Exciting Flyers hockey in February, it’s unlikely that anyone saw this coming. Especially early in the season when the Flyers were riding a ten-game losing streak, things were looking extra bleak.
Now the Flyers are two points from the top spot in the Metro division, Claude Giroux is top five in points and this team is fun again.
General manager Ron Hextall has done a phenomenal job of rebuilding this team and to an even greater extant stockpiling draft picks and prospects. Fans have been critical of Hextall, believing that he was playing it too safe and refusing to move those draft picks. On Monday, Hextall made his first NHL acquisition as a GM, he traded two of those picks (conditionals) for goaltender Petr Mrazek. This trade feels a lot like the Steve Mason deal of years past, a goalie who was dominant in his early years, falls off and hoping to spark a comeback in a new city.
The Czech goalie got his first taste of action with the Flyers on Thursday as he went head to head with Sergei Bobrovsky at the Wells Fargo Center. Mrazek stood tall, giving up just one goal on twenty shots, the only goal a Artemi Panarin rocket on a two on one. He looked confident in net and after shaking off some rust, looked very capable in between the pipes.
The Flyers called up Oskar Lindblom on that same day as the Mrzaek trade and the 2014 5th round pick started two games this week with the injury to Wayne Simmonds. Lindblom was everywhere, he is not the fastest skater, but he is strong and loves to work in the dirty areas. Within seven seconds of his first shift against Montral, Lindblom was firmly placed in front of Carey Price and seemed like he never left all game. Lindblom let his presence be felt and looked like he belonged out there.
Dave Hakstol and Ron Hextall will have a tough choice to make with Konecny and Simmonds come back into the lineup, because Lindblom looks like he doesn’t want to go back to Lehigh Valley. In other call up news, Travis Sanheim looks to be making another tough decision for the management team. He is absolutely dominating the AHL, proving something that we all pretty much knew, he is too good for that league. With Brandon Manning struggling to do anything right, how much longer until they let Sanheim loose on the NHL again. His speed, playmaking and scoring ability would be a huge asset for the playoff run and the experience would be advantageous to his development going forward.
The playoffs are coming fast and the Flyers are firmly in control of a spot in the East. The Flyers sit just two points behind the Penguins for first place in the division and nine points ahead of the Islanders, who are currently right outside of the second wild card spot. It’s a healthy lead but crazier things have happened.
The Flyers have to keep their foot down and come into the playoffs with momentum, a Cup run is still going to go through Washington, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay. The Flyers are in a position that they haven’t been in years, clear buyers at the deadline.
The question is, was Mrazek the extant of who Hextall should be buying?
There are many options, guys like Rick Nash, Evander Kane and Ryan O’Reilly are some of the bigger forward names out there and with Erik Karlsson headlining the defensive names; the deadline could be a good one. But maybe the Flyers have made their move, I don’t see any of the forwards pushing us over the edge. Karlsson would be incredible but at what cost.
For me, what puts it over the edge for me, guys like Lindblom and Sanheim for free is a better option than moving pieces for a rental. The Flyers have an outside chance at a deep playoff run this year but mortgaging the future should not be in the cards…this year.
The Flyers take on the Senators at 2pm today, in a wild day of hockey. There are many matchups to watch, but as the whole Metro division (minus the NYR) play today, those are the ones to really focus on. So enjoy your hockey day and lets go Flyers.