Flyers

NHL awards: Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault named finalist for Jack Adams honor

NHL awards: Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault named finalist for Jack Adams honor

VOORHEES, N.J. — On April 18, 2019, Alain Vigneault was asked about the frustrations among fans with the Flyers' current state.

It was the day general manager Chuck Fletcher and the team introduced Vigneault as the Flyers' new head coach.

"I understand people's disappointment, but I would say that's all behind us,” Vigneault said. “Chuck is here, he's new. I'm here, I'm new. Nothing I can do about what happened in the past — I can focus on the present and hopefully make the future what we all want it to be. I'm going to be on high alert, I'm going to work my butt off to get this done and I’m very confident that it's going to work out."

So far, the Flyers' decision to bring Vigneault on board has worked out well. That decision looked awfully good Wednesday as Vigneault was named a finalist for the 2019-20 Jack Adams Award (Coach of the Year). It will look awfully great if the Flyers make a big run at the Stanley Cup in the NHL's return-to-play 24-team tournament.

"From Day 1, I felt that the veteran players of this group were looking for direction and that's basically what myself, my staff and management did," Vigneault said Wednesday. "We gave them direction, we told them this is the plan that we have, this is what you need to do to do your jobs on the ice. ... This group has progressed.

"The season's not over. We're going into the best part of the season. We've earned the right, we've made the playoffs, we've earned the right to compete for the Stanley Cup. Our business is far from over, which means my job is far from over."

Vigneault is up against Bruce Cassidy (Bruins) and John Tortorella (Blue Jackets) for the honor. The experienced 59-year-old bench boss won the award in 2006-07 with the Canucks and has finished second three times: 1999-00 (Canadiens), 2010-11 (Canucks) and 2014-15 (Rangers).

If Vigneault takes home the award, he'll become the fifth Flyers coach to do so. The other four are Fred Shero (1973-74), Pat Quinn (1979-80), Mike Keenan (1984-85) and Bill Barber (2000-01).

Vigneault very well could be this season's front-runner. The winner will be announced during the Conference Final series, which are slated to begin Sept. 8.

In just one season, Vigneault turned the Flyers into a top-six club a year after the team finished 22nd in the NHL at 37-37-8 with 82 points, its fewest over a full campaign since 2006-07.

Through a shortened 2019-20 regular season, the Flyers went 41-21-7 with 89 points in 69 games. According to Hockey-Reference.com, the team was projected to finish with 104 to 105 points, which would have been its most since a 106-point 2010-11 campaign.

With the abbreviated regular season because of the coronavirus outbreak, only four teams improved their point totals from 2018-19. The Flyers made the biggest jump with a seven-point increase despite playing 13 fewer games compared to last season, while the Oilers improved by four points (79 to 83), the Avalanche by two (90 to 92) and the Rangers by one (78 to 79).

Back in April 2019, there was a lot of buzz about Joel Quenneville, and justifiably so. The Flyers were thrilled to land Vigneault and we've seen why.

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2020 NHL playoffs: Standings in round robin, series updates as Flyers, Lightning eye No. 1 seed

2020 NHL playoffs: Standings in round robin, series updates as Flyers, Lightning eye No. 1 seed

The Flyers have earned at least a point against every Eastern Conference team this season except one:

The Lightning.

On Saturday at Scotiabank Arena, the Flyers will meet Tampa Bay in what has become the East's round-robin championship of the NHL's return-to-play 24-team tournament.

In the round-robin fight for top seeding, the Flyers have set themselves up well with a 4-1 victory over the Bruins and a 3-1 decision over the Capitals.

"I think it’s just important to play the right way and keep building on this momentum we’re gaining right now," Sean Couturier said in a video interview Thursday night after the Flyers' win over Washington. "We want to win, we want to finish the highest possible seed, but I think as long as we’re at our best once the real playoffs start, that’s the biggest thing."

Let's answer four questions heading into Saturday's showdown against the Lightning:

What's on the line?

The winner of the game will earn the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed in the first round of the playoffs, while the loser will settle for the No. 2 seed.

