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Quick Hits: Remaining Schedule, Phantoms and More

March 27, 2023, 12:56 PM ET [208 Comments]
Bill Meltzer
Philadelphia Flyers Blogger •NHL.com • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Quick Hits: March 27, 2023

1) Following a 3-0 shutout win over the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday afternoon and the Flyers Charities Carnival on Sunday, the Philadelphia Flyers (28-32-12) team is taking a complete off-day today. Tomorrow, there will be a 10:30 a.m. morning skate at the FTC in Voorhees before a 7:00 p.m. game at the Wells Fargo Center against the Montreal Canadiens (29-38-6).

Tuesday's game will mark the final match of the Flyers' current seven-game homestand. The Flyers, who have won each of their last three games, are 4-1-1 on the homestand to date. There are 10 games left in the 2022-23 season. After tomorrow's game, six of the Flyers' final nine games will be played on the road. So far this season, the Flyers are 16-16-5 in home games and 12-16-7 on the road.

Over the remainder of this week, the Flyers will have a travel day on Wednesday and then visit the Ottawa Senators at the Canadian Tire Centre on Thursday (7:00 p.m.) to wrap up the March portion of the schedule. The Flyers will then briefly return home to wrap up their season series with the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday (7:00 p.m.) and then head on the road immediately for a four-game trip to play Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Dallas and the New York Islanders.

From April 1 to April 9, the Flyers will play six games in nine nights, with four on the road and two in the Central time zone. The final game of that stretch is at home against the Boston Bruins (7:00 p.m.). The Bruins have already clinched the regular season Eastern Conference championship and are a shoo-in to win the President's Trophy as the NHL's top team in the regular season.

Frankly, it's a ridiculously compacted April schedule for the Flyers ahead of the season's final two games (home vs. Columbus on April 11 and on the road in Chicago for the April 13 finale). But that's the nature of the beast in the NHL. From March 19 to 31, the Flyers only had five games (four at home) on the game docket. When there's that many off-days, it's inevitable there's an ultra-compacted series of games either preceding or following it.

Incidentally, while it's not a primary factor, don't completely dismiss the Flyers' light game schedule and absence of travel during the current homestand as a secondary reason why they've had so much energy over the last five games in particular. They'll have the fatigue factor turn against them come the start of April.

2) Flyers Daily: On the weekly Mondays with Meltzer edition of Flyers' Daily, Jason Myrtetus and I discuss the past week of games, the Phantoms, the steps of the rebuilding process, and more. To listen, click here.

3) Big win for Lehigh Valley: The Lehigh Valley Phantoms found a way to gut out 4-3 road shootout victory against the Hershey Bears on Sunday; just the third win for Lehigh Valley in 13 games against Hershey this season. On Sunday, the Phantoms trailed 2-0 at the second intermission and 3-1 about five minutes into the third period and had to kill a half-dozen penalties including a two-man disadvantage. Hershey went 2-for-6 on the power play, while the Phantoms were 1-for-5.

Lehigh Valley never led at any point within the hockey game. They were outshot by the Bears, 40-23 overall and 36-14 from the second period onward. Thankfully for the Phantoms, Samuel Ersson cranked out a brilliant game in goal and they got enough opportunistic offense from Louie Belpedio (3rd goal of the season), Ryan Fitzgerald (1st) and Artem Anisimov (game-tying PPG, 18th goal of the season) to grab a point in regulation.

In overtime, the ice was tilted in Hershey's favor. A turnover caused a world of trouble for the Phantoms as they were unable to get the puck out of the defensive zone and get a desperately needed line change. Defenseman Egor Zamula was on the ice for two-plus torturous minutes, and Max Willman was out for nearly as long. With exhausted skaters in front of him, Ersson had to singlehandedly make three outstanding saves on high-danger scoring chances to keep the game going. Finally, the Phantoms got their line change and the rest of OT was on equal footing.

In his return to the Phantoms from a successful NHL stint with the Flyers (three goals, four assists, seven points in eight games), Tyson Foerster assisted on Anisimov's game-tying deflection goal in the third period. Foerster had a late scoring chance in overtime. He also had a second-round opportunity in the shootout but was stopped by Zach Fucale (20 saves on 23 shots in regulation and OT, 1-for-3 in the shootout). Additionally, Flyers defenseman prospect Emil Andrae got the secondary assist on the Anisimov tally for his second point of the weekend.

Jordy Bellerive, who has been a versatile utility forward for the Phantoms this season, led off the shootout with a goal. Ersson denied Mike Sgarbossa in the bottom of the first period. Foerster was unable to extend the lead but Ersson stoned Julian Napravnik to give the Phantoms two different means of winning the shootout: a third-round goal by Bobby Brink or a save by Ersson if it got to the bottom of the third round.

Brink ended the suspense quickly. He skated out wide to the right side, cut left and outwaited Fucale. He then deposited the puck home on the backhand to win the shootout and put a second point in the cash register in a game the Phantoms easily could have come away with nothing but instead collected two extremely valuable standings points.

The Phantoms (33-25-6) strengthened their hold on fifth place in the Atlantic Division. The top six teams will qualify for the Calder Cup playoffs. Here's the current outlook from 3rd place to 7th:

3rd -- Charlotte Checkers: 76 points, 9 games remaining.
4th -- Springfield Thunderbirds: 73 points, 9 games remaining.
5th -- PHANTOMS, 72 points, 8 games remaining.
6th -- Bridgeport Islanders, 68 points, 9 games remaining.
7th -- Hartford Wolf Pack, 67 points, 8 games remaining.

Up next for the Phantoms: On Friday, Ian Laperriere's team will host the Wilkes-Barre/ Scranton Penguins. While the Baby Pens (61 points, nine remaining games) are in last place in the Atlantic Division, the Phantoms learned the hard way to not take the Penguins for granted. Last Sunday in Allentown, W-B/S embarrassed the Phantoms, 5-2. On Saturday afternoon, the Phantoms had to sweat out a 3-2 comeback win in overtime.
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