Flyers

NHL playoff picture: Flyers lose significant ground as percentages sink

NHL playoff picture: Flyers lose significant ground as percentages sink

Devastating back-to-back losses to the Capitals and Maple Leafs have placed the Flyers in a desperate position over the final three weeks of the regular season. At this point, it would work to the Flyers' advantage if the Blue Jackets overtook the Hurricanes in the standings with two games remaining against Carolina.    

At the start of the week, the Flyers trailed the Blue Jackets by three points in the standings. Now the margin is seven back with 11 games remaining for both teams.

Wild-card standings

Carolina       38-25-7 — 83 points, 12 GR, 37 ROW
Columbus    40-28-3 — 83 points, 11 GR, 39 ROW
———
Montreal      37-27-7 — 81 points, 11 GR, 35 ROW
Flyers           34-29-8 — 76 points, 11 GR, 32 ROW

Friday's games

Flyers — L 7-6 at Toronto
CBJ — W 3-0 vs. Carolina

The Flyers blew a three-goal second-period lead to the Maple Leafs despite James van Riemsdyk's hat trick (see story). It was their first regulation loss scoring six or more goals since a 9-8 loss to Winnipeg on October 27, 2011.

In Columbus, Sergei Bobrovsky made 46 saves for his 30th career shutout. It was the most saves in a shoutout in franchise history, topping the mark previously set by Steve Mason.

What are the odds?

Sports Club Stats now lists the Flyers' chances at 1.2 percent, down 6.4 percent following back-to-back regulation losses. It’s the smallest odds since they were 14 points back during the bye week.

The website Money Puck has the Flyers' odds slightly higher, at 1.59 percent.

What lies ahead?

With the Flyers playing in Pittsburgh Sunday, there will be plenty of scoreboard watching on Saturday with all three of the teams they’re chasing in action. 

The Blue Jackets travel to Boston in a rematch against a Bruins team they beat, 7-4, on Tuesday.

Carolina hosts a Sabres team that has been shut out in three straight games with a 2-9-2 mark over its last 13 games, while the Canadiens welcome the Blackhawks.

Strength of schedule

According to PlayoffStatus.com, the Flyers now have the seventh-toughest schedule down the stretch with nine of their 11 games against teams with better records.

• Blue Jackets — Eighth
• Hurricanes — 14th
• Canadiens — 15th

Columbus embarks on a four-game road trip starting Saturday, while Carolina opens a five-game homestand. The Canadiens have one of the easiest schedules to navigate with just one back-to-back remaining. 

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule: Flames look to avoid 2-game series deficit vs. Avalanche

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USA Today Images

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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