Flyers

Shorthanded Flyers can't keep up with Avalanche to begin road trip

Shorthanded Flyers can't keep up with Avalanche to begin road trip

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From the moment it was announced that Oskar Lindblom would miss Wednesday night's game, the Flyers' chances at Pepsi Center felt bleak.

No Lindblom, no Travis Konecny and facing the NHL's highest-scoring team in its building was not a promising script for the Flyers, who lost to the Avalanche, 3-1.

In stretches this season, the Flyers have struggled to bury goals. And that has been with Lindblom and Konecny — their two leading goal-scorers at 11 apiece — in the lineup.

The Flyers (17-9-5) did some good things but Colorado finished plays behind its world class talent up top.

The Avalanche (20-8-3) are on an eight-game point streak (7-0-1) in which they've scored 4.13 goals per game.

• Without Konecny (concussion) and Lindblom (upper body), the Flyers had difficulty putting the puck in the net. They were going to have to put up some goals against the Avalanche, who entered scoring an NHL-best 3.70 goals per game. For the second time in the last three games, the Flyers scored only one goal.

The lone tally came from Claude Giroux when the Flyers were trailing 3-0 with just over five minutes remaining in regulation.

• Following a first period in which they survived, especially in the back half of it thanks to Carter Hart, the Flyers actually played a solid second period. At one point during the middle stanza, the Flyers were outshooting Colorado 11-0.

But as the Flyers kept pushing to no avail, the Avalanche changed the whole complexion of the period with one play by their two best weapons. Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen hooked up for a nasty marker to make it 2-0 with 3:55 left in the period, a deflating goal to allow for the Flyers (see highlights).

Considering Colorado was 14-0-1 when leading after the middle period, the Flyers were in a serious hole, even after a hard-working period.

• Hart, who entered 8-2-2 with a 1.96 goals-against average and .928 save percentage over his last 12 starts, faced the Avalanche for the first time in his career.

He made a highlight-reel save and gave the Flyers a fighting chance in tough circumstances.

The 21-year-old has been impressive during the first period all season long, allowing the Flyers to find their legs and rhythm. He converted 12 of his 24 saves in the opening stanza against Colorado.

On the Avalanche's first-period goal, Scott Laughton won a defensive zone faceoff but the Flyers failed to clear the puck, resulting in Matt Calvert's tally.

Rantanen added his second goal early in the third period and that was pretty much the game.

Colorado goalie Pavel Francouz, who came in 5-0-1 with a 2.36 goals-against average and .926 save percentage over his last eight games (six starts), finished with 32 stops.

• When Philippe Myers (back spasms, day to day) is ready to return, Robert Hagg should be the odd man out on defense. Shayne Gostisbehere has found some of his offensive mojo and Myers has shown way too much promise to be sitting when healthy.

A stay-at-home guy like Hagg was far too noticeable against the Avalanche. He committed a penalty and was a minus-2 in 15:21 minutes.

• David Kase was summoned to Denver this morning to make his NHL debut and become the ninth rookie to play for the Flyers this season

The 22-year-old winger had a nice scoring chance and two shots in 7:47 minutes. 

• The Flyers head to the old stomping grounds of general manager Chuck Fletcher and assistant general manager Brent Flahr when they visit the Wild on Saturday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

Fletcher was the GM in Minnesota from 2009 to 2018 and Flahr was his AGM from 2010 to 2018.

The Flyers have not lost consecutive games in regulation since Oct. 27-29.

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Flyers training camp observations: A 'dangerous card,' Claude Giroux's game, more

Flyers training camp observations: A 'dangerous card,' Claude Giroux's game, more

Alain Vigneault turned things up a notch Wednesday.

The Flyers got after it with high-volume, condition-heavy practices as training camp continued in the team's preparation for the NHL's return-to-play 24-team tournament.

"Everything’s just kind of accelerated with a shorter camp and the meaningful games," Justin Braun said. "He’s pushing it; he’s not going overboard."

