Flyers. There’s no doubt.
 
Perhaps the biggest roadblock as to why Jagr remains unsigned is the role he wants and the role NHL teams believe he’s capable of handling as he turns 46 in February. Last season, Jagr scored 16 goals and 46 points for the Florida Panthers, who have moved on from the future Hall of Famer. Those 46 points would have ranked sixth on the Flyers, and his 16 goals would have ranked fourth on the team — ahead of team captain Giroux’s 14.

Jagr remains in phenomenal shape. His workout regimen is one of legend. But as he approaches 50 years old, there’s no denying he wears down as the season goes on. That’s been the story the last few seasons in Florida, where he’s been ever so productive but has worn down. Perhaps Jagr realizes this, perhaps NHL teams realize this too.

Perhaps we’re making too much of the fact that Jagr remains unsigned. Could he decide to head back to the KHL, where he could be guaranteed a large role? I think that is very much a realistic possibility at this point in time. But I also believe teams could prefer waiting to sign Jagr, rather than bringing him in for the start of the season. I could see teams waiting out as long as possible before offering Jagr a contract enticing enough for him to sign.

And perhaps Jagr is OK with this too. It is astonishing to see him unsigned — I still think he belongs in the NHL and that he can still play, and play at a high level too. In the end, I do think we’ll see Jagr in the NHL again this season — when and where is the question.

I don’t think it will be the Flyers. But the obvious answer is: Yes, Hextall and the Flyers should consider Jagr. Every NHL team should. Because at 45 years old, Jaromir Jagr is still a very productive player and he will make an impact anywhere he goes.

Hall
Albeit an interesting thought and a bit more intriguing now with Jagr still out there, my answer is the same as when we discussed a possible Hartnell reunion.

No.

Jagr can still play — maybe he could help the Flyers in a few areas, both tangibly and intangibly.

But this season should be about taking a step forward by injecting more youth into the equation. The Flyers finally have some opportunity for prospects to make the jump and start their NHL development. And the kids are expected to make an impact, too. 

Last season, we saw the positives of having youngsters in Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny. This season, it's time for many more. Hextall even acknowledged that just four days after the 2016-17 regular season ended.

"Our young players, they've done enough," he said. "Our young players are going to get a long look. We don't plan on going out and signing veterans on the back end. Our kids, it's time to give them a shot, and we're going to do that."

If the Flyers wanted to sign Jagr, it would obviously be for one season. Still, that's one season of blockading a forward prospect from being here or playing meaningful minutes — someone like Mike Vecchione or Scott Laughton (yes, he's still a prospect and worth watching). Or, it could even change a lot for the likes of Oskar Lindblom and Nolan Patrick.

As fun as it would be to see Jagr back in Philadelphia, the answer here is an easy no.

Paone
With all due respect to Jagr (and he's an absolute legend who's due a lot of it), that ship has sailed here in Philadelphia.

Let's weigh this out here: What could a soon-to-be 46-year-old Jagr bring to this group of Flyers?

Sure, he could bring that invaluable leadership and example to the Flyers that was so important during the 2011-12 season. Remember the effect he had that year alongside Giroux, who ran wild across the league with a career-high 93 points? A handful goals and points here and there from Jagr would always be helpful, too.

But no way does that stuff outweigh eating up a roster space for a young player who's ready for a taste of the NHL level and using any precious cap space on the oldest player in the league rather than keeping more of the already slim flexibility the Flyers have.

Hextall's vision is all about the youth and development from within. That's the focus of the club from top to bottom right now. Needless to say, Jagr doesn't come anywhere close to fitting that vision or focus. I doubt Jagr has ever even popped up on Hextall's radar this summer. Want proof? During a conference call earlier in the summer, Hextall was asked about Jagr and emphatically slammed the door shut on that idea in not so many words, as Tom mentioned above.

The fact of the matter here is the Flyers just don't have a spot on the roster or a role for him — Jagr never has been and never will be a fourth-line player. Why even consider him if there's no roster spot, no role, he doesn't fit the vision the team has molded for itself and if cap space is at a premium? Why even waste the energy or breath?

