Instant Replay: Flyers 5, Islanders 2

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Instant Replay: Flyers 5, Islanders 2

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — Call it the “scratch game.”

Sunday night’s regular-season finale between the Flyers and New York Islanders at the Barclays Center featured a contest neither team cared much for, evident by the combined 18 healthy scratches.
 
The Flyers won the game, 5-2, to finish 41-27-14, an improvement of eight wins and 12 points from last season.
 
On Saturday, Dave Hakstol’s club clinched the Eastern Conference’s second wild card and No. 8 playoff seed, rendering Game 82 essentially meaningless for the orange and black.
 
With 12 scratches, the Islanders (45-27-10) lost and secured the East’s top wild card, avoiding the NHL’s hottest team in the Penguins for the first round of the postseason. Instead, they’ll face the Panthers, who won the Atlantic Division.
 
Thanks to the Islanders’ throwing in the towel, the Rangers finished in third place of the Metropolitan Division and draw Pittsburgh in the opening round.
 
The Flyers-Islanders game was a makeup from the Jan. 23 postponement forced by Winter Storm Jonas.
 
Michael Raffl recorded a three-point game (one goal, two assists), while Brayden Schenn (two assists), Scott Laughton (one goal, one assist) and Evgeny Medvedev (one goal, one assist) all registered two points apiece.
 
The Flyers went 3-1-1 against the Islanders in five regular-season meetings.
 
Notable goals
The Flyers overcame a 2-0 deficit on goals by Shayne Gostisbehere, Medvedev and Raffl.
 
Laughton and R.J. Umberger added insurance with third-period goals.
 
Gostisbehere got it all started for the Flyers, lacing home a wrist shot for a power-play marker at 11:15 of the first.
 
Gostisbehere finished the regular season leading all rookie defensemen in goals (17), assists (29) and points (46).
 
Playing in just his second game since March 5, Medvedev tallied a power-play marker on a deflection with eight seconds left in the first.
 
Raffl then scored the game-winner 6:38 into the second with a snap shot off a nice find from Laughton.
 
Goalie report
Michal Neuvirth started in net for his first game action since March 16, as he was out until April 7 recovering from a lower-body injury.
 
Neuvirth was hardly tested by the Islanders. He allowed a pair of goals in the game’s opening 9:19 and needed to make just 15 saves for the win.
 
Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss played just the first period and surrendered two goals. Christopher Gibson played the final two stanzas and stopped 15 shots.
 
Power play
The Flyers went 3 for 4; the Islanders 0 for 4.
 
Penalty kill
The Flyers killed off all four Islanders power plays, while New York went 1 for 4 on the PK.
 
Scratches
Forwards Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds and Sean Couturier, defenseman Mark Streit and goalies Steve Mason and Alex Lyon all sat as healthy scratches.
 
As a result, forwards Jordan Weal, Umberger and Laughton and defenseman Medvedev were inserted into the lineup, while goalie Ray Emery dressed and backed up Neuvirth.
 
For the Islanders, they scratched: Forwards John Tavares, Mikhail Grabovski, Anders Lee, Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Casey Cizikas, defensemen Nick Leddy, Travis Hamonic, Brian Strait and Johnny Boychuk, and goalies Jaroslav Halak and Jean-Francois Berube.

Next up
The 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs, which begin Wednesday.

Flyers-Blackhawks 5 things: Matinee showdown with NHL leader

Flyers-Blackhawks 5 things: Matinee showdown with NHL leader

Flyers (12-10-3) vs. Blackhawks (16-6-3)
1 p.m. on CSN and CSNPhilly.com

Behind captain Claude Giroux's two goals and overtime heroics Thursday, the Flyers enter Saturday's matinee with the Chicago Blackhawks on their longest win streak of the season.

That and more as we get ready for the afternoon showdown at the Wells Fargo Center.

1. Three's company
With their 3-2 OT win over the Senators, the Flyers have now won three (3!) games in a row for the second time this season, a sign the ship might be turning in the right direction.

Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol applauded his team's 61-minute effort afterward. Comparing it to Tuesday's win over Boston in which Steve Mason single-handedly stole two points from the Bruins, Hakstol said the Ottawa game was a "real, good, consistent effort" throughout the lineup, which the Flyers will have to mimic again Saturday in order to beat Chicago.

On Friday, Hakstol rewarded the Flyers with an optional practice. Brandon Manning, who has missed the last two games because of a possible concussion, returned to practice Friday and was cleared to play. If Manning returns Saturday, Andrew MacDonald seems like the likely candidate to come out.

Manning's return would be welcomed for the Flyers. The 26-year-old has been one of the team's most consistent players. He's been aggressive, both offensively and defensively, and his play is not deserving of a healthy scratch. But with no morning skate and limited player availability Friday, Manning's status for the Blackhawks' game remains unknown.

2. Power hour
For the Flyers to extend their winning streak to a season-high four games Saturday, they will have to do so not only with a sound, defensive game but also on special teams.

If there is one area Chicago has struggled this season, it has been the penalty kill. At 70.1 percent, the Blackhawks have the league's worst PK unit, and have a middle-of-the-road power play despite all of their offensive firepower.

The Flyers, on the other hand, have the league's third-best power play at 23.6 percent, and their penalty-kill units have improved lately, getting up to 80 percent. The Flyers have two PP goals in their last 19 opportunities.

