Flyers

Dave Scott 'couldn't be happier' with Flyers, but there's more action to be done

Dave Scott 'couldn't be happier' with Flyers, but there's more action to be done

Back on Nov. 27, 2018, Dave Scott was poignant and blunt about his business letting down an important group of investors.

For the second straight season, the Flyers were in last place of the Metropolitan Division at Thanksgiving.

"I personally feel our fans deserve better," Scott, the chairman and CEO of Comcast Spectacor, said at the time. "I think we have great fans and they have been patient."

Scott and then-team president Paul Holmgren made the decision to fire general manager Ron Hextall. The Flyers wanted more progress and, therefore, more action — "really making some things happen," as Scott said.

In 2019-20, Flyers fans required much less patience and Scott saw the results of greater action. After stomaching the tumultuous 2018-19 campaign, they watched the best home team in hockey this season. No NHL club had more wins or a better point percentage on home ice than the Flyers (25-6-4, .771), who turned into a top-six team overall a year after finishing 22nd in the league standings.

On Thursday, Scott was able to sing a different tune compared to November 2018, a time that triggered a domino effect of change within the team's hockey operations department and coaching staff.

The club is now in promising position to go on a run during the NHL's return-to-play 24-team tournament. As the new-look Flyers began rolling in November, attendance started to spike.

"It was wonderful," Scott said of the Flyers' dominance at the Wells Fargo Center. "The energy was great in the building, that’s the best since I’ve been around we’ve ever played at home. Look at the Metropolitan Division and the Eastern Conference, too, we had a tremendous record this season. I thoroughly enjoyed it and we’re ready for the next step here."

The desired action truly commenced last offseason. New general manager Chuck Fletcher brought on board experienced coaches Alain Vigneault, Mike Yeo and Michel Therrien. Then, over a span of 11 days last June, Fletcher signed Kevin Hayes (after trading for his contractual rights earlier in the month) and traded for Matt Niskanen, Justin Braun and Tyler Pitlick. At this February's trade deadline, Fletcher acquired Derek Grant and Nate Thompson to supplement the team's run.

"I couldn’t be happier with what we’ve done, what was done at the trade deadline, the new guys coming in, Kevin and the others," Scott said of Fletcher's work. "I think we got it right — it’s a great balance, the new additions, the vets fit in really great with our whole team. ... I couldn’t be happier with what he’s put together."

Fletcher and the Flyers have much more work to do, though. The GM knows that. Professional sports are a what-have-you-done-for-me-now business. The Flyers haven't won a Stanley Cup since 1975. They haven't won a playoff series since 2012. Ultimately, Scott and the fans will want more than just a strong regular season or one bounce-back year. There are also difficult decisions ahead from a roster standpoint after 2019-20.

"It's all about winning, whether it's in business or a hockey team and getting deep in the playoffs and winning the Cup — I mean, that's what we're all after," Scott said back in November 2018.

The Flyers will have a unique and different 2020-21, as well. The season will start later (possibly Dec. 1) and the question of when fans are allowed back in the stands is completely up in the air, particularly after the city's announcement of its plan to cancel all large-scale events through February 2021.

"We’re a little disappointed to see that order but as we've gotten to understand it more, that’s a long time away through February," Scott said. "I don’t think we have full clarity from the mayor’s office or the city. That’s a long time away and we’re hopeful that date could move up.

"In terms of what it does financially, our idea was always to start with social distancing as we kind of came back for the next season. It hurts a little bit, but it’s not the end of the world. The goal is to start the next season, at least have the games on television. Never really had the expectation by this fall or late this year, that we’d really be in a position to have fans in the building. I think as we get into calendar ’21, we've got a lot of thoughts around social distancing and kind of ramping up from there as people feel safer. Hopefully we get a vaccination at some point here in the not-too-distant future."

