Flyers

No Johnny Boychuk drama, but Jakub Voracek, Flyers honest about their reality

No Johnny Boychuk drama, but Jakub Voracek, Flyers honest about their reality

The Flyers aren't fooling themselves.

There's a sense of reality setting in with the Flyers that they're running out of lives and postgame lines. They've lost four of their last six games after making a furious run from Jan. 14 to March 11, going 18-4-2 with a plus-22 goal differential.

To sustain such a pace over the final 13 games of the regular season would have been awfully difficult and the Flyers are noticing it, with another nail being hammered into the coffin Saturday afternoon courtesy of a 4-2 loss to the Islanders (see observations).

Inconsistency has reared its ugly over this 2-4-0 stretch, which has the Flyers seven points out of the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot with seven games to go (see standings). In particular Saturday, the inconsistency bit the Flyers during the second period. They were outshot 15-5 and the Islanders pinned the Flyers in the defensive zone while taking a 2-1 lead.

Too often have the Flyers been burned by a poor period of play. Saturday was no different despite the Flyers tying the game early in the final stanza.

"Especially today, we were god-awful, oh my God in the second," Jakub Voracek said of the middle period. "I don't think we had a shot in the first 10 minutes. When they get zone time, they do a great job cycling us and keep the puck away from their net. I don't think we were moving well enough in the second period to give ourselves a chance to create something."

The Flyers have tried wiping the slate and turning the page after each difficult loss, but players are human and realistic, as well. Saturday marked the Flyers' third straight loss at the Wells Fargo Center, which this team simply could not afford.

"It sucks, that's the feeling right now, they played better than we did the whole game," Robert Hagg said. "We didn't deserve to win today, so, right now, yes, I have a terrible feeling."

The Islanders stayed away from the drama and decided to instead get the best of the Flyers on the scoreboard. Johnny Boychuk and New York didn't seek retaliation for Voracek's interference two weeks ago, a play that didn't really warrant retaliation anyway.

But when Boychuk angrily called out Voracek after the collision during the third period of the March 9 game, an attempt at payback was possible Saturday.

"There was no talking about the Voracek thing," Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said. "Those two will figure it out down the road, but Johnny is one of those ultimate team guys. He knows how important what we're trying to do is, he knows how important this game was. There was no 'me' in his thought process, it was all about 'we.'"

Boychuk was back in the lineup for the first time since the incident with Voracek. He had been mostly a healthy scratch, so it seemed like a not-so-coincidental return.

"I expected something was going to happen," Voracek. "It didn't. I'm not going to say I was unhappy about that. He played a great game.

"We just blew it."

No sugarcoating it, not with where the Flyers are now.

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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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