The team won't be on the ice Thursday. Here's its schedule through the weekend.

Let's dive into five observations over the camp's first three days. We'll have five more later today.

'That's a dangerous card to have'

Maybe it's the benefit of being only 21 years old. Monday marked the Flyers' first formal practice since March 11, a span of 124 days, and Hart somehow found a way to look like he had never stopped playing during the NHL hiatus.

Hart was impressive and it served as a reminder (even if you didn't need one) that this team possesses a huge amenity in the playoffs: a young goalie who can go on a run.

During one drill, Hart robbed point-producing prospect Morgan Frost, who skated away smiling. In another sequence, Hart denied a Matt Niskanen rebound attempt with a ridiculous split stop. Niskanen, who has a Stanley Cup ring and owns 125 career playoff appearances to his name, absolutely loved the save as he shouted out loud in appreciation.


I talked to him the other day and he said he feels good," Niskanen said Monday about Hart. "I don’t know anything on how to critique a goalie, but he looked awesome today. He’s shown what he can do, his capabilities. I think everybody’s real confident and excited to have him back there. Especially the further you go now, you've got a talented goalie and he gets hot, ooh, that’s a dangerous card to have. We have that potential with Carter and he looks fresh and happy. Looked pretty sharp to me today.

Hart was off his game Wednesday but the practice featured a ton of work for the goalies with all kinds of odd-man drills. Nothing to worry about. Nobody seems worried about Hart's first taste of the NHL playoffs.

"Whenever I play, I'm always nervous before games but that’s just because I care," Hart said Tuesday. "That’s not at the point where I let it affect me or let it affect my game. I'm sure there will be nerves that come when the first playoff game comes about here. That’s just part of hockey. As a younger player, that’s just part of the steps in your career that you have to take. It's definitely one step that I've been waiting for my whole life. It’ll definitely be very exciting and I know our group here is really ready to get things going."

Captain's log

Would anybody be surprised if Claude Giroux is able to play into his 40s?

We ask because his skill and smarts will never go away; if anything, they've gotten better with age.

Even after an unprecedented layoff like this, he stands out from the onset and looks like the best playmaker on the ice.

He put on a mini clinic Tuesday and gave Hart fits Wednesday (the captain scored a lot on the kid).

Like always, there will be many eyes on Giroux, who has four points and a minus-12 mark over his last two postseason series (12 games). The Flyers, though, are much deeper and more balanced in 2019-20, which has helped Giroux and could open things up for the 32-year-old during these playoffs.

The Vigneault factor

A plus for the Flyers should be Vigneault's experience. At his previous three stops (Canadiens, Canucks, Rangers), each of his first seasons resulted in playoff bids and at least one series win. In his 16 seasons as an NHL head coach before coming to the Flyers, Vigneault secured 11 playoff berths, with eight of those teams advancing past the first round.

"My focus here is not just to win the first round, but it’s the first step obviously," Vigneault said Tuesday. "It’s like anything else, when you’re in the playoffs, you’ve got to focus on that game, stay in that moment, so I think that’s what we’re going to do as a staff is make sure that our guys don’t look too far ahead, stay in the moment and do what we need to do the first game, then move on to the second game. It’s about players preparing, coaches preparing the team for specific adjustments that you need from one game to the other."

In Year 1 with the Flyers, Vigneault proved how good he is at getting his team to turn the page. That quality was a major reason why the Flyers went 19-6-1 since Jan. 8 without consecutive losses.

What will be a new experience for Vigneault (and Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy, Lightning head coach Jon Cooper and Capitals head coach Todd Reirden) is strategy in the round robin. The Flyers know the importance of the round robin as it offers them a chance to improve their seed and first-round matchup. Ultimately, though, Vigneault wants to be in the most ideal shape possible for that best-of-seven first-round series.

Brian Elliott and some of the Flyers' key extras are going to see action in the round robin, which Vigneault will use to help construct his best Game 1 lineup in the first round.