Still, Chicago's power play is dangerous despite its recent struggles. The Blackhawks have just one power-play goal since Nov. 19, and went 0 for 4 on Thursday against the Devils.

3. Corey's crease
The Blackhawks also enter Saturday hot, winning three of their last four games; however, they have gone to overtime in their last three games. Chicago has had issues with slow starts in games recently, and the Devils' game Thursday was another example of that.

New Jersey took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission, but easily could have had a larger lead had it not been for Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, who's been excellent this season. Crawford faced 13 shots in the opening period Thursday and kept the 'Hawks in the game, as he has all season long. The Blackhawks sit atop the NHL with 35 points, and Crawford is a major reason for that.

Crawford has a 2.27 goals-against average and .927 save percentage this season. He's pitched two shutouts and has faced 33 or more shots in his last four games. Scoring on Crawford has not been easy for opponents this season, but the Flyers do average 3.1 goals, third in the NHL.

UPDATE (11:20 a.m.): Crawford is sick and will not be available to start or back up today against the Flyers. Scott Darling will start for Chicago.

4. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: Let's stick with Giroux. The 28-year-old snapped a nine-game goal drought Tuesday with power-play goal, and then added two more Thursday — one at 5-on-5 and one in the 3-on-3 overtime. Giroux's play at even strength has been scrutinized, but his point production remains potent. Giroux has a four-game point streak — three goals, two assists — and has 22 points in 25 games this season. He also got engaged Thursday in Ottawa.

Blackhawks: So many players to watch, but let's highlight the ageless Marian Hossa. The 37-year-old continues to be an effective player even as he grows older. Now in his 18th NHL season, Hossa leads Chicago with 12 goals, including the game-winner in overtime against New Jersey Thursday. Hossa tallied his 500th career goal against the Flyers back on Oct. 18, and has 15 goals in 48 career games against the orange and black. He still has it.

5. This and that
• Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews is out for Saturday's game because of an upper-body injury, per CSN Chicago's Tracey Myers. Toews hasn't played since Nov. 23.

• Mason, Saturday's projected starter, is 7-12-3 with a 3.42 GAA and .890 save percentage in 23 career games against the Blackhawks. After a disaster start to the season, Mason has a 2.22 GAA and .912 save percentage over his last nine games.

• Chicago has five players with seven or more goals, and five players with double-digit assists.

Flyers' trip to Ottawa brings back 'fond memories' for Travis Konecny

Flyers' trip to Ottawa brings back 'fond memories' for Travis Konecny

OTTAWA, Ontario — Exactly one year ago, Dec. 1, 2015, Travis Konecny was a member of the Ontario Hockey League’s Ottawa 67’s.

He had just learned that he had been invited to the Team Canada selection camp for the World Junior Hockey Championship and he was at the Canadian Tire Centre spending time with future Flyers teammates during the morning skate as they prepared for a game that night against the Ottawa Senators.

Fast forward one year to today, Dec. 1, 2016, and Konecny is back at the CTC, this time to face the Senators alongside his current Flyers teammates as a key part of the team’s offense.

Quite a step forward in just one calendar year for a kid not named Crosby or McDavid.

“It’s crazy how fast it happened and I’m definitely humbled I was given the opportunity. They believed enough in me to make the jump this year and it definitely hits me every day that I get the opportunity to play in the NHL,” said Konecny, who has scored four times and added nine assists through the first 25 games of his NHL career. He has also added a team-leading 33 penalty minutes and that goes a long way in explaining the type of game he plays.

“I don’t know what happened. I’ve never been like that before," Konecny said before the Flyers' 3-2 overtime win Thursday (see game story). "When you’re playing in the NHL, some guys will run over you all game if they can so I think part of these penalties I’m taking is me just having to step up and I’m just setting an example of sticking up for my teammates."

It wasn’t until his second game in the league that he took his first penalty, but he was on the score sheet before that having collected two assists in his debut Oct. 14 in a 4-2 win over the Kings in Los Angeles.

His first goal came Oct. 25 in a 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres. The key for his success in making the jump from junior to the NHL is simple.

“Just keeping things simple," he said. "Learning in the NHL is about reading off mistakes. You can’t always make a play, you have to be smart and make sure you’re doing what’s right for the team and I think just keeping my game simple is what got me here." 

There is one main difference between the two levels, Konecny added.

“The speed, and I don’t necessarily mean just skating," he said. "Thinking wise and how fast plays happen. Guys like [Senators defenseman Erik] Karlsson, he’s thinking so fast and he knows his play two or three steps before the next guy does, so you just have to try and outthink guys and to me that’s been the biggest jump.”

Konecny is not foreign to the Senators’ home ice surface. He spent part of his time in junior playing there while the 67’s home arena was being renovated.

He had to leave several passes for friends and family for the game Tuesday night, his first as a pro in the city that was dazzled by his play in junior for 2½ seasons.

“It was a lot of fun and it brought back a lot of memories," Konecny said after going scoreless in 14:13 of ice time. "We didn’t play in front of as many fans as we did tonight but definitely a lot of games played here and a lot of fond memories.

“Even flying in [Wednesday] was something special and driving around the city looking at the roots where I was for three years.”