Instant Replay: Predators 4, Flyers 3 (SO)

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Instant Replay: Predators 4, Flyers 3 (SO)

BOX SCORE

If it were any other competitor who had registered a goal and two assists against the Flyers, it likely wouldn’t have hurt as much.

But in Thursday’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Nashville Predators, it was Shea Weber. Yes, that Shea Weber, who made the Flyers pay.

On display at the Wells Fargo Center for the first time since the Flyers attempted to acquire him, Weber demonstrated exactly why the Predators kept him dressed in yellow and blue.

And Thursday marked the first time the Flyers fell to the Predators at the Wells Fargo Center since 2006.

Of course, it wasn’t just Weber who dictated the game’s outcome. Despite a rather energetic start, the Flyers started to lose their grasp on the game as the first period wore on, and never seemed to regain control -- even after tying it up in the closing seconds of the second period.

The Flyers did their best to fight back, but unlike in recent weeks, simply weren't able to claw their way to two points.

The strong start
As Matt Read said at Wednesday’s practice, the Flyers want to have the lead in games at least some of the time -- they can’t always be the Comeback Kids. Well, they started off strong against the Predators. Taking advantage of the time he was given, Andrej Meszaros took a shot that was batted home by Brayden Schenn just 1:26 after the first puck dropped to give the Flyers an early 1-0 lead. Ten minutes in, they led in shots, 8-4.

Giving too much
Giveaways were a problem, especially early. A Michael Raffl turnover led to the play that resulted in the Predators' first goal (an Eric Nystrom redirect that Steve Mason couldn’t do anything about). Another turnover led to the Flyers’ first penalty of the night, committed by Claude Giroux. That penalty became a five-on-three for the Preds when Kimmo Timonen joined Giroux in the box. (And the Flyers gave up another goal on that one, too). In the first period alone. The Flyers were credited with seven giveaways.

The turning point
As they know they need to, the Flyers hit the ice with energy Thursday night. They scored first and put plenty of early pressure on Predators goalie Carter Hutton. But things changed as the opening stanza went on. That aforementioned five-on-three, which resulted in the Predators’ go-ahead goal, hit the Flyers like a punch to the gut. They backed off and allowed the Predators to catch -- and then surpass -- them in shots.

The save of the year?
The Predators’ net was empty, as Hutton had mismanaged a wrap-around behind it. And Raffl was charging in on the net with the puck in his possession. But somehow … it didn’t go in. Hutton launched himself in front of the net and caught Raffl’s shot just in time.

And the Meszaros factor
Meszaros actually didn’t have a particularly strong night defensively. But he was creating pressure. He scored the goal that tied the game at 2 at the very end of the second period, and put in the bulk of the work that went into Schenn’s first period goal.

Downie’s return
Steve Downie returned to the Flyers’ lineup after spending the past two games as a healthy scratch. He played on the fourth line with Chris VandeVelde and Adam Hall, and finished the game with 10:38 of ice time.

Nashville finally does it
Nashville's win was its first shootout win of the season. The Predators were 0-5 and had scored just once in shootouts this season.

That’s it?
Thursday’s game was just the 17th time -- total -- the Flyers and Predators have met. Coincidentally, 17 is also the number of trades that have occurred between the two teams since the Predators entered the NHL in 1998.

Ron Hextall, Flyers know what they have in Nolan Patrick

Ron Hextall, Flyers know what they have in Nolan Patrick

CHICAGO — Ron Hextall had no idea which way New Jersey Devils general manager Ray Shero was leaning.

Would Shero take Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier with his No. 1 pick?

"I asked Ray 10 minutes before he picked and he wouldn't tell me," Hextall said. "I give him credit. That is what he should have done … I didn't have an expectation one way or the other."

Shero wanted a dynamic player to put bodies in the stands at Prudential Center. He chose Hischier.

That made it easy for Hextall at No. 2 to select Patrick (see story).

If rumors were true that Shero was scared off by Patrick's several injuries this past season at Brandon, well, the Flyers weren't.

"What I believe, we gather a lot of information," Hextall said. "There's some stuff out there you want to prove wrong and we did. We're comfortable with the injury part of it. He is a really good young man."