Do I feel Jagr will get picked up before the season starts? Yeah, I do, by a team closer to a legitimate Stanley Cup contender that's looking for some veteran punch. And he'll make an impact because that's just what a legend like him does.

That team just isn't the Flyers.

Sorry to burst your bubble.

End to End: Should the Flyers pursue David Pastrnak?

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End to End: Should the Flyers pursue David Pastrnak?

Throughout the offseason, we’ll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End today are CSNPhilly.com reporters John Boruk, Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone.

The topic: Should the Flyers pursue David Pastrnak?

Boruk
Who wants a 21-year-old winger coming off a 34-goal, 70-point season in his first full year in the NHL? 

Sure, where do I sign up? I see, right below the names of the league’s 31 general managers.

I came across NHL Network analyst Brian Lawton’s tweet earlier in the week, when he mentioned that the Bruins may be looking at a trade as a possibility. That may be the case, but the probability is, I think, extremely low.

However, Boston has a history of shipping out top-end talent at a very early age. Phil Kessel was sent to Toronto following a 36-goal season, and Tyler Seguin was part of a blockbuster deal with Dallas in 2013. Both Kessel and Seguin were 21 years of age, which is unimaginable how one organization could part ways with such prized prospects at such an early age. In the case of Seguin, the B’s didn’t receive nearly the compensation from the Stars to justify the swap. Eventually, an organization has to learn from its previous mistake(s).

With that said, Pastrnak is an RFA and his options are limited: sign with the Bruins or demand a trade to another team. As Bruins Insider for CSN New England Joe Haggerty points out, the Bruins would demand a proven player, who will be under club control for the next several years. Haggerty mentioned Blue Jackets defenseman and Calder Trophy finalist Zach Werenski as an equitable return, or something close. Werenski was drafted eighth overall in 2015. Care to recall who the seventh player selected was? Ivan Provorov. How would you feel trading your future shutdown defenseman for the next decade as the starting point to acquire Pastrnak? Doesn’t have much appeal to me. Regardless of how well-stocked the organization is with defensive prospects, Provorov is a special talent and the Flyers don’t have another one quite like him.

I’ve seen this scenario before with other RFAs when Bobby Ryan was in Anaheim, and more recently, with Johnny Gaudreau and the Flames a few years back. Those two players continued their stalemate right up to training camp before hammering out long-term deals. Unlike the NFL, hockey players simply don’t like the idea of contract talks becoming a disruption just before the season begins. That’s how I think the Pastrnak scenario will eventually play out with him signing a multi-year extension somewhere in the $6-7 million range.

Dougherty
Last Monday afternoon, Lawton, an NHL Network analyst, former player, agent and general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning, dropped a bombshell into the Twittersphere.

And so began the prospect of Boston losing yet another young stud.

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney attempted to throw cold water on the rumors Tuesday. Sweeney told The Boston Globe in an email that he’s “not trading Pastrnak.”

OK, end of story.

Right?

Until Pastrnak signs his name on a new contract in Boston, we cannot count out the Bruins trading the 21-year-old right winger. Not with the recent history of Beantown.

First, it was Kessel. The Bruins couldn’t sign Kessel to an extension after his entry-level deal expired. They traded him to Toronto for two first-round picks and a second-rounder.

Then, it was Seguin. Whether it was immaturity issues with the then-21-year-old Seguin or his underwhelming postseason performance, we don’t know why, but the Bruins traded Seguin and he has since become a star in Dallas.

And then there is Dougie Hamilton, who was traded to Calgary after the Bruins failed to sign him long term.

(Interesting nugget: The Bruins drafted Seguin and Hamilton with the two first-round picks acquired in the Kessel trade.)

Back to Pastrnak. Sweeney would be incompetent as a GM to openly suggest trading Pastrnak is an option. The two sides appear to be locked in a stalemate, and for the Bruins, the recent contract extension the Edmonton Oilers signed Leon Draisaitl to is bad news. This could very well go into training camp. The end game could be Pastrnak signing a long-term contract with the Bruins. You think it’s a must-do for Sweeney.

