Flyers

Flyers weekly observations: Playoff hopes, Oskar Lindblom's role, a James van Riemsdyk misbelief

Flyers weekly observations: Playoff hopes, Oskar Lindblom's role, a James van Riemsdyk misbelief

Rust, what rust?

Coming out of the bye and All-Star break, the Flyers had themselves a week, winning all four of their games.

They're now owners of the NHL's longest active win streak at seven games.

And, believe it or not, they're thinking playoffs again (see story).

Let's get into some observations:

• Should we even be surprised?

The Flyers have always had a propensity for streaks, both good and bad. This team is clearly no different.

Before winning eight of their last nine games and outscoring the opposition 32-20, the Flyers lost eight straight and were outscored 31-15.

Impressively, they've flipped a switch and a lot of credit has to go to Carter Hart. Stability in net is everything and the 20-year-old has been integral in rebuilding the Flyers' confidence.

The Flyers actually are not all that far off from their pace last season, when they finished with 98 points and snuck into the playoffs. 

Through 52 games in 2017-18, the Flyers were tied for the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot at 24-19-9 and 57 points. This season, they're 23-23-6 with 52 points, seven back of the final playoff berth.

The problem, though, is the Flyers have given themselves little room for error.

• Oskar Lindblom is showing what he can do when he receives consistent minutes and plays with talented players.

During the seven-game winning streak, the 22-year-old winger has posted six points (three goals, three assists) and a plus-6 rating, while playing an average of 16:09 per game.

In his 29 games prior, he played just 10:35 a night to go with four points and no goals.

He's a young player with promise that has been put in a position to succeed and is taking advantage of it.

• There's a misperception with James van Riemsdyk that he'll coast or sort of float at times on the ice, as if he's not all-out trying.

It's simply not the case.

He talked about the style in which he plays last month:

(Alex) Ovechkin, guys like that, (Steven) Stamkos — it's not like they're necessarily blasting around, sprinting and stopping, doing all this stuff. They're kind of meandering and then they find that soft spot and everyone's like, 'How did he get there?' Well, he knows where to go and he knows how to get into the right spot when the guy who has the puck is ready to pass it, so that's what you try to learn over the course of your career. There are different things you try to watch and observe.

There's guile to his game and if you need an example of his effort, just watch the game-winning play in Saturday's 5-4 OT victory over the Oilers.

"Some unbelievable plays by JVR winning battles and setting me up there," Nolan Patrick said, "so obviously a lot of credit to him."

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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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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule, live stream: More drama ahead for Sharks-Blues Western Conference Final?

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule, live stream: More drama ahead for Sharks-Blues Western Conference Final?

There has been a ton of drama only three games into the Western Conference Final between the Sharks and Blues.

Game 3 was won by the Sharks, 5-4, in overtime, but not without controversy. San Jose may have gotten away with a hand pass on the game-winning goal.

The series will shift one way or the other Friday night with Game 4.

Below is the schedule for Day 37 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. You can watch the entire playoffs on the networks of NBC. 

San Jose Sharks at St. Louis Blues (SJS 2-1)
Game 4, Western Conference Final
8 p.m. ET | TV: NBCSN | Live stream here