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.
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.
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.
The Flyers went 3 for 4; the Islanders 0 for 4.
The Flyers killed off all four Islanders power plays, while New York went 1 for 4 on the PK.
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.
The 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs, which begin Wednesday.
VOORHEES, N.J. — Even before Flyers training camp opened, Ron Hextall talked about a plenitude of internal competition for jobs.
It’s all over the ice, too.
Who starts in goal: Steve Mason or Michal Neuvirth, who came on strong at the end of last season?
Does Ivan Provorov win a spot on the roster? And if he does, who gets sent packing?
Between Scott Laughton and Nick Cousins, who gets the lion's share of ice time?
Can Travis Konecny or Roman Lyubimov force a veteran forward off the team?
Then there’s free-agent signee Boyd Gordon, a PK specialist who was second only to Claude Giroux in the league last season on winning defensive zone draws. More competition.
Well, one of the key battles in training camp for both roster space and minutes concerns how veteran fourth-liner Chris VandeVelde handles the competition from Lyubimov — the 24-year-old Russian who plays a heavy game and can handle special teams — and others.
VandeVelde saw a bit of an offensive drop-off last season with 14 points. Though just a point fewer than the year before, the bigger dip was going from nine goals to two.
With no real goal-scoring additions in the offseason, Hextall is expecting bigger outputs from returning players.
In VandeVelde’s case, two goals is something Lyubimov could easily match or exceed.
“You have to go out there and give it your all,” VandeVelde said. “Hopefully, work hard and kinda make an impression. There’s a lot of guys fighting for a fair amount of spots. It’s going to be interesting.
“I think I’ve felt pressure every year. Obviously, you want to make an impression and get noticed out there. Reassure [them] I can still do the job and add a few things to my offensive game.”
And his self-evaluation?
“I think I was solid,” he replied. “As a fourth line, we were very good at times. Individually, I can add a little more and chip in a little more.”
VandeVelde is not scheduled to play in either of Monday’s split-squad games in New Jersey or Brooklyn.
At stake here isn’t just his job on the fourth line but the penalty kill, as well. VandeVelde’s 2:17 shorthanded ice time per game was second only to linemate Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (2:35) among the forwards.
The 6-foot-2, 207-pound Lyubimov has played on the penalty kill in the KHL, and Gordon is a PK specialist. What was VandeVelde’s edge is now something up for grabs, especially given both Hextall and coach Dave Hakstol have vowed there will be improvement on the PK, which ranked 14th last season after being among the bottom 10 much of the year.
Hakstol has said he intends to tweak the PK with some structural changes. That sounds like personnel changes and Gordon could be a guy on the fourth unit and will certainly be in the mix on the penalty kill.
How to make the kill better remains at large.
“We have to start a little more aggressively,” VandeVelde said. “Kinda like we finished last couple games there against Washington (in the playoffs). We kinda got burnt there 6-1 (in Game 3). We switched styles a little too late.”
The Flyers gave up five power play goals in Game 3 to the Caps.
VandeVelde admits his penalty kill experience gives him a bit of an edge going into camp.
“If I can bring that extra edge and solidify a role, that is huge,” he said.
VandeVelde returned to his home in Moorhead, Minn., over the summer to focus on his skating, hoping to get a more explosive start on the ice that he could utilize better during the penalty kill.
One thing seems certain: VandeVelde says there’s a greater comfort level for returning players as to what to expect from Hakstol. Also, whereas last year’s camp was one of implementing systems, this year’s camp is one of expanding on them.
“Everyone knows what to expect,” VandeVelde said. “So do all three coaches. They are going to tweak some things, whether it's penalty kill or power play or other systems. We’ll learn that. That is what preseason is for. All the players know what to expect and are ready to go.”
VandeVelde said he’s already been informed what the team expects from him this season. The competition could push him in that direction.
“I know what they want,” he said. “Obviously, I can do more offensively and want to chip in a little more as a fourth line and as an individual. Maybe just work on that.”
The Flyers on Monday night kick off their preseason schedule, with split squad games against the Islanders in Brooklyn and New Jersey Devils in New Jersey.
And Monday night offers the first chance for prospects Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov to impress the Flyers' brass in game competition, as their quest to make the orange and black continues. Both Konecny and Provorov will be with the Flyers' split squad in New Jersey.
Carter Hart and Mark Dekanich will be the goalies with Konecny and Provorov in New Jersey, while Anthony Stolarz and Martin Ouellette will goaltend in Brooklyn.
Travis Sanheim and Sam Morin will be with the split squad team in Brooklyn, along with veteran defenseman Michael Del Zotto.
The Flyers' game in Brooklyn can be streamed on their official website, while the game in New Jersey will be aired on the radio at 97.5 The Fanatic.
Here are the full lineups for Monday's split-squad contest, via the Flyers.