The Flyers should absolutely keep tabs on the Pastrnak situation because he would be an ideal fit here. He’s a 21-year-old scorer with a 70-point season to his name already. He should only get better. I’m quite the conservative type when it comes to sports, and with the Flyers, believed by many, having the top prospect pipeline in the league, usually, I’d suggest staying on course. But Pastrnak is the type of guy you have to consider paying for.

I don’t know what the asking price for Pastrnak would be, but it would cost Ron Hextall a lot. Probably first-round draft picks and prospects. Maybe even an NHL player, too. The thought of adding Pastrnak to a young forward group of Nolan Patrick, Travis Konecny, Oskar Lindblom, Sean Couturier and Jordan Weal is quite enticing, though. If he hits the trade market, the Flyers should be aggressive in pursuit of the Czech winger.

Hall
We're not sure if Pastrnak is being shopped whatsoever.

As Tom pointed out, Sweeney shot down the trade rumor pretty succinctly. And why would Boston even think of dangling Pastrnak on the market? This is a kid that at 20 years old, produced 70 points (34 goals, 36 assists) last season, good to be the second-leading scorer on a playoff team.

So sending Pastrnak out of Beantown would make little sense. Yes, he's still an unresolved RFA, but you'd think the Bruins would do whatever it takes to eventually get something done.

However, if Boston is actually contemplating the trade route here, the Flyers would be silly to not listen or make a call. One purpose of building organizational depth is to create flexibility for ways to improve.

The Flyers now have the prospects to be an attractive player in trade fields, if they so choose. Obviously, you don't want to throw away the farm, and the Flyers won't.

Pastrnak, though, is a stud 21-year-old goal-scoring winger. The Flyers would be naïve to have no interest in such a burgeoning talent.

With that said, this seems like a fantasy. I don't see Pastrnak being anywhere but Boston in 2017-18.

Paone
Absolutely. 

The Flyers should be all in on Pastrnak if he really is available and Hextall should be burning up the phone lines to talk Sweeney's ear off.

Pastrnak is exactly what the Flyers need and what they've lacked for years on end now — a young, dynamic winger who can just pile pucks into the net in the blink of an eye.

The Czech native, who just turned 21 this past May, has 59 goals already in his blossoming NHL career. And he's coming off a superb first full campaign as he potted 34 goals in 75 games last season. He's a maven on the power play, too, as he scored 10 while on the man advantage last season. 

Just imagine the things Pastrnak could do on the Flyers' top-line wing, which is where he would immediately be slotted. Imagine what he could do for a Flyers team that finished in the bottom third of the league with 2.59 goals per game.

Good thoughts, gang. Good thoughts.

But here's the thing — youthful, ultra-talented scorers like Pastrnak don't just grow on trees. If they did, every general manager in the league would shimmy up the tree themselves and pluck them off the branches in bunches to take back home.

Needless to say, that's not how it works. 

The Bruins' price tag to acquire Pastrnak will be steep. And rightfully so. Why should they just give him away?

But the Flyers have the reserves that could raise Sweeney's eyebrows.

The Flyers' farm system is so deep and stocked that it was named the top farm system in the league earlier this week by ESPN. And the fact of the matter is not all of those prospects will ever wear orange and black. The farm system not only helps improve the club from within, but it also gives Hextall and the Flyers the ability to be flexible and tap into those reserves and make exterior moves to help improve the club. This would be one of those times. 

What would it take to get Pastrnak south down I-95 to Philadelphia? Just spitballing here, but think a top prospect (maybe two), a high draft pick and a young, NHL-ready player. So let's say Travis Sanheim/Sam Morin (or both), a first-round pick and Weal. Again, just a shot in the dark with a guess there. The Flyers' untouchables should be Provorov (duh), Shayne Gostisbehere, Konecny, Patrick, German Rubtsov and Carter Hart. Anyone else I'd be at least willing to listen on. 

Poaching the organizational depth and handing over draft picks isn't Hextall's traditional way of doing business. But there are extenuating circumstances sometimes. And a deal for Pastrnak would be one of those times.