"Obviously if your intentions are going on a long playoff run, a lot of times there are some battle days and there are some days where you need guys to step up and chip in," Vigneault said Monday. "To do that, it would be safe to say at this time that I intend on using more than 20 guys for those four games (one exhibition contest, three round-robin matchups). As important as they are, I’m going to look at different players in different situations during that time. It’s not about an experiment, but it’s about finding out where guys are and then making the best decision for the team."

'Why not us?'

With the Flyers' renewed health because of the prolonged stoppage along with the acquisitions of Derek Grant and Nate Thompson at the trade deadline, Vigneault has good decisions to make, especially at forward.

One decision could come down to the veteran Thompson or rookie Joel Farabee as the team's extra forward. A thought would be Farabee gets the early nod in the lineup, but regardless, the Flyers have the ability to mix and match and adjust with nice depth on an expanded roster. It'll be a big storyline moving forward.

We like the depth of our club," Fletcher said. "I think you’ll see as you watch practices this week — we have six good forward lines, we have six good defense pairings and four talented goaltenders. We feel that we have the depth and we have the talent. 

"We’ve put ourselves in a good position, we’re a good hockey team, yet we’re all coming off of a four-month pause. We’ll have to see what it means but we’re going to focus on what we can control, we like our team, we like our group. And why not us? Let’s push forward here and see what we can do.

Status of Ghost

Speaking of lineup decisions, Shayne Gostisbehere was forced to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right knee about seven weeks ago. He had a procedure done on his left knee in January.

The 27-year-old defenseman has been through a lot and this latest hurdle could impact his ability or availability in the beginning of the tournament.

In early February, Gostisbehere tried to come back 23 days after his surgery. He was rusty in his return on Feb. 6 and then missed more time as he dealt with lingering issues before needing a conditioning loan to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley on Feb. 20. Reps and rhythm were critical then, and that may ring true this time, as well.

"It was something I was trying to rehab personally and I hit a point to where there was no way I could rehab it anymore," Gostisbehere said after practice Monday about the most recent knee injury.

“I was compensating so much over time. My quads were kind of uneven and it was really hard to fix it off the ice and workout-wise.

"Trying to battle back from that. I haven’t really skated too much. It was awesome to get out there with the boys and see where I was at."

We'll have to wait and see if Gostisbehere feels like himself at the Flyers' start of the tournament Aug. 2. If Gostisbehere doesn't look very comfortable, swift and effective in the exhibition game or the round-robin contests, Vigneault's decision on the Flyers' sixth defenseman for Game 1 of the first round will not be as difficult.

“My ultimate goal is to get back in the lineup, get out there and do I what can do to contribute to this team, win a Stanley Cup," Gostisbehere said when asked if he'll have any limitations come tournament time. "Right now, I’m just focused on good skates, getting out there and getting that feeling. It’s been tough but just grinding my way, I want to work hard and I want to help this team win.

“It’s definitely been a tough road, especially with all this stuff going on. But I’m not going to feel bad for myself, there’s a lot of stuff going on in this world that people are worried about. I’m just going to do my best to get back, be healthy and help this team win."

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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.

More Flyers analysis for 24-team tournament

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• What it was like to go back to work at Flyers practice in different times

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• Flyers release training camp roster as they gear up for 24-team tournament

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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.

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.

More Flyers analysis for 24-team tournament

• A 'dangerous card' in the Flyers' hand, Giroux still wows and more

• Fans can purchase Flyers playoff shirts with new slogan

• What it was like to go back to work at Flyers practice in different times

• Juicy opponent for Flyers' exhibition game; some start times announced

• Flyers release training camp roster as they gear up for 24-team tournament

Analyzing the Flyers' schedule to open 24-team tournament

• Flyers sign a player to extension at position of strength

What to know as NHL, NHLPA finish big step, announce schedule

5 questions on Flyers' chances in 24-team tournament

Predictions for Flyers' best Game 1 lineup to start 24-team playoff

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Things get even better for Flyers in NHL's 24-team tournament

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