Flyers

Sergei Bobrovsky-Carter Hart duel gives Flyers firsthand look at tough decision ahead

Sergei Bobrovsky-Carter Hart duel gives Flyers firsthand look at tough decision ahead

It took six days into the Chuck Fletcher era for the Flyers to reenter the rumor business. Two weeks ago, there were whispers they will take a run at Sergei Bobrovsky on July 1.

On Saturday afternoon, the Flyers witnessed firsthand why that might be a solid idea even if it does potentially block Carter Hart from taking over as their No. 1 goalie full-time.

Bobrovsky stood on his head in the Columbus crease, stopping 34 pucks and making highlight-reel saves look routine. The Flyers fell, 4-3, to their former goalie's Blue Jackets.

"I try not to think about what's happened in the past," Bobrovsky said. "I have a huge amount of respect for this organization, for this club, but it's hockey."

This wasn't totally a case of the Flyers outplaying an opponent and simply running into a two-time Vezina Trophy-winning goalie. There were defensive breakdowns, careless turnovers and Ivan Provorov's confidence with the puck remains a huge concern (see observations).

That said, this wasn't totally a case of the Flyers flat-out being dominated either. The Flyers had 67 shot attempts to Columbus' 30 and peppered Bobrovsky with 37 shots on net. The advanced metrics largely favor the Flyers. They ended an 0-for-13 power-play drought, though the man advantage finished 1 for 4 and didn't completely change that narrative.

"As I said to the players after the game," interim head coach Scott Gordon said, "with the exception of the plays on the goals, we played a game where we certainly had our fair share of chances, we limited the amount of opportunities. We should go to New York feeling confident about our game. I think we've had a level of consistency in the three games to know that we're starting to build some momentum as to how we want to play."

When it comes to discussing the Flyers' goalie situation, it's important to weigh the now vs. the future, something this organization has historically struck out on so much.

When it comes to talking Flyers goaltending, it's important to learn from the malpractice that took place with Bobrovsky, an undrafted free-agent signing that had all the tools already in his toolbox that led to him winning the Vezina in his first season in Columbus.

The Flyers have never known how to develop a goalie. History doesn't lie, so when it comes to how they should handle their current situation, it's hard to know exactly what to do.

Hart is here, for now, and he made his third straight start Saturday. His stat line was ugly — four goals on 19 shots — but it doesn't tell the whole story. Egregious turnovers and defensive breakdowns led to three of the four goals. The loss isn't on Hart.

Bobrovsky can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, and all signs point to him testing the market. He has a legitimate case to cash out this summer as the highest-paid goalie in the NHL and if the Flyers are going to "take a run" at him, they're going to have to muster up the big bucks. The Flyers certainly know what he can do, and they saw it again Saturday. In fact, this season, Bobrovsky is 3-0-0 with 89 saves on 98 shots.

There is a way to make this work, a way where Hart receives a little more AHL seasoning and Bobrovsky handles the No. 1 job. It's important to remember that Hart is 20. The Flyers have to handle this goalie dilemma properly this time around. They didn't with Bobrovsky by signing Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year contract.

The Flyers need a goalie to get to Hart. It was Ron Hextall's biggest failure as GM. Hart is in The Show now and for all we know, he may change the narrative himself. He may prove that he's ready to handle all of the pressures that come with being the No. 1 goalie in the city known as the NHL goaltending graveyard.

But if he's not, and Bobrovsky's swimming in those waters come July 1, there isn't a better bridge to Hart than the one they should have never given up on prematurely.

Saturday was just a reminder of what could have been.

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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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