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NHL playoffs Flyers vs. Canadiens: Previewing 1st-round matchup

NHL playoffs Flyers vs. Canadiens: Previewing 1st-round matchup

The Stanley Cup quarter-finals are just a few days from getting underway. As the round robin and qualifying rounds start to come to a close, the first round has already been solidified for the Flyers after a convincing 4-1 win over the Lightning

The Flyers are set to face the Canadiens following quite a crazy first week of the NHL’s return. 

Let’s take a look at the soon-to-be matchup.

Flyers by the numbers

Goals per game: 3.29 (seventh overall)
Goals allowed per game: 2.77 (tied for seventh fewest)
Power play percentage: 20.8 (14th overall)
Penalty kill percentage: 81.8 (11th overall)

Canadiens by the numbers

Goals per game: 2.93 (19th overall)
Goals allowed per game: 3.10 (13th most)
Power play percentage: 17.1 (22nd overall)
Penalty kill percentage: 78.7 (19th overall)

How they are meeting

There was only one way the Flyers were going to meet the Canadiens in the first round — and a lot needed to happen to make it possible. In a crazy turn of events, the 12th-seed Canadiens knocked out the fifth-seed Penguins in four games in the qualifying round. 

The Flyers also needed to find their way to the No. 1 seed at the end of the round robin tournament. Three games and three wins later, they found themselves at the top of the Eastern Conference.

Even with the round robin and qualifying rounds still going, the first matchup has already been set for the Flyers. 

Why matchup could be favorable for Flyers

On paper, the Flyers coming out on top of this series almost seems like a no-brainer. Comparing the numbers above, the Flyers dominate in every category, but the biggest factor are those goals for and goals against. 

Goaltending

The Flyers’ goaltending duo of Brian Elliott and Carter Hart has been dominant with whatever game head coach Alain Vigneault throws at each netminder. While there was some strategy in playing Hart at home and Elliott on the road the majority of the time, it’ll be interesting it see how the tandem plays out. This is probably the best problem a team could have — having two sturdy goalies ready to go. Where a young Hart gets his first taste of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, this isn’t Elliott’s first rodeo. This will be the veteran goaltender’s eighth trip to the postseason as he has 45 playoff games under his belt — for a netminder, that’s not a bad résumé.

On the opposing end of the ice, the Flyers will be going up against one of the most respected in the game with Carey Price, who has also seen the playoffs on eight separate seasons. This season has been an interesting one for Price though — and an inconsistent one at that. With a 27-25-6 record, it’ll be interesting to see how Price emerges. He certainly put on a show against the Penguins and was one of the main factors for the team's success in that series. Through those four games, Price posted an impressive 1.67 GAA and .947 SV%. 

But the Flyers? Across both goaltenders, Hart having two starts (Bruins and Lightning) and Elliott having one (Capitals), you couldn’t ask for better numbers. Hart is currently maintaining 1.00 GAA and .966 SV%, while Elliott also has 1.00 GAA and .941 SV%. 

If the Flyers shut down Price, it’s over for the Habs. 

Next man up

While the Canadiens wouldn’t have even made the playoffs had the season ended in a normal fashion, the Flyers would’ve been entering the race for the Stanley Cup with a few banged up roster spots. During the mandatory league hiatus, Philippe Myers (right knee patella fracture) and James van Riemsdyk (fractured right index finger), two injured players that would’ve created absences and raised concerns in the winding 13 games of the season, had more than enough time to recover.

The Flyers, unfortunately, are going to be without Michael Raffl for a "little bit." While they are now down a key forward and a staple on the penalty kill, Joel Farabee was the next man up. He found his way back into the roster comfortably and has already earned his first playoff goal and assist. Jakub Voracek was also unavailable to to play against the Lightning, so Connor Bunnaman got to see some playing time as well. For someone who — prior to the 2019-20 season — looked like he was going to be a depth system player for his career, his efforts when getting the opportunity to show what he’s capable of made for an impressive performance.  

Alain Vigneault is going to have some difficult decisions when creating his lines — and for the first time in a long time — it’s not for lack of talent, but rather a surplus. 

