Flyers' lineup decision backfires in chippy loss to Oilers

Flyers' lineup decision backfires in chippy loss to Oilers

BOX SCORE

EDMONTON, Alberta — Just about everything that could go wrong for the Flyers did Thursday night against the Oilers at Rogers Place.
 
Dave Hakstol dressed seven defensemen to get Michael Del Zotto back in the lineup off injury.
 
That backfired because Jordan Weal suffered an upper-body injury in the first period, leaving the club with just 10 forwards.
 
Edmonton targeted Brandon Manning the entire game because of the Connor McDavid fiasco and, as expected, Manning had to drop gloves with 230-pound heavyweight Patrick Maroon. Manning got pounded but didn’t go down (see story).
 
And to top it off, goalie Michal Neuvirth, who had been giving the Flyers chances to win without the team scoring much, had a terrible game as he yielded four goals on the first 12 shots he faced.
 
All of which played a part in the Flyers’ 6-3 defeat (see Instant Replay). Couple that with the Islanders’ 4-2 win over the Rangers, and the Flyers are now behind the Isles at sixth in the Metropolitan Division standings.
 
The game was barely two minutes old when Neuvirth gave up a Mr. Softee goal to Matt Hendricks of all people.
 
“A tough start. The first one I had to have,” Neuvirth said. “I had a tough night.”
 
Now the deal was Mark Letestu appeared offsides and Hakstol challenged. The goal stood, which is how the Flyers’ luck is running these days.
 
Del Zotto, dressed as a seventh defenseman after missing 10 games with a bone bruise in his leg, rotated through four partners in the opening period and was caught on the ice for Leon Draisaitl’s 22nd goal at 15:19 that made it 2-0.
 
What set that up was Manning got slashed by Milan Lucic coming around the Flyers’ net. Yet, he was hit with an embellishment call, which led to the 4-on-4. Del Zotto iced the puck and then the Oilers scored right after the faceoff (see feature highlight).
 
Once Weal went down, the Flyers had a depleted lineup on the second night of a back-to-back set trying to keep up with Edmonton via rotations.
 
“Definitely a factor and that’s the risk,” Hakstol said of the lineup decision. “The one risk you run is exactly what happened. We lost Jordan. … That puts our forwards in a hard situation. They battled awful hard through it.”
 
Unlike the Calgary game when they had significant offensive zone time, the Flyers went the final 9:32 of the first period without a shot. However, they played better in the final two periods.
 
In the second period, Jakub Voracek was stopped on a breakaway by Cam Talbot with the score 2-1. If Voracek ties it, who knows.
 
“It was huge,” Voracek said. “I thought I had less time than I actually did. I should have spread him out more and tried five-hole, but I was a little too quick on that. It was a 2-1 game. Maybe it [would] be a little different.”
 
Hakstol said he felt Del Zotto’s speed would help against Edmonton, but the truth is it didn’t slow the Oilers, who then roared back with two goals in 1:15 to make it 4-1.
 
The Flyers mounted a small comeback after a Wayne Simmonds goal late in the second and a power-play goal from Brayden Schenn near the midpoint of the third period.

But McDavid had the last laugh as he finished off the scoring for the night with a goal late in the third period to run his league-leading point total to 66.
 
That only added to the tough night for the Flyers and Manning, who was marked from the get-go.

“He comes into this building, fans are on him, he steps up and fights a tough guy and got challenged all night,” Schenn said. “He dropped his gloves. Full marks to him. Not easy for a guy like him to fight a guy like that with a size advantage going to Maroon.”
 
Hakstol was very impressed with how Manning handled himself.
 
“We know who Brandon Manning is and anyone who has spent any time around him knows, in terms of the honor of the game, there is no one in front of the line before him,” Hakstol said. “He’s first class. He went out and battled hard and did everything he needed to do.”
 
Simmonds agreed.
 
“They were chasing him all over the ice all game long and he did a great job when he fought,” Simmonds said. “Props to him.”

End to End: Is it really a 2-player race atop the NHL draft?

End to End: Is it really a 2-player race atop the NHL draft?

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 producers/reporters Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone.
 
The topic: Is it really a two-player race atop the NHL draft?
 
Dougherty
Maybe it's because the Flyers have the No. 2 pick and we tend to put the top prospects under an unfair microscope in years that do not include bona fide picks atop the draft.
 
