NHL Playoffs

Flyers' playoff hype video will leave you wanting to run through a wall

Flyers' playoff hype video will leave you wanting to run through a wall

After what felt like months of waiting, the hockey world finally received some exciting news on Tuesday when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman broke down the 24-team playoff format that had recently been approved.

While there were many important bits we learned (that you can read more about, here), one part became incredibly clear — the Flyers clinched a playoff spot … in probably one of the weirdest ways in league history. 

Even though it was near impossible to not get into the 2019-20 playoffs … sorry, Sabres, Devils, Senators, Red Wings, Ducks, Kings and Sharks.

While there isn’t an official start date yet, that doesn’t mean the city can’t begin preparing for the wild ride that is hopefully about to take place this summer. A new light was ignited within Flyers fans, realizing the reality that could happen — but even the team itself is more than ready to finally drop the puck once more. 

It’s hard to forget the most memorable celly of the season, which came after Kevin Hayes scored an overtime goal against the Blue Jackets — earning the win and deeming himself the champion — rightfully so, if I might add.

Well, the Flyers tapped into that energy and shared a quick video of that wonderful moment to their social media:

Things didn’t stop there, though. Gritty had to join in on the fun and made sure to let the whole world know about the last time a Philadelphia team had a bye week in the postseason. It had something to do with 41-33, a farm animal (I think it was a goat?) that couldn’t catch and a backup quarterback doing something pretty “special” … yeah, you know. 

The hype continues to grow, as the Flyers released a full hype video about this opportunity Wednesday morning. It captured the emotions held in the past 77 days without hockey, how different this season felt compared to previous years and what the players and organization had been doing to “stay ready” while social distancing.

“Philly will be ready — and you’ll wish you stayed home.” 

Yeah … who else is ready to run through a wall?   

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We’re in. #StayReady

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Predictions for Flyers' best lineup to open NHL's 24-team Stanley Cup Playoffs plan

Predictions for Flyers' best lineup to open NHL's 24-team Stanley Cup Playoffs plan

As Flyers fans know well, their team was on a nice roll before the NHL had to suspend the 2019-20 season because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The unprecedented stoppage brought a halt to the Flyers' 2019-20 resurgence, a regular season that had the makings to be the organization's best in nine years.

Well, in a different way, it turns out the Flyers might get a shot to finish what they started. On Tuesday, the NHL and NHLPA announced the process to its 24-team return-to-play model.

If the league is able to reach its goal of resuming the season in hopes to award the Stanley Cup, the Flyers are in solid position for a run. Their work prior to the hiatus — winners in nine of their final 10 games and going 19-6-1 since Jan. 8 — guarantees them a bye and top-four seed.

To boot, the Flyers are much healthier now (as are most teams) compared to when the NHL suspended the season March 12. At that time, the Flyers were pushing forward without James van Riemsdyk (broken right index finger), Philippe Myers (fractured patella in right knee) and Nate Thompson (left knee sprain). All three are ready to play if/when the season picks back up.

With that noted, let's break down the Flyers' best lineup for a Game 1 scenario.

First line

Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek

Hard to argue with this group.

Couturier brings out the best in Giroux and Voracek, while the club's mainstay wingers know exactly how to feed off their do-it-all pivot.

This season, Voracek really started cooking when he jumped onto Couturier's wing. Since Nov. 23, just after the two were put together, Couturier put up 44 points (16 goals, 28 assists) and a plus-23 rating in 47 games, while Voracek recorded 43 points (eight goals, 35 assists) and a plus-17 mark during the stretch.

“Coots is one of the best defensive forwards putting up huge offensive numbers," Voracek said in November. “He knows