Something worth playing for

This has been a season like no other — from the season being suspended in early March to going on a hiatus for nearly five months because of the coronavirus outbreak, it’s been difficult. The Flyers also had to handle the news of Oskar Lindblom being diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma back in December. It was a statement not a single person would have expected. What was even more unexpected was that just a few months later, Lindblom was officially done with his treatments and now, according to general manager Chuck Fletcher, there’s even a possibility of him traveling to the Toronto bubble with the team. 

It’s a story with a happy ending for a player that rightfully deserves it. His teammates have been playing for Lindblom — when he was around, it was clear the team wanted to do well, he lit up the room and his kindness is something worth fighting for.

The image of captain Claude Giroux handing the Stanley Cup off to Lindblom should be motivation enough for the team. In a year with so much negativity, having a moment like that to look back on could possibly (definitely) make it all worth it. 

Why matchup could be trouble for Flyers

It wasn’t a major issue during the 2019-20 season, but one fear always lingers — one that happened against the Canadiens back in January — is when the Flyers play down to their opponent. In those games, they often sit back on their skates, turtle with a lead or have to play a game of catch-up. This could be a worst-case scenario trap series, given the seeding — and with so many eyes on the surprising Flyers team pushing to make a Cup run, it’s possible they fall into it. 

The Flyers proved that they can battle things out with the top dogs. In fact, it's time to start recognizing the Flyers as a top dog as well. It's hard to ignore, given they now sit on top of the east. After playing three of the top teams in the league consecutively, it’s clear the Flyers have what it takes to see success in their run. It’ll be crucial for them to carry over their mentality and intense play from the round robin — even against the east’s lowest seed in the playoffs.

That’s the one thing about the Stanley Cup playoffs — you never know what could happen. 

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Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

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2020 Stanley Cup odds: Flyers, Golden Knights atop DraftKings

2020 Stanley Cup odds: Flyers, Golden Knights atop DraftKings

Guess who the oddsmakers have atop the leaderboard to take home Lord Stanley’s Cup?

Your No. 1-seeded Flyers!

A week ago, the orange and black had hovered around the sixth-to-eighth-best odds but now a day removed from sweeping the Eastern Conference round robin, the Flyers find themselves along with the Vegas Golden Knights at the top of the tote board at +600 on DraftKings ($100 winning bet pays $600). Pretty impressive drop for the Flyers whose odds peaked to around 40-1 in early February. Overall, the Flyers have odds around 6-1 and 7-1 on most major sportsbooks. FanDuel and PointsBet still have the Lightning ahead of the Flyers on their odds to win the title. 

As for Eastern Conference supremacy per DraftKings, the Flyers are +275 followed by Tampa Bay (+325), Boston (+350), Washington (+650) and Carolina (+750) to round out the top-five contenders. 

Looking ahead to the Flyers' first-round matchup versus 12th-seeded Montreal, DraftKings lists the Flyers as -240 favorites to move on in the postseason ($240 winning bet pays $100). Meanwhile, the Canadiens have odds of +195. Despite Montreal pulling off the upset over Sidney Crosby and the Penguins to advance, DraftKings has the Habs at 32-1 to win the Cup and 15-1 to be crowned conference champs. 

The Flyers are hot after outscoring the top three teams in the East by a margin of 11-3. This season, the Flyers went 2-1-0 against Montreal with the two wins coming in overtime. Carter Hart faced the Canadiens only once back on Nov. 7 in a 3-2 win at the Wells Fargo Center. Hart will be making his first-ever start in a playoff series. 

Former Vezina Trophy winner Carey Price is no small task to overcome. In 30 career regular-season games against the Flyers, he has a .922 save percentage. However, in five career playoff games (2008 and 2010 postseasons), Price is 1-3 (one no-decision) with a .852 save percentage. 

Time will tell if playoff Price versus the Flyers will repeat itself. 

Sports Uncovered is on all podcast platforms: click here to subscribe now!

Subscribe and rate Flyers Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

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