Chuck Fletcher’s motives at the April 12 trade deadline will be heavily influenced by the Flyers’ play over the next five or six games.
“We’ve put ourselves in a position where we’re chasing to get back into the playoffs,” the Flyers’ general manager said Saturday afternoon. “We have time to get back in, but at risk of understatement, this week is a massive week for us, in particular the next four days.”
On Saturday night, the Flyers opened this crucial stretch with a 3-2 shootout loss to the Islanders at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Sean Couturier, Nolan Patrick, Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek were turned away in the skills competition.
Mathew Barzal scored the lone shootout tally to win it for New York.
Grabbing a point was important for the Flyers. Their next two games are of the utmost importance.
With 20 games left in their shortened, 56-game regular season, the Flyers (17-14-5) are four points behind the Bruins, who hold the fourth and final playoff spot in the East Division. Boston has two games in hand on the Flyers and have taken all five meetings between the two clubs so far.
On Monday and Tuesday, the Flyers will have a shot to draw even with the Bruins in the points column.
“We’re all aware of it,” Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said before the game on the club’s position ahead of the trade deadline. “I’m aware of it, my staff’s aware of it and all the players are. We’re on the outside right now, we’re trying to get back in and these next games are extremely important for obviously what Chuck and management are thinking about. It’s up to us to play the right way and do the right things on the ice and win games.”
The Flyers started 3-0-0 against the Islanders (24-10-4) this season but have dropped the last three (0-1-2).
• For the Flyers, possibly the biggest storyline to come out of Saturday night: Carter Hart looked a lot more like himself.
He was brilliant.
After the 22-year-old’s mini reset consisting of practice and extra work, Vigneault went back to Hart for his first start in nine days.
“Obviously that’s a coach and goaltender discussion there, but he looked me right in the eye and he said he was good to go and wanted to play,” Vigneault said before the game about his conversation with Hart.
“If we’re going to make the playoff push that I believe that we can make and get in, we need all our top players, all our top performers to be on top of their game and bring that A-game and that A-effort. Carter’s one of those guys. We’re right there, there are still 21 games left and we need to be at our best and Carter needs to want to be one of those players that needs to be at his best.”
Hart, who entered with a 4.04 goals-against average, finished with 22 saves and many of them were of high quality. He denied three of four shots in the skills competition.
Overall, huge for him and huge for the Flyers’ hopes of chasing down a playoff spot.
New York netminder Ilya Sorokin is 3-0-0 with 89 saves on 93 shots in his last three starts against the Flyers.
• In fewer than four minutes during the third period, Giroux erased New York’s 2-0 lead on a pair of impressive shots.
The 33-year-old captain was a man on a mission. Travis Konecny and Voracek recorded assists on both of the goals.
The Islanders were 11-0-1 when leading after the second period and narrowly improved that mark to 12-0-1. Tough to play from behind against them.
• The Flyers have trailed by multiple goals in 13 of their last 18 games. They fell down 2-0 in the second period when they had numerous failed attempts to clear the zone.
As a result, Barzal had the puck on his stick with time and space. The Islanders’ 23-year-old star found Anthony Beauvillier, who fired home his second goal of the game to hand New York a 2-0 advantage.
• Samuel Morin dropped the gloves with Ross Johnston in the first period.
Later in the period, Morin was whistled for interference after a big hit from behind on Jean-Gabriel Pageau. New York capitalized on its first power play of the game as Beauvillier scored an easy goal right near the slot.
The Flyers trailed 1-0 after 20 minutes and have not held a first-intermission lead in their last 10 games. For some reason, starts continue to be problematic.
• In a physical play with Brock Nelson, Philippe Myers went awkwardly into the boards during the third period. He went up the tunnel but was able to return to the game.
Staying on the health front, Robert Hagg (shoulder) practiced Friday and appears to be nearing a return.
• Fourteen games into his pro career, Tanner Laczynski earned a call-up for his NHL debut. The 23-year-old center was one of AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley’s best forwards and had scored six goals in his last five games.
He took the traditional solo laps in warmups Saturday night and centered the fourth line. He won three faceoffs and blocked a shot in 8:17 minutes.
• The Flyers have what could turn out to be a make-or-break back-to-back set against the Bruins. The teams meet Monday at TD Garden (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP) and Tuesday at the Wells Fargo Center (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).
The NHL trade deadline is the following Monday.
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