See ya next year.
The Philadelphia Flyers are now officially playing out the string. They have mathematically eliminated from playoff contention on Thursday night thanks to their 5-3 loss to the New Jersey Devils, combined with a 5-2 win for the Boston Bruins over the Buffalo Sabres.
As of Friday morning, the Flyers were 13 points behind the Bruins in the East Division standings. With just six games left to play, there’s no way to catch up.
A Peek At The East
Thursday night, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals became the first two teams in the East to clinch their playoff spots. There’s an outside chance that the New York Rangers could dethrone either the Bruins or the New York Islanders and grab that fourth spot.
The Flyers’ remaining games could impact positioning for the playoff teams, but not the race itself. They play three teams two more times — the Devils, the Capitals and the Penguins.
Dealing With the Devils
The Devils have barely shown a pulse since Kyle Palmieri, Travis Zajac, and Dmitry Kulikov were dealt away at the trade deadline. But on Thursday, they won their second-straight game against the Flyers. They were fuelled by a pair of goals from rookie Yegor Sharangovich, who also scored the game-winner on Tuesday. Now with 14 goals and 26 points, the 22-year-old ranks fourth among rookies in both categories.
The Devils, who rank 25th in the league in goals scored per game, have had no trouble generating offense against the Flyers. They put up 14 in the last three games and went 4-for-9 on the power play.
Philadelphia is limping to the finish line ranked 31st in goals against (3.56 per game) and 30th in penalty killing (72.9 percent). The Devils are the only team that’s worse in that category — but the Flyers drew just five power plays over the last three games and scored only once.
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Carter Hart Shut Down
It’s easy to connect the dots between the team’s defensive woes and the struggles of Carter Hart. Though it was initially hoped that he was only dealing with a minor injury, the club announced on Thursday that Hart has officially been shut down for the rest of the season due to a sprained MCL in his left knee.
Hart’s stat line for the season: 27 GP, 9-11-5, 3.67 goals-against average, .877 save percentage and one shutout.
That’s a far cry from last season, where he went 24-13-3, with a .914 save percentage and 2.42 GAA. It’s probably the No. 1 reason why the Flyers’ season went south.
We don’t know why Hart has struggled, but there are plenty of possible reasons. It could be triggered by the isolation within the league’s Covid protocols. It could be the challenges presented by the condensed schedule. There’s also the different look of the Flyers’ defense, particularly after the retirement of Matt Niskanen. And there’s always a chance that Hart had been playing with some type of undisclosed physical issue.
As an impending restricted free agent, this isn’t how Hart wanted to go into a contract year. The onus is now on him to rediscover his star form and prove that he can indeed offer long-term organizational stability in net.
Could we see Hart partnered with Brian Elliott again next season? He turned 36 in early April and has carried more of the load than anybody expected this season. But overall, Elliott’s numbers are remarkably consistent.
This year, he’s 13-7-2 with two shutouts, an .892 save percentage and a 2.98 goals-against average. In 2019-20, he delivered a 16-7-4 record with two shutouts, an .899 save percentage and 2.89 GAA. He provides decent value for a cap hit of just $1.5 million.
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Zamula Auditions On Blue Line
Will Egor Zamula be part of the solution on defense next season? The 21-year-old received a whopping 19:19 of ice time from Alain Vigneault in his NHL debut on Tuesday. Two nights later, he played 14:49.
“It’s the best league in the world with a lot of good players, fast players, skilled players,” Zamula told the media after Tuesday’s game. “It’s a little bit of a different level than the AHL. I tried working hard every shift and tried to play faster.”
Another top defense prospect, Cam York, has found his form quickly in the AHL. In his fourth game with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, he tallied three points. But he did not suit up on Wednesday, when the Phantoms dropped a 2-1 overtime road decision to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Jordan Hall of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that York is dealing with a minor lower-body injury. If he heals up, he could still get a cup of coffee with the big club before the regular season concludes on May 10.