Flyers stock watch: 3 major positives after season-opening party in Vegas

Flyers stock watch: 3 major positives after season-opening party in Vegas

Make it 3 for 3 as the Flyers on Thursday won their third straight season opener — all against Western Conference opponents.

The Flyers are now a perfect 2-0 in Vegas following a 5-2 victory over the Golden Knights.

Let's look at three players who saw a boost in their stock:

Wayne Simmonds
In what has become a theme over the past four years, Simmonds is off to a scorching start by adding a pair of goals. He scored in his only preseason action and then found the back of the net twice against the Golden Knights.

Despite playing just 9:28 at even strength, the fewest of all Flyers forwards, Simmonds still played effective minutes working with a pair of new linemates — James van Riemsdyk and rookie Mikhail Vorobyev.

The Flyers' power forward is still a force on the power play as he jammed a shot past Marc-Andre Fleury, and while Simmonds still needs a few more games to work out all the rust, it didn’t hold him back physically, leading the Flyers with seven hits.

Brian Elliott
Slowly eased into the regular season through a cautious, diligent preseason workload, Elliott took a significant step toward feeling 100 percent ready after stopping 26 of 27 shots against the Bruins in the final exhibition game. Elliott followed up with a 23-save performance while holding the Golden Knights to two goals by winning his second straight season opener. Elliott was poised and didn’t overextend his movements against a Vegas team that prefers quick, east-west puck movement.

Where the Flyers will need to lean on Elliott more so this season comes on the penalty kill, and against the Golden Knights he delivered. The Flyers' goaltender made two key saves during a 5-on-3 penalty kill, and after Pierre Edouard-Bellemare scored shorthanded, Elliott didn’t surrender that momentum-changing goal that would have given the Knights some third-period life. 

Robert Hagg
It was looking like at the end of last week Hagg could be the odd man out to start the season as he was paired with Mark Friedman, but his training camp and preseason progressively improved from week to week and now he’s feeling more confident to assert himself offensively, jumping into the play and snapping a shot past Fleury.

Hagg fired three shots on net, which led all Flyers defensemen, and he was his typical physical presence defensively as he was credited with six hits while trying to mask some of the mistakes on the back end by playing partner Andrew MacDonald.

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule, live stream: Blues can advance to Cup Final with Game 6 win over Sharks

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule, live stream: Blues can advance to Cup Final with Game 6 win over Sharks

Craig Berube and the Blues are one win away from advancing to the Stanley Cup Final.

They can earn that victory Tuesday night when they host the Sharks in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final.

Including the playoffs, the Blues are 49-24-8 under Berube, who took over Nov. 19 as interim head coach.

For some context on the Blues' run, St. Louis visited the Wells Fargo Center Jan. 7 with the same number of points as the Flyers. The Blues were 29th in the NHL at 16-19-4 and 36 points, while the Flyers were 30th at 15-20-6 and 36 points.

St. Louis has never won a Cup, but it's on the verge of being one step closer to a title.

Below is the schedule for Day 39 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. You can watch the entire playoffs on the networks of NBC. 

San Jose Sharks at St. Louis Blues (STL 3-2)
Game 6, Western Conference Final
8 p.m. ET | TV: NBCSN | Live stream here

If Alain Vigneault can't work his magic with Flyers' roster, pressure mounts for Chuck Fletcher

If Alain Vigneault can't work his magic with Flyers' roster, pressure mounts for Chuck Fletcher

Chuck Fletcher was brought in because things weren't going well enough and quickly enough for the Flyers.

The predicament he inherited required eventual change.

After all, sitting alongside team president Paul Holmgren back in November, Comcast Spectacor chairman and CEO Dave Scott said the Flyers were eyeing a general manager with a "bias for action," among other qualities.

With time and evaluation, Fletcher has begun providing the desired action.

A new head coach is on board, bringing extensive experience and outside perspective, while two new assistants with strong pedigrees have been hired.

But perhaps the most influential part in shifting the Flyers' course has remained mostly intact: the roster. That could drastically change this upcoming offseason with free agency and potential trades. However, Fletcher, facing his first offseason as the Flyers' GM, doesn't see an exodus needed with the current roster — or at least not yet.

"The Flyers are a great opportunity. You guys are in this market, for me coming in from the outside, I know when Paul Holmgren approached me about being the general manager of the Flyers, I'm like, 'Wow.' This is a premium job in the National Hockey League and we're set up where we should have an opportunity to get better quickly," Fletcher said April 18. "I know we need more good players, but we have a lot of good players. It's not like you have to gut this thing — we have cap space, we have picks. We have really good staff, really good staff. On the scouting and management side, I've added one person, I haven't subtracted anything. There's a good group here and we have the ability to get better quickly if we all do our job."

Therein lies a poignant and undeniable pressure on Fletcher in Year 1 with the Flyers under Alain Vigneault's watch.

Aside from Wayne Simmonds, who became an inevitable piece to move given the circumstances, the Flyers' core has survived. So, too, has the overall makeup of the roster.

Fletcher, Vigneault and the Flyers believe this team can win with a refined system and different guidance. They don't exactly see a team that has missed the playoffs every other season since 2012-13, a stretch consisting of three first-round exits.

Will Fletcher add this summer? Of course — the ability to do so is one of the reasons why Vigneault found the Flyers as an attractive destination. When Fletcher was hiring Vigneault, the two established a list of areas in which the Flyers can improve.

"We're looking at some options and if we can put the right things in place," Vigneault said at his introduction, "it's going to be a lot of fun."

Significant subtraction was not featured on the list.

"There's some solid youth with a lot of upside here that is coming into its own," Vigneault said. "There's great goaltending, being one of those youth pieces. There's a solid core group that, in my mind, needs the right direction. And you've got the combination, also, of some solid veteran players that have been in the league a few years, that can still contribute at a high level in this league. … After discussing it with a lot of people that I respect their opinion in the NHL, I feel that the Flyers are a very good team that with the proper direction, proper mindset, proper culture and people working together, will be a very good team in the near future."

That's why Year 1 will be so telling.

Vigneault is a coach with a tremendous track record of winning during his first season on the job. He did so at three separate stops (see story). Michel Therrien has 38 postseason victories under his belt as a head coach and took a team to the Stanley Cup Final. Mike Yeo owns three playoff series victories as a head coach and has a ring as an assistant.

If this group can't produce the results with the Flyers' roster, Fletcher will have to take a longer, much more serious look at the players in place and make his hardest decisions yet.

At that point, it may be the only action left.

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