Flyers Weekly Observations: Fatal Jekyll and Hyde show continues

Flyers Weekly Observations: Fatal Jekyll and Hyde show continues

For all intents and purposes, we've reached the final curtain on this Flyers season.

While the Flyers are not mathematically eliminated from playoff contention yet, their postseason hopes are just about cooked after another typically inconsistent week of action.

The Flyers fell to the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets, 5-3, Monday night, ran roughshod over the Pittsburgh Penguins, 4-0, Wednesday and finished up the week with a 6-2 blowout loss in New Jersey to the Devils on Thursday night in a game that wasn't even as close as the final score dictated.

After all that, the Flyers find themselves seven points back of the upstart Toronto Maple Leafs for the last wild-card spot with 12 games left heading into Sunday's contest against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Let's dive into the week that realistically ended the Flyers' playoff hopes.

• This week, in so many ways, was a microcosm of the inconsistency that has plagued this group of Flyers all season long, and for the past few years, for that matter. There's a long list of flaws to this Flyers team. Go ahead and take your pick. But the inconsistency has been the most pressing and fatal flaw. You just don't know which Flyers team is going to show up on which night. You could get the team that showed some fight but ultimately fell to the Jackets in a hard-fought loss Monday. Or you could get the team that hit on all cylinders and stifled the Penguins at every turn Wednesday. Or you could get the team that barely showed up and was pasted in embarrassing fashion Thursday by a conference-worst Devils team that entered the contest on a 10-game losing streak. That inconsistency is a huge anchor and a glaring sign a team isn't playoff-worthy. Every team has an off night every now and then. Look at the Penguins on Wednesday. But with a playoff-worthy team, you know the team and effort you're getting 99 percent of the time. Even with the inexperience of the young Maple Leafs, you know they're going to scratch and claw for points almost every night. Steve Mason summed it up nicely Saturday after the lousy effort vs. Devils. "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," he said. "That's what makes good teams and separates them. Consistency on any given night, what kind of effort they have." And that's also what separates a playoff team from a team sitting at home on the couch come mid-April.

• Travis Konecny had the best offensive showing of his very young NHL career Monday when he potted two goals against the Jackets. He ripped a wrister past Sergei Bobrovsky in the first period, then showed great patience in the second period as he held on to the puck and fired it past Bobrovsky short side in the second period. But he had a rookie learning moment when he made a crucial mistake in the third when he hit a Blue Jacket on the way to the bench and was whistled for a penalty. Brandon Dubinsky netted the winning goal on the ensuing power play. With the flashes he shows, it can be tough sometimes to remember Konecny is a rookie who just turned 20 years old. Monday's mistake is something to learn from. In his defense, though, I'll say this: At least he outwardly showed some grit this week.

• Another week of struggles for the Flyers' power play. The power play had a disheartening 1-for-8 showing Monday against the Jackets. The Flyers lost that game by a final of 5-3, and that was with a late empty-netter for Columbus. So if the Flyers had hit on just one more of those power plays, we could have been looking at a whole different story that game and a whole different story this week. So Dave Hakstol switched up the units Wednesday, putting Ivan Provorov on the top unit and dropping Jake Voracek down to the second unit. It worked once in four tries against the Pens as Wayne Simmonds picked up a power-play tally. But it floundered again in Jersey, getting zilch in three chances. Dating back to March 2, the Flyers are 3 for 33 with the man advantage in their last eight games. They're 3-4-1 in that span, with four of the five losses coming by two goals or less. That stings.

• Much like Konecny, Provorov experienced rookie ups and downs this week. On Wednesday, he made an excellent play when he kept a bouncing puck in at the blue line during a Flyers power play in the second period. Moments later, Simmonds potted his 15th power-play tally of the year. But he made a critical mistake Thursday in Jersey when he turned the puck over behind the goal line and it wound up in the net courtesy of Adam Henrique. Provorov has had a very good rookie season and has stepped into a tough top-pairing role on a struggling Flyers’ defense. And he’s excelled. In fact, heading into Sunday's matchup with Carolina, Provorov leads the Flyers in ice time with 21:50 per night. There's something to be said for that for a 20-year-old. It can be tough to remember he's a rookie, too. His play this year should give confidence that those bumps in his game will be smoothed out with more experience.

• If only Sean Couturier could play the Penguins every night. He was great Wednesday with a goal (just his third in 18 games) and a career-high eight shots on goal. He had those eight shots on goal through two periods, too. And, of course, he held Evgeni Malkin pointless and to just two shots on goal. In 25 regular-season games against Pittsburgh, Couturier has 13 points (two goals and 11 assists). And there was that hat trick in Game 2 of that ridiculous first-round playoff series in 2012. You just notice Couturier on the ice way more when he's playing against Pittsburgh.

Coming up this week: Sunday vs. Carolina (7:30 p.m./CSN), Tuesday at Winnipeg (8 p.m./CSN). Thursday at Minnesota (8 p.m./CSN), Saturday at Columbus (2 p.m./CSN).

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."