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).

There's a new game in town: The Philadelphia Rebels

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John Boruk/CSNPhilly.com

There's a new game in town: The Philadelphia Rebels

The opportunity to watch a Briere play again in Philadelphia will be an exciting reality for hockey fans this season.

No, Danny Briere isn’t coming out of retirement as the former Flyers forward has committed to handling the day-to-day operations of the organization’s newest ECHL team.  

However, Briere will be keeping close tabs on his younger son, Carson, who’s currently on the Philadelphia Rebels' 30-man roster and is setting his sights on making the team’s final cuts during training camp.

“It’s great,” Briere said Monday. “Growing up here for most of my life, I love Philly. It’s fun getting to play in the same city that [my dad] did. Whenever I think of him playing, I always think of that playoff run [in 2010] for the Flyers.”

After spending the past two seasons at IceWorks in Aston, Pennsylvania, the NAHL’s (North American Hockey League) Rebels are moving their operation to the Penn Ice Rink at the Class of 1923 Arena, where they made the formal announcement on Monday. It will be the organization’s third different home rink in the past four seasons after relocating from the Rio Grande Valley in 2015.

“It was a no-brainer,” team owner Marko Dundovich said. “When the opportunity presented itself, it was very easy. I think it will give the boys a better opportunity to play, get them seen and I think it’s going to continue to grow here, and our business and organization will do much better here.”

The Rebels and junior hockey simply didn’t attract a broad appeal in the Philadelphia suburbs like ownership had hoped, and as a result, attendance lagged as the team typically averaged around 125 fans a game.

“It was the first time we tried Junior A hockey here,” Dundovich said. “If we had a 300-, 400- or 500-person fan base, we would have been OK in Aston, but I think it was tough to sell a junior hockey ticket in Aston. It’s a difficult sell in a small town.”   

Conversely, hockey fans in Philadelphia haven’t had much of an alternative to the Flyers since the Phantoms left the city in 2009 for Glens Falls, New York. Rebels forward Aaron Maguyon, who stays with former Flyers captain Keith Primeau throughout the season, feels the team cannot only fill the 2,500-seat ice rink, but the players will greatly benefit from the college vibe.  

“I think it prepares us for the future and playing college hockey, for sure, so in that way, it’s like a sneak peek for what’s to come," Maguyon said. "I think it helps pull guys closer together. We have restaurants we can go to or just activities we can do in the city."

According to the league website, the NAHL set a new single-season NCAA record with 280-plus commitments, and the Rebels had 12 commit to Divison I programs. Head coach Joe Coombs has built a tier-II junior hockey powerhouse over the past two years. Last season, the Rebels finished with the NAHL’s best regular-season record, advancing to the championship game of the Robertson Cup in Duluth, Minnesota, where they came up short in a 2-0 loss to the Lone Star Brahmas. 

“This is business,” Coombs said. “Let’s bring the game to the people. Over the last two years, we struggled with our attendance. I didn’t even know this place was here — UPenn hockey rink — and we couldn’t think of a better venue right here in University City to try and market our brand of hockey and bring our game to the people.”  

And who knows? You might just see a few former Flyers in the seats, as well.  

NHL Notes: Penguins sign defenseman Brian Dumoulin to 6-year contract

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USA Today Images

NHL Notes: Penguins sign defenseman Brian Dumoulin to 6-year contract

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin has turned his steady play for the Stanley Cup champions into a new contract.

Dumoulin and the team agreed to a six-year deal on Monday that will run through the 2022-23 season and will pay him an average of $4.1 million per year.

The 25-year-old Dumoulin had three goals and 11 assists during Pittsburgh's run to the Cup this spring and hasn't missed a playoff game during the team's sprint to back-to-back titles.

Dumoulin averaged a team-high 21:59 of ice time this postseason, and his plus-9 rating was best among Penguins defensemen. Dumoulin was forced to take on a larger roll this spring after injuries forced Kris Letang to miss the playoffs.

Predators: Watson signs 3-year, $3.3 million deal
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Nashville Predators have signed forward Austin Watson to a three-year $3.3 million deal keeping him under contract through 2019-20.

The Predators announced the deal Monday.

Watson will earn $1 million this season, $1.1 million in 2018-19 and $1.2 million in the third year.

The 25-year-old forward is coming off his best season yet with Nashville. The 6-foot-4, 204-pound Watson had a career high with five goals and seven assists in 77 games this past season. Watson scored four goals and had nine points in 22 playoff games helping Nashville reach the Stanley Cup Final.

The 18th pick overall in the 2010 draft, Watson had three goals and 10 points in 57 games during the 2015-16 season.

Now, center Ryan Johansen is Nashville's lone restricted free agent awaiting a new deal.

Sabres: Okposo says he’s healthy after concussion
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Sabres winger Kyle Okposo said he is fully healthy after a concussion led to sleeping trouble, significant weight loss and a trip to intensive care last March.

Okposo missed the final few weeks of Buffalo's season with a previously undisclosed illness. In a letter posted on the team's website Monday, Okposo said a routine hit in practice caused his mood to change and other problems that required hospitalization.

The 29-year-old said he lost his appetite, had a negative reaction to sleep medications and that at one point he weighed less than 200 pounds. He spent time in the Neuro Surgical ICU at Buffalo General Hospital to be stabilized. Okposo's playing weight is listed at 218 pounds.

Okposo played in a 4-on-4 summer league game in Minnesota with other NHL players last week and reported feeling great. New general manager Jason Botterill said Okposo was on track to be ready for training camp.

"I've worked with a lot of different people -- concussion experts and people who have dealt with concussions themselves -- and I feel confident in the fact that I can play hockey again," Okposo said in the letter. "In fact, I know I can play again. I know I can play and not worry about hitting my head, which is a major hurdle for someone who's dealt with this. If I didn't feel 100 percent right now, that probably wouldn't be the case."

Okposo's last NHL game was March 27 against Florida. He had 19 goals and 26 assists for 45 points in 65 games during his first season with Buffalo. He signed a $42 million, seven-year contract with the Sabres last summer.

NHL: Gamble to get back Hall of Fame ring
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- A scuba-diving treasure hunter who found an American Hockey League Hall of Fame ring in one of New York's Finger Lakes is returning it to its owner.

Gary Gavurnik, of Auburn, New York, plans to return the prized ring to former AHL star Dick Gamble on Monday. Gavurnik found it with a metal detector in Canandaigua Lake over the Fourth of July weekend.

The 88-year-old Canadian-born Gamble starred for the AHL's Rochester Americans and retired early in the 1969-70 season. He was inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame in 2007.

Instead of wearing the ring, though, he gave it to his son, Craig, who wore it every day for seven years before losing it in the lake. He never told his dad and ordered a replacement.