Maybe it is as simple as whoever the New Jersey Devils do not draft.
 
Maybe we're overthinking this. Maybe we're not.
 
These are the questions that Flyers general manager Ron Hextall and his staff are asking themselves in the weeks leading up to the June 23-24 NHL entry draft in Chicago.
 
It appears to be a two-player draft, or at least that is what we've talked ourselves into. All the chatter has been around Brandon center Nolan Patrick and Halifax center Nico Hischier.
 
"I would say it's pretty accurate," Devils director of amateur scouting Paul Castron recently told the team's website. "They're both excellent players. … I think the media maybe has it that way, but I think there are other players that could come into play as well."
 
I am on the record saying the Flyers should get an immediate impact player at No. 2 in either Patrick or Hischier, unlike the last time they picked in this slot in 2007.
 
So, I believe the Flyers will be coming away from Chicago with either Patrick or Hischier, but I also don't believe it is as much of a slam dunk as we've made it out.
 
By many accounts, it is not a projected deep draft class. ESPN's Corey Pronman recently told TSN Radio 1040 he doesn't believe the two are "completely clear of the pack."
 
"The last time we had a draft like this — say 2012," Pronman said. "I think many scouts had Alex Galchenyuk, Filip Forsberg, Ryan Murray, Griffin Reinhart, Morgan Rielly … it all depended on which teams were picking where. I think this is another one of those years.
 
"I do think Hischier and Patrick are the likely No. 1 and 2, but if somebody else snuck into there, I wouldn't really be surprised."
 
There also doesn't appear much separation between Patrick and Hischier themselves. Hischier has been trending up, while questions remain about Patrick's durability.
 
While both the Devils and Flyers have publicly downplayed injury concerns about Patrick, we don't know what goes on behind closed doors. If New Jersey decides to draft Hischier with No. 1, I could see a scenario in which the Flyers opt to go another route than Patrick.
 
In early May, Hextall said with "any young player who has had injuries, you do background checks." What if the Flyers find something in those background checks they don't like?
 
Therefore, I don't think we're overthinking it too much to take a look at other top prospects in this class, such as Windsor center Gabriel Vilardi, Portland center Cody Glass or Owen Sound center Nick Suzuki. Because I do think there is a legitimate possibility the No. 2 pick could be someone other than Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier.

Hall
The Flyers, in an overly advantageous position, should not get cute here. 

Depth at center is so vital to any organization. The Flyers have been lacking just that and it has shown the past three seasons.

With this draft, a high-end center is falling into their lap at the No. 2 pick. From all indications, Patrick and Hischier are at the head of the class.

Sure, the Flyers should do their homework, and they will. They'll be thorough in their scouting and preparation leading up to June 23.

To me, though, this is pretty simple. The Flyers' decision will essentially be made by the Devils' choice at No. 1 — and that's the odd convenience of the second overall selection.

Unless Hischier goes to New Jersey and alarms sound on Patrick's health, the Flyers need to make the obvious call and add one of these two centers.

Paone
Let's break this question down into simplest terms.

Could the Flyers take someone other than Patrick or Hischier at No. 2 come June 23 in Chicago? Of course, they could.

As Tom mentioned above, Vilardi, Glass and Suzuki are all up there at the head of this class with the projected top two, though seen by many as a slight level down from Patrick and Hischier.

A lot of times, decisions like these come down to team preference of a certain player. But don't expect Hextall to make that preference known until he steps to the podium to announce the Flyers' pick on draft night.

But could and should are two very different questions.

Should the Flyers take someone other than Patrick or Hischier at No. 2?

Nope.

Let's be honest, the Flyers fell backward into this No. 2 pick. And with that, they have the chance to select a potential stalwart forward with a strong knack for putting the puck in the net, which both Patrick and Hischier possess. And each should be able to show that off in the NHL sooner rather than later. Remember this: The Flyers' "Big 4" of Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux scored 90 of the Flyers' 212 goals last season. That accounts for 42.5 percent. Immediate scoring help is needed and both Patrick and Hischier should have the ability to bring that to the table.

Yes, the questions about Patrick's durability are legitimate. And yes, Hischier is trending even further upward.

But, to me, this goes back again to simplest terms.

The Flyers should pick whomever New Jersey doesn't out of Patrick and Hischier.

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.