Flyers

Flyers 3, Senators 2: Flyers take care of business, move even closer to a playoff spot

Flyers 3, Senators 2: Flyers take care of business, move even closer to a playoff spot

BOX SCORE

No Jakub Voracek, no problem.

Well, against the Senators at least.

In the first game of Voracek's questionable two-game suspension (see story), the Flyers took care of the NHL's bottom feeders with a 3-2 win Monday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

By doing so, the Flyers (34-27-8) crept to within three points of the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot as the Blue Jackets lost to the Islanders, 2-0.

Both the Blue Jackets and Canadiens have 79 points compared to the Flyers' 76. Columbus and Montreal play Tuesday, while the Flyers are idle until Thursday.

The Flyers' torrid push has not slowed down. Since Jan. 14, the Flyers are 18-4-2 with 38 points, tied for most in the NHL alongside the Lightning.

The Senators (23-41-6), on the other hand, have lost 11 of their last 12 games and are 9-25-2 on the road.

• One huge reason for the Flyers' run since mid-January has been Travis Konecny looking like the player he was from last season, pushing the puck up ice, making plays and finding the back of the net.

He celebrated his 22nd birthday Monday by dishing a cross-ice feed to Scott Laughton for a 3-1 cushion at the end of the second period.

Konecny has scored 20 points (11 goals, nine assists) in his last 22 games after scoring just five points over his previous 20 games, when the Flyers were really struggling.

• After a relatively quiet, pass-happy first period for the Flyers, Shayne Gostisbehere got things going early in the middle stanza with his big-time shot.

From just outside the circle, Gostisbehere blasted one so lethally, the puck pinballed off Sean Couturier and then Oskar Lindblom for the 1-1 equalizer.

Gostisbehere has been much more visible offensively over his past two games with three assists, while the Flyers are 14-5-3 when he registers a point.

• Despite Carter Hart being healthy, interim head coach Scott Gordon decided to go right back to Brian Elliott, who rewarded him with 20 saves and the victory.

Elliott is 5-1-1 in his last seven starts and he'll be splitting the Flyers' upcoming back-to-back with Hart.

• As a bottom-six guy, Michael Raffl sees his minutes go up and down but he's always solid. In his 400th career game as a Flyer, Raffl put up a two-point game and had a nice defensive play turn into a goal.

Since Feb. 9, the 30-year-old has nine points and a plus-7 rating in 15 games — ideal production for a player in his role.

His steadiness likely played a factor into general manager Chuck Fletcher deciding to not trade the pending unrestricted free agent at the Feb. 25 deadline.

• Laughton plays his butt off every single game. Even after falling hard on his back from a hit, he was right back up defending rookie Philippe Myers in a scrum in front of Elliott after the whistle blew.

His goal also set a new career high of 11.

• The Flyers host the defending champion Capitals Thursday (7 p.m./NBCSP), which starts a stretch of seven games in 11 days, six of which are against teams currently holding a playoff spot.

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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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