Patrick is a two-way player and a natural center. The Flyers have seven centers right now (see story), including Patrick, who is expected to play now. 

Hextall said he doesn't envision switching Patrick to the wing.

"I would rather have too many centers rather than five wingers on each side and no one to go in the middle," Hextall said.

Interesting that German Rubtsov, last year's top pick for the Flyers, has already been converted to a left winger since coming to North America to play junior.

Will Patrick be a No. 1 center as scouts project?

"Nolan has to answer that," Hextall said. "We see a kid with a big body, extremely high hockey sense, really good skill set. You get drafted today? The work starts now and Nolan has to put the work in.

"This is another level … this is the National Hockey League. In September, he comes to camp. He needs a big summer."

Ron Hextall on Flyers' logjam of centers: 'Someone has to play the wing'

Ron Hextall on Flyers' logjam of centers: 'Someone has to play the wing'

CHICAGO – The Flyers already have a familiar problem coming out of this NHL draft and heading training camp next fall: they’re too deep at center.
 
Friday night, they added three centers and traded another.
 
Brayden Schenn was sent to St. Louis for the Blues’ 27th pick in the first round, plus a conditional 2018 first-round pick and veteran utility center Jori Lehtera (see story).
 
General manager Ron Hextall wanted to trade back into the first round late and he did so by tabbing Morgan Frost at No. 27 with that Blues’ pick.
 
NHL Central Scouting had Frost ranked 31st among North American skaters. He is a 6-0, 170-pound forward from Aurora, Ontario.
 
He has raw speed and skill, but scouts say other parts of his game will need time to fill out. Frost had 20 goals and 62 points for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL this past season.
 
Friday’s other first-round pick, Nolan Patrick, is a natural centerman. Patrick is expected to play in the NHL this season. So right now, the Flyers’ centers are Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Valtteri Filppula, Mike Vecchione, plus Patrick and now Lehtera.
 
Lehtera had 30 goals and 100 points in 218 games with the Blues. He was both a first- and second-line center for the Blues this past season despite weak numbers — seven goals and 22 points in 64 games.
 
He is a decent playmaker and two-way player, who has centered Alex Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko.
 
“He is utility guy with a well-rounded game and can play in the middle,” Hextall said. “We like the player. Gives coach more options.”
 
Best option: Lehtera can move to left wing if needed.
 
“Someone has to play the wing,” Hextall said. “He can play the wing. Our scouts have seen him play the wing, but he plays center most games. I am assuming he prefers center like most of them. Someone has to play wing.”
 
Schenn had improved every year he was with the Flyers, but too much of his scoring is on the power play and not five-on-five. He had 109 goals and 246 points in 424 career games for the Flyers.
 
This deal seems strange unless you consider the Flyers got another first-round pick (Frost) and a top-10 protected, conditional first-rounder next year. The Blues have the option to defer the 2018 first-rounder to 2019 but if they do so, the Flyers will also receive the Blues' 2020 third-round pick.
 
“It was a combination,” Hextall said of the advantages’ from the Flyers side. “It was one of those [trades] that came out of nowhere. Not like we were shopping Brayden.
 
“This deal came along and we really like the draft next year. We like the late pick this year and Jori. It made sense and we got a couple more young players.”
 
Young players like Frost, whom the Flyers are excited about.
 
“Our whole staff really liked the guy,” Hextall said. “He’s an extremely intelligent player, his No. 1 asset. Really smart. Reads the ice well. He has a very deft touch moving the puck.
 
“Good two-way player who showed up good in the testing. We believe he is a kid with a lot of upside. Good speed, but he dissects the game better than most players.”
 
Frost’s father Andy was the longtime former Toronto Maple Leafs PA announcer.
 
“I talked to them a couple times,” Frost said. “I’d say I had a bit of a gut feeling. I wasn’t too sure, but they took me and I’m super happy about it.
 
“I think first and foremost I’m a playmaker. I think I’m a high-skilled player that likes to use his vision and hockey sense to create plays. I’m working on becoming more of a two-way forward. That’s more of the player I want to become.”