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Canadiens 3, Flyers 1: Falling flat in must-win situation during NHL playoff race

Canadiens 3, Flyers 1: Falling flat in must-win situation during NHL playoff race

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This is a game the Flyers probably can’t and won’t recover from.

Facing a team they had to catch in the standings, the Flyers fell to the Montreal Canadiens, 3-1, Tuesday night.

Goaltender Carey Price stopped 32 shots to beat the Flyers on Fan Appreciation Night. 

Here are my observations from the Wells Fargo Center:

• Typical first period at the Wells Fargo Center for the Flyers as the Canadiens dictated the pace of play. The one noticeable problem area for the Flyers was their inability to contain Montreal’s speed from the outside. Jesperi Kotkaniemi, the third overall pick in this year’s draft, blew completely around Shayne Gostisbehere before getting a shot up close on Carter Hart.

• Just because you get a body on Brendan Gallagher, don’t think you have him contained. That was Oskar Lindblom’s issue as the Flyers’ winger sent Gallagher to the ice, in what could have been an interference penalty, just inside the Flyers’ blue line. However, Gallagher never stops on any play. He left Lindblom behind and put home a rebound goal on Hart. There has to be a conscious effort to play physically against Gallagher, especially after he notched his first career hat trick against the Flyers last month.

• Despite Sean Couturier losing the faceoff, it appeared as if the Flyers had the Shea Weber shot defended pretty well. Watch Jakub Voracek race to the middle of the ice to guard against a possible shot from the point. Voracek appeared to be in position to block the shot, but perhaps had other ideas considering Weber can unload a 100-mph slapper. Preferably, I don’t like that shot getting on net.

• Couturier continued his blistering second half by snapping the Flyers' 0-for-17 skid on the power play and pulling the Flyers within a goal. It was Couturier’s 30th goal of the season as he reached the 30-goal mark for the second straight season. He’s the first Flyer with back-to-back 30-goal seasons since Wayne Simmonds (2015-17). In my opinion, Couturier wins the Bobby Clarke Trophy as team MVP.

• Montreal came out the more determined team with more jump and more desperation in its game. Although the players won’t say it, I think they’ve been dealing with this “bug” that’s been going around the locker room — which would explain why Justin Bailey has been back and forth from Lehigh Valley. 

• Montreal also stifled the Flyers' offense by not giving it very much time and space with the puck. Referees elected to swallow the whistle and allow both teams to play. They easily could have called some interference penalties in that second period.

• Unlike Claude Giroux on Sunday, defenseman Philippe Myers felt too sick to suit up in this game and was replaced by Andrew MacDonald, who has been in and out of the lineup over the past three weeks. There’s a belief that MacDonald could be a buyout recipient next season as he enters the final year of his contract, but unless the Flyers are desperate for the cap space, I don’t necessarily see a buyout as the best option. You need depth and MacDonald isn’t a bad option as a seventh defenseman.

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule: Flames look to avoid 2-game series deficit vs. Avalanche

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule: Flames look to avoid 2-game series deficit vs. Avalanche

The NHL-best Lightning were shockingly swept by the Blue Jackets in the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The NHL's second-best team the Flames are in some first-round trouble, too. Calgary is facing a 2-1 series deficit against the Avalanche with Game 4 Wednesday night in Colorado.

Below is the full schedule for Day 8 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. You can watch the entire playoffs on the networks of NBC. 

Boston Bruins at Toronto Maple Leafs (TOR 2-1)
Game 4, Eastern Conference first round
7 p.m. ET | TV: NBCSN | Live stream here

Nashville Predators at Dallas Stars (NSH 2-1)
Game 4, Western Conference first round
8 p.m. ET | TV: USA | Live stream here

Calgary Flames at Colorado Avalanche (COL 2-1)
Game 4, Western Conference first round
10 p.m. ET | TV: NBCSN | Live stream here

Why Flyers did just fine with Alain Vigneault, not Joel Quenneville

Why Flyers did just fine with Alain Vigneault, not Joel Quenneville

It's uncertain how hard the Flyers went after Joel Quenneville or if the team was even in on the three-time Stanley Cup champion at all.

On the day Quenneville took the Panthers' head coaching job, Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher appeared unflappable when asked about his level of disappointment with the news.

"I'm happy for Joel," Fletcher said April 8. "We're less than 48 hours since the end of our season and the process of identifying the next head coach of the Flyers will start today. We'll start the process.

"He's not available. I'm not going to speculate on names or people that may be available or were available or were available in past years. It's a big decision for the Flyers."

Backup plan or not, Fletcher didn't do too shabby with his big decision, tabbing Alain Vigneault as the Flyers' new head coach. 

Maybe there's some short-term memory with the outside perception of the hire. When you see Vigneault's name, many think of his final days with the Rangers. After four winning seasons, New York fired Vigneault last April as the team was ready for a fresh approach following a 25-point drop-off.

Well, the same happened with Quenneville. While he experienced a much longer and more fruitful run of success in Chicago, the situation eventually grew sour to the point in which new direction was wanted. Quenneville was fired 15 games into this season after his worst year with the Blackhawks in 2017-18.

Vigneault is not Quenneville. But he's no slouch, either.

The Flyers needed a coach with experience and got one.

Vigneault has led three teams to the Presidents' Trophy and two to the Stanley Cup Final. In 16 seasons as an NHL head coach, 11 have featured playoff berths, with eight of those teams advancing past the first round (see 5 takeaways).

He owns three 50-win seasons and eight 100-point seasons. The Flyers haven't won 50 or more games in a season since 1985-86 and haven't amassed 100 or more points in a season since 2011-12, when they last won a playoff series (see story).

"I think his track record speaks for itself," Fletcher said Monday. "He's had success at the junior level, had success in the minor leagues, and he's had success in the NHL. You can't have success at all those levels unless you're good at developing players and good at connecting with veteran players. He's a guy that gets his teams to play hard and gets his players to buy in."

And for Fletcher, what likely made Vigneault such an attractive candidate is the head coach's track record in Year 1 on the job. At Vigneault's previous three stops (Canadiens, Canucks, Rangers), each of his first seasons resulted in playoff bids and at least one series win. Overall, his combined record in those seasons was 131-89-26 with a .585 points percentage.

"Right now, it's about trying to continue to build our group and become as competitive as quickly as we can," Fletcher said.

Quenneville was clearly set on South Florida.

It's also clear why that didn't break the Flyers' hearts.

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