The Philadelphia Flyers have spent quite a bit of time pondering how they didn’t make the playoffs a year ago. The team finished with a 39-33-10 season, including a 10-game winning streak, but their 88 points was not enough to propel them into the playoffs. In fact, their 88 points wasn’t even enough to place ninth in the Eastern Conference standings. Nor 10th. Their record notched them an 11th place finish with the Carolina Hurricanes in 12th only by a point. Granted, the Flyers weren’t really that close to the Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning, who each finished with 94 points, but the team is driven to come back this year.
Of course, Sam Cardichi of Philly.com writes that they will have to do that while integrating four to five rookies into the lineup this year, which likely would include Nolan Patrick, Oskar Lindblom and defenders Samuel Morin and Robert Hagg. That doesn’t even include breaking in a new goaltender in Brian Elliott.
Cardichi writes that he believes the team will be looking for veteran Claude Giroux to have a bounce-back season. After averaging 25 goals over the previous three seasons for the Flyers, the 29-year-old center scored just 14 last year. If he can return to his old form, the Flyers have a much better chance to rebound this year.
- NBC Sports Cam Tucker writes that Rick Nash is also looking to bounce back this season. The New York Rangers’ veteran, who has been a goal-scoring machine in his career is closing in on 500 goals for his career, but has seen the last two years hampered with offensive struggles and numerous injuries. With two seasons in which he combined for just 38 goals, well below his career average, he must come up big this year, before he hits unrestricted free agency after this season. “Every year I want to have the best year possible. But this year, it’s an important year for me personally,” said Nash.
- Jon Rosen of LA Kings Insider writes that the Los Angeles Kings have finally accomplished their goal of building up their goaltending pipeline with three key acquisitions this summer. The team brought in former Minnesota Wild backup Darcy Kuemper to backup veteran Jonathan Quick this year on a one-year deal. That was step one. However, the key acquisitions were signing Notre Dame goaltender Cal Petersen on the first day of free agency in July and then drafting Matthew Villalta in the third round of the 2017 draft this summer. According to Rosen, that stocks the pipeline for the next few years. Petersen was the first goalie to be named captain in Notre Dame’s history and finished with 23 wins, 2.22 GAA and a .926 save percentage in his junior season, taking the team to its third Frozen Four appearance. He also was among the top five finalists for the Mike Richter Award, which goes to the top collegiate goaltender. The 18-year-old Villalta was a third-round pick in the 2017 draft, picking up 25 wins and a 2.41 GAA and a .918 save percentage for the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.