Both seeds are obviously advantageous, but there's certainly a difference between them. The No. 1 seed will hold home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. With no fans, that distinction still holds importance because home teams are awarded the last line change in games, which can be critical to matchups when outcomes are in the balance.

Below are the current round-robin standings:

1. Lightning — 2-0-0, four points
1. Flyers — 2-0-0, four points
3. Capitals — 0-1-1, one point
4. Bruins — 0-2-0, zero points

Who could Flyers play in 1st round?

Given they will finish with either one of the East's top two seeds, the Flyers cannot face the fifth-seeded Penguins or sixth-seeded Hurricanes in the first round.

It's still possible the Flyers can face the No. 7 Islanders, No. 8 Maple Leafs, No. 9 Blue Jackets, No. 10 Panthers or No. 12 Canadiens in the first round.

If the Flyers earn the No. 1 seed, they'll meet the lowest seed to advance past the qualifying round. If they're the No. 2 seed, they'll get the second-lowest seed to advance past the qualifying round.

Here's the latest on the best-of-five qualifying series:

No. 8 Maple Leafs vs. No. 9 Blue Jackets (CBJ leads 2-1; Game 4 — Friday, 8 p.m. ET)

No. 7 Islanders vs. No. 10 Panthers (NYI leads 2-1; Game 4 — Friday, noon ET)

No. 6 Hurricanes vs. No. 11 Rangers (CAR wins 3-0)

No. 5 Penguins vs. No. 12 Canadiens (MTL leads 2-1; Game 4 — Friday, 4 p.m. ET)

When are final round-robin games?

The Flyers-Lightning round-robin game is Saturday but the start time is TBD. We'll know the time of puck drop at some point Friday.

The Capitals and Bruins finish the round robin Sunday (start time TBD).

The first round of the playoffs is scheduled to begin next Tuesday.

How do Flyers fare vs. Lightning?

Among the round-robin teams, the second-seeded Lightning were the club that gave the Flyers the most trouble in the regular season. The Flyers dropped two games in regulation to Tampa Bay — albeit one was a 1-0 defeat and the other was a chippy 5-3 loss with an empty-netter during the final 22 seconds.

The Lightning can flat-out score, putting up a league-best 3.47 goals per game during the regular season.

However, the Flyers hung with Tampa Bay in other statistical categories and didn't have trade deadline acquisitions Derek Grant or Nate Thompson during the two regular-season matchups.

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NHL playoffs: Flyers fans are losing their minds after win against Capitals

NHL playoffs: Flyers fans are losing their minds after win against Capitals

Yo, the Flyers. 

We can’t get enough of this team right now — but can you blame us? After entering the round robin as the fourth seed, its 3-1 win against the Capitals on Thursday now guarantees at least the second seed moving forward. Top of the East will be on the line Saturday when the Flyers face the Lightning. 

If you haven’t already, it’s time to start acknowledging Alain Vigneault’s team for all that it is this season — but if you’re a Flyers fan, being the underdog is nothing new.

This team does more than simply go through the motions. Its chemistry is off the charts and makes for an entertaining game from start to finish. 

Now, having a 2-0-0 record in the round robin so far, reality is setting in across the league about just how talented this team is. Even if you’ve been keeping an eye on the Flyers, it’s been a long time since the franchise has seen a roster with this much talent — so, it’s OK if you’re still in shock. 

Running over the Capitals though certainly started to put things into perspective for Flyers fans. 

Who knows what this game would have looked like without the line of Scott Laughton, Kevin Hayes and Travis Konecny? 

Well, we’ll never know … and that’s a wonderful thing. The Flyers’ second line dominated play and combined for eight points on the day. Since they seem like an inseparable line, is it time to start thinking about nicknames for it? 

It has to have something to do with chirping, don’t you think?

The Capitals also had a lot riding on this game. After an overtime loss to the Lightning earlier in the week, this was essentially a must-win. 

And if the players didn’t realize that during the game (their six minor penalties sure made it seem like that) — fans certainly made enough noise following the loss. 

Oh, did I mention Alex Ovechkin didn’t tally a single point against the Flyers in five games this season? Just something to think about. 

Buckle up Flyers fans, this is only the beginning. 

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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