PP, controversial call doom Flyers in loss to NJ

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PP, controversial call doom Flyers in loss to NJ

BOX SCORE

There was a ton of anger in the Flyers' dressing room following Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils (see Instant Replay).

The Flyers had a right to be angry over yet another goal disallowed, one that would have sent the game into overtime.

Referee Tom Kowal ruled that Scott Hartnell had made contact with goalie Marty Brodeur before the puck crossed the line.

It didn’t matter that defenseman Anton Volchenkov had made contact with Hartnell, knocking him into Brodeur.

Toronto called Philadelphia to ask for an explanation. Usually, it’s the other way around.

League officials there were told by Kowal the goal was denied on the ice for contact with the goalie. When a goalie is “pushed into the net,” to quote Rule 78.5 (ix), the goal is not subject to the league overturning or even reviewing. Toronto made the correct call based on the information given.

Here’s the thing. As much as the Flyers were wronged, the game should not have come down to a replay or a call on the ice as being the ultimate difference between a win or a loss, especially during a stretch run to the playoffs.

Not when the Flyers had not one but six -- count ‘em, six -- chances on the power play and did almost nothing offensively on four of them.

That’s why the Flyers lost -- not because Hartnell’s goal was denied.

“Our power play should have been difference,” said Hartnell, who played his 500th game in orange and black. “The biggest difference was Brodeur. We had several chances.

“Kimmo [Timonen] had probably a dozen chances from the top. There were rebounds there and we couldn’t seem to get one. Their penalty kill did a great job.”

And his non-goal?

Volchenkov hit Hartnell from the side and the Flyers winger ended up hip-checking Brodeur as the puck went into the net. It was the Russian defenseman’s fault but …

“He said I might have made contact, but the defender was right on me,” Hartnell said. “He made contact with Brodeur first. If you see the puck, well behind the goal line. That wasn’t the issue. Frustrating. It’s a quick sport. But I don’t think it was the right call.

“If they call it no goal with contact, they can’t overrule that in Toronto. Even last night we had [a goal] taken back … definitely wasn’t our best game, but it would have been nice to get a point though.”

And they would have like their power play to be even halfway decent.

Four of their six chances saw poor setup, poor containment, a lack of shooting lanes, etc. The Devils’ second-ranked penalty kill was outstanding with sticks in the lane, blocked shots and just one clear after another after another.

The non-goal should not have been the difference on a team as talented as the Flyers. That’s how it has to be viewed.

Six power plays?

“That probably should have been the difference,” coach Craig Berube said. “I thought the first period and third period the power play looked good. Shot the puck, had some good looks. Second period, not so good. Six power plays? You got to make it happen.”

Berube said Toronto didn’t know the exact reasoning behind the disallowed goal other than “contact” and once that word enters the picture, it becomes a moot point. It can’t be overturned.

“It’s a 50/50 play,” Berube said of Hartnell driving the net and Volchenkov defending him.

There was contact from the defender.

“Well he probably was,” Berube replied. “A 50/50 play that could have gone either way.”

Jakub Voracek wasn't as diplomatic. He said the call was "f------ incredible" (see story).

There were a number of calls in this game that could have gone either way against either team. The officiating between Kowal and Mark Lemelin left much to be desired.

New Jersey won the game because one player made the offensive difference and one made the defensive difference. Brodeur provided the defensive edge and the ageless Jaromir Jagr was the offensive edge.

The Devils’ leading scorer (57 points) assisted on New Jersey’s first goal early in the game and then found a teeny-weeny hole inside the right post at 7:42 on the third period for the game-winner.

It was vintage Jagr because only that kind of player can find a hole that goalie Steve Mason was sure he had covered up. That is why Jagr has 702 career goals. Players like him always find the open spot in the net.

“Just a little jam play and he was able to sneak it through,” Mason said. “He just found a little hole and chipped it and it snuck through there.

“He’s a big body, strong when he has the puck on his stick and he was able to protect it. He’s a natural goal scorer, but at the end of the day you got to make the save.”

Brodeur summed things up nicely.

“It was typical Devils-Flyers game,” he said. “Enjoyable game. Always nicer when you finish on top, but it was a fun game to play.”

The loss dropped the Flyers to fourth in the Metro and eighth in the Eastern Conference. If the playoffs began today, the Flyers would meet Pittsburgh.

Call-ups
Rosters expand after the deadline and the Flyers called up another goalie in Yann Danis along with forward Chris VandeVelde, who ended up playing anyway, because Zac Rinaldo was announced out late in the day with an upper-body injury.

Top NHL draft prospects Nolan Patrick, Nico Hischier get CHL awards

Top NHL draft prospects Nolan Patrick, Nico Hischier get CHL awards

Brandon center Nolan Patrick and Halifax center Nico Hischier, the projected top two picks in the 2017 NHL draft, on Saturday afternoon added some CHL hardware to their trophy case.

Patrick won the Sherwin-Williams Top Prospect Award, beating out Hischier and Windsor's Gabriel Vilardi, while Hischier edged Swift Current's Aleksi Heponiemi and Guelph's Ryan Merkley for the CCM Rookie of the Year Award.

Injuries forced Patrick to play just 33 games this season, but he still produced at a point-per-game pace for Brandon. He finished with 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists).

Hischier scored 38 goals and 86 points in 57 games with the Mooseheads, his first season in the QMJHL after coming over from Switzerland.

The Flyers have the No. 2 overall pick. If the draft goes as projected, the Flyers will come away with either Patrick or Hischier, whoever the New Jersey Devils do not pick.

The 2017 NHL draft is June 23-24 in Chicago.

Missing history
Flyers prospect Carter Hart had a chance to become the first goalie in CHL history to win the Vaughn CHL Goaltender of the Year Award twice, but this year's award went elsewhere.

Owen Sound goalie Michael McNiven on Saturday afternoon took home the 2016-17 CHL Goaltender of the Year Award. McNiven was 41-9-4 for the Attack this season. He posted a 2.30 goals-against average and .915 save percentage with six shutouts.

McNiven led the Ontario Hockey League in save percentage, and his six shutouts were tied with Windsor's Michael DiPietro for the league lead. His 41 wins were tops in the OHL.

Hart, 18, posted a 32-11-6 record in 54 games with the Everett Silvertips in 2016-17. His 1.99 goals-against average, .927 save percentage and nine shutouts were all ranked No. 1 in the WHL.

Despite missing out on the CHL Goaltender of the Year Award this year, Hart previously did win the Del Wilson Memorial Trophy as the WHL's Goaltender of the Year for the second straight season. He was twice named the Vaughn CHL Goaltender of the Week and had a shutout streak of 193 minutes and 48 seconds during the regular season.

Hart was one of three second-round picks by the Flyers in the 2016 NHL draft.

End to End: Who will Flyers protect, lose in expansion draft?

End to End: Who will Flyers protect, lose in expansion draft?

Throughout the offseason, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End today are CSNPhilly.com producers/reporters Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone.

The topic: The expansion draft, who to protect and best guesses at Vegas' selection.

Dougherty
We have and will continue to discuss in detail the entry draft, but we haven't talked much about the June 21 expansion draft. That's what we're doing today.

The expansion draft will affect the Flyers' plans this summer because they will be losing a player to Vegas, but the impact will be a minimum. They will not lose any core pieces.

How the expansion draft works: Teams have two options in protecting players. They can either protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie, or eight skaters and one goalie. The expectation is the Flyers will protect seven forwards, three D-men and a goalie.

There are six forwards and two defensemen who are obvious protections: Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn, Valtteri Filppula, Shayne Gostisbehere and Radko Gudas. Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny are exempt.

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall will have decisions to make on who the seventh forward and third defenseman he protects. Then there is the goalie protection.

That leaves forwards Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Nick Cousins, Taylor Leier, Scott Laughton, Michael Raffl, Matt Read, Jordan Weal and Dale Weise; and defensemen Andrew MacDonald and Brandon Manning.

Losing any of those six forwards would not be major blows to the Flyers. Now on the blue line, it gets interesting. My prediction is that the Flyers will choose to protect Manning with the hope Vegas takes MacDonald's contract.

Probably isn't going to happen.

Of the goalies, I don't think Vegas will have any interest in Anthony Stolarz, especially since he tore his right MCL in April. So that should cut the question here. That would mean the Flyers protect Michal Neuvirth, whom they signed to a two-year extension.

So what is my best guess at who Vegas plucks from the Flyers?

I think it will be a toss-up between Laughton and Raffl. I suspect the Flyers will re-sign Weal before the draft and then protect him, or have a verbal understanding they'll sign him after the expansion draft. Both parties appeared interested in him coming back.

My pick? Let's go with Laughton, a former first-round pick who turns 23 on Tuesday.

Laughton hasn't panned out as the Flyers hoped. He spent last season in Lehigh Valley and both Leier and Weal earned call-ups over him. I think that is a telling sign here.

So I'm predicting Laughton going to Vegas, where a change of scenery helps him out and the Golden Knights get a young forward that can slot into a third- or fourth-line role and still has upside.

Hall
There's a lot to the expansion draft — tons of possibilities and things can still change before June 21 that could impact the Flyers' decisions.

Albeit unlikely, Steve Mason could re-sign, which would obviously affect the Flyers' protection plan at goalie. Assuming that doesn't happen, I think the Flyers protect Neuvirth, especially considering Stolarz's health is in question this offseason and he may not be the true goalie of the future. Stolarz is also a pending restricted free agent, so he'll have to receive his qualifying offer from the Flyers before the expansion draft.

Now, let's say the Flyers go with the seven-forward, three-defensemen approach.

The blueliners are pretty clear: Gostisbehere and Gudas will be protected, as it comes down to MacDonald and Manning. I feel the organization thinks a bit more of MacDonald and his versatility compared to Manning, whose two-year deal last summer was likely strategic on the Flyers' part in planning for this expansion draft.

As for the forwards, Giroux, Voracek, Simmonds, Schenn, Filppula and Couturier are staying put. I believe Weal will be re-signed and protected.

Ultimately, I could see Raffl being Vegas' choice. At 28 years old, he's not super young or inexperienced, but also not old by any means, and the winger can play all four lines because of a well-rounded game that complements different styles.

Raffl's injuries last season (abdominal, knee) may cause red flags. At the same time, the Golden Knights should be intrigued by the two seasons prior in which Raffl played all 82 games of 2015-16 (and was a plus-9) after scoring a career-high 21 goals in 2014-15.

A loss of Raffl wouldn't be ideal, but not as damaging given the Flyers appear to be gaining more depth and youth at forward.

Paone
June 21's expansion draft will be the biggest wild card of the NHL summer. And that's not just some corny pun because it involves an expansion team from Vegas.

It'll be the first piece of player movement during the offseason, coming before the entry draft and free agency. But since it will be the first piece of player movement of the offseason, it will help mold how the Flyers and the rest of the teams around the league approach their summers.

None of the Flyers' "big guns" will be on the move and my gut tells me the Flyers will be protecting Neuvirth as they want him to shoulder the starting load this coming season.

We don't know exactly what Vegas is looking for in the expansion draft because general manager George McPhee is keeping that close to the vest. But if I'm the Golden Knights' GM, youth is at the top of my wish list.

That leaves three Flyers to stick out in my mind — Weal (25), Cousins (turns 24 in June) and Laughton (turns 23 on Tuesday).

After the sparkplug Weal was down the stretch with eight goals and four assists in 23 games, the Flyers should reach a new deal with the UFA and keep him in Philadelphia.

That leaves Cousins and Laughton.

My instinct tells me Vegas will gamble (sorry, still getting used to this whole Vegas having a team thing) on Laughton, a former first-round pick.

There's a reason he was a first-rounder in 2012. The guy can play, even if he hasn't shown it consistently in Philadelphia. But remember he's been yanked back and forth between the AHL and NHL on numerous occasions and when he's been with the big club, he's either been in the press box as a scratch or been tossed back and forth between center and wing. That constant instability in both level and position can be detrimental to a young player. Vegas would give Laughton a fresh start, a fresh home and some fresh stability.

Plus, I know there are only so many protections to go around, but Cousins is a guy the Flyers should want to keep around. Just 16 points (six points, 10 assists) in 60 games isn't good enough offensively, but not many Flyers were great offensively last season. Everyone needs to be better there. But Cousins has that pest intangible that can be so effective, especially in the rugged Metropolitan Division, where basically every game is a rivalry game. It's a good quality to have.