Quick Hits: Feb. 21, 2020
1) The Flyers showed a lot of resiliency in coming back from 2-0 and 3-1 deficits on Thursday to earn a 4-3 overtime win
in the road half of their home-and-home set with the Columbus Blue Jackets. There still isn't much breathing room in the battle for third place in the Metro Division and the two wildcard spots. However, by taking care of business in the home-and-home sweep of Columbus, the Flyers have at least temporarily put themselves in a position where a single tough night or a rival winning when Philly is idle will not cause them to drop right back under the playoff cutoff line. In the bigger picture, there's still a lot of work to do.
2) The Flyers swept the season series with Columbus, winning three times in regulation and once in overtime. It was their first-ever sweep of the Blue Jackets (excluding the single-game inter-conference era when the Blue Jackets were in the Western Conference) and the Flyers first Metro Division sweep since they pulled the feat off against Pittsburgh in 2014-15.
3) Essentially dating back to when they posted the NHL's best record in November, the Flyers have been on quite a run. There have been a few hiccups such as the poor road trip after Christmas and trap-game home losses to Montreal and New Jersey but, overall, the Flyers have been a formidable club. The team went 5-5-1 in October. Since then, they've gone 29-15-6.
4) One of the most exciting aspects of the Flyers' surge has been watching the emergence of the defense pairing of Travis Sanheim and Phil Myers, as they've started to show the sort of chemistry they previously displayed together at the AHL level with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. While there are still ocassional stumbles in decision-making, the good has outweighed the negative and has started to do so in greater and greater proportions. Their ranginess, ability to jump into the play, Myers' natural physicality and Sanheim's emerging consistency in gap-management has been the product of a lot of hard work and correct slotting in the lineup.
5) Travis Konecny has owned the Blue Jackets in his still-young NHL career. In 16 career games to date against Columbus, he has posted 18 points (6g, 12a). That's his highest output against any team in the NHL. The only team against whom he's scored more goals is New Jersey (seven in 16 games).
6) The Flyers will hold a 1:00 p.m. practice on Friday in Voorhees preparation for hosting the Winnipeg Jets at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday afternoon. The Jets, who are one point behind Vancouver in the battle for the lower wildcard spot in the Western Conference, have a winning record (16-11-2) on the road this season.
7) On Friday night, the Flyers will keep an eye on the NHL scoreboard as they enjoy a night off before playing the Jets. The games of keenest interest:
* Rangers (31-24-4) at Hurricanes (34-21-4): The Flyers have a home-and-home with the Rangers upcoming soon to complete the season series. Although the Rangers aren't in playoff contention, they're far from an easy out. The Blueshirts have won seven of their last 10 games. For tonight, at least, Philly will root for New York. The Hurricanes, with a win, will leapfrog Columbus in the wildcard race and also move back within one point of the Flyers.
* Red Wings (15-43-4) at Islanders (33-20-6): The Red Wings have pulled off a pair of upset wins over Boston this season, but have won a mere 12 games (12-44-4) since starting the regular season with three wins in the first four games. Barry Trotz's Islanders, losers of four straight in regulation, should have all the motivation in the world to avoid a trap-game loss on home ice. It would a big surprise if the Islanders do not win this one. A win would move the Islanders back within a point of the Flyers. If both the Canes and Islanders win -- or even if they both lose in overtime or via shootout -- the Blue Jackets will fall below the wildcard cutoff line again.
8) At last night's Flyers-Blue Jackets watch party at the IceWorks in Aston, the Flyers Alumni made a special announcement. On March 27, 2020, the Flyers Alumni Team will play the 2019 USA Hockey Warrior Classic championship (lower division) winning Flyers Warriors at the Ice Works. Proceeds help benefit the Warrior hockey program, which provides access to ice hockey for U.S. military veterans with certified disabilities. Game time will be at 7 p.m. ET.
There are two ticket price levels for the event. There are $20 seats. There are also VIP access tickets for $100, which include a private post-game reception with the Flyers Alumni and an enclosed viewing area for watching the game.
Tickets are on sale now via the Wells Fargo Center's online box office: Click here
9) There is a Flyers Alumni attendee addition to announce for Sunday's Flyers Wives Carnival: Flyers Hall of Fame right winger and retired longtime broadcaster Gary Dornhoefer has joined the list of Flyers Alumni who will be hand to take photos and sign autographs for fans. The confirmed attendee list is now as follows: Bob Clarke, Bill Barber, Dave Brown, Riley Cote, Doug Crossman, Dornhoefer, Bob Kelly, Brian Propp, Dave Schultz, Jim Watson and Joe Watson.
10) Phantoms Update: Coming off a wild 8-5 win in Bridgeport on Wednesday, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms return to action on Friday night in the first of back-to-back games in New York State. Tonight at 7 p.m. ET, Scott Gordon's team will face the host Rochester Americans. On Saturday, they'll play the Syracuse Crunch in a 7 p.m. game.
Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere (knee surgery rehab) has joined the Phantoms for a conditioning assignment, and is available to play this weekend. It remains to be seen if he plays back-to-back games or is eased back. He has struggled with post-op discomfort and attempted to come back too quicky initially, re-exiting the Flyers' lineup after just one game back. Earlier this week, Gostisbehere received a pain-killing injection to help him manage the ongoing discomfort he felt. He is now said to be feeling much better.
Additionally, keep an eye on Morgan Frost this weekend. The 20-year-old rookie center brings a three-game goal streak and three-game point streak (3g, 1a) into Rochester. Frost played two of his most complete games of the season immediately upon his return to Lehigh Valley after a brief but encouraging second recall to the Flyers. His third game was a mixed bag of good and not-so-good plays, but the game in Bridgeport in general a was firewagon, shinny-like contest with lots of high-risk decisions and turnovers by both teams.
11) Flyers general manager Brent Flahr provided updates on two notable collegiate prospects who recently sustained injuries. Senior Western Michigan winger Wade Allison may be back in the lineup this weekend. Denver freshman winger Bobby Brink, who suffered a scary-looking lower body injury when he was needlessly low-bridged, appears to have avoided a serious injury. He may only be out a week or two.
12) Congratulations to the Flyers Pee Wee Team for advancing to the quarterfinals of the 2020 Quebec International Pee Wee Tournament. The Flyers team defeated Detroit, 1-0, in their last game. Earlier in the week, the Philly squad beat the Peterborough Petes, 4-2. Flyers Alum defenseman Nick Schultz is coaching the team this year.
13) Final thoughts: Saturday's game is the final one for the Flyers ahead of Monday's NHL Trade Deadline (which is technically a misnomer, because it's actually a playoff-eligible roster filing deadline). This year's final pre-deadline game, although hopefully exciting (and, from a Flyers standpoint, victorious), cannot possibly measure up to last year's Stadium Series comeback in the rain at the Linc and emotional postgame scene where teammates honored Wayne Simmonds after what everyone knew was likely the veteran power forward and team leader's final game as a Flyer.
On the flip side: It's certainly a lot more fun being where the Flyers are now in the standings compared to where they were a year ago. The 2018-19 season will go down as one of the strangest, most tumultuous and most disappointing relative to preseason expectations in recent franchise history. There wasn't much fun around the rink last year, even during the team's too-little-and-too-late surge in the second half until running out of gas. This season has been a lot of fun so far, with the major exceptions of the ongoing anguish over Oskar Lindblom's fight against Ewing Sarcoma and Nolan Patrick's season-long absence due to chronic migraine disorder.