Flyers’ Monday Must Read: The Battle of PA

On Monday, The Hockey Writers will take stock of everything that happened in the Philadelphia Flyers organization in the previous week and how to use it to look forward to the week ahead. We will analyze the results of the games played and the impact they had on the Flyers’ playoff aspirations, which players were all over the stat sheets, and we’ll take a deep dive into social media to find the post of the week.

Not only will we look back in time but we’ll also take a peek at the important information needed for the week ahead. What challenges do the upcoming opponents pose to the Orange and Black? Which players have a history of success against the looming adversary? The Flyers’ top prospects will also get featured in both sections as they gear towards making an impact in their postseasons.

The Week That Was for the Flyers

The last week of the season did not start on a positive note for a team trying to clinch a playoff spot. They fell behind the New York Islanders 4-1 entering the third period, to only tie the game at 4-4, and give up the game-winning goal 28 seconds later in a 5-4 loss.

Two days later saw the return of goaltender Brian Elliott in a home contest with the Carolina Hurricanes. Although “Moose” was shaky in his return, stopping 19 of the 22 shots he faced, it was a Jakub Voracek goal that sent them to a 4-3 victory setting up a win and get-in situation against the New York Rangers in Game No. 82.

Claude Giroux put the Flyers on his back in a 5-0 playoff-clinching win over the Rangers with his first career regular-season hat trick. The Flyers captain concluded 2017-18 with a 10-game point streak (8 goals, 11 assists) to become the sixth different player in franchise history to reach the 100-point mark in a season (34 goals, 68 assists) and first since 1995-96. He finished ranked second in league scoring, becoming just the second Flyer to do so, joining Bobby Clarke (twice) and Eric Lindros.

Claude Giroux Henrik Lundqvist
Philadelphia Flyers Captain Claude Giroux scores a hat trick on New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist during the final game of the Flyers 2017-18 season, Apr. 7, 2018. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Flyers are the fourth team in NHL history to clinch a playoff berth despite suffering a winless streak of 10-plus games in the regular season, joining the Rangers (1961-62), Toronto Maple Leafs (1966-67) and Calgary Flames (1985-86).

The Orange and Black advanced to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the 39th time in 51 NHL seasons. Only three teams have more appearances in the expansion era: Boston Bruins (43), St. Louis Blues (41) and Montreal Canadiens (40). A player who participated in seven of the postseasons, Bernie Parent, is our social media post of the week with a big prediction for this year’s team.

Down on the farm, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms won the Atlantic Division on Sunday after a 6-3 victory over the Providence Bruins. This was the organization’s first division title since 2004 when they were playing back in Philadelphia. Phil Varone continued his quest to win the AHL scoring title with two goals and assists this week and now has 70 points this season.

More prospect notes in the OHL playoffs, Matthew Strome has been making a huge impact in the Hamilton Bulldogs’ run for the J. Ross Robertson Cup. The fourth-round pick, in the 2017 NHL Draft, has 13 points in the first seven games of the playoffs. He has helped Hamilton gain two games to none for a series lead in their second-round matchup against the Niagara IceDogs.

What to Watch for This Week

It all begins this week with the pursuit of the Stanley Cup and the seventh postseason installment of the Battle for Pennsylvania. The seven-game series begins with two games in Pittsburgh on Wednesday and Friday.

Claude Giroux, Sidney Crosby
Claude Giroux, Sidney Crosby (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Flyers didn’t gain a victory in the season series (0-2-2) with the Pens for the first time since 2006-07 (0-6-2). The Penguins scored five goals in each of their four wins against Philadelphia this season. No surprise that Sidney Crosby led all scorers with nine points in the four games played. #87 has scored 38 career regular season goals in 68 games against Philadelphia, the most against any opponent. The two-time Conn Smythe Trophy winner also has 23 points (9 goals, 14 assists) in 17 career playoff games vs the Flyers.

Special teams will be key in this series. During the regular season matchup between these two teams, the Penguins’ top-ranked power play scored five goals in 13 attempts, while the Flyers inconsistent PP was 2-for-16.

Stay out of the box to play five-on-five and the Flyers could take advantage. For this season, the Penguins only scored three more goals than the Flyers (161 to 158) but gave up 12 more goals (248 to 236) while playing five-on-five. The Pens top defensive pairing of Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin combined for 144 goals against in 5-on-5 play. The Flyers top duo of Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere, although not playing as many minutes together (749:19 to 1061:12 5-on-5), only gave up 96 goals against playing 5-on-5.

This week you will also get to see a lot more of top goalie prospect, Carter Hart. His Everett Silvertips are locked up in a tight one with the Portland Winterhawks in the WHL playoffs second round. The series is tied one to one but the teams play Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday this week in hopes to have a series winner. Hart followed up a poor five goals-against performance in Game 1 to shut out Portland with 26 saves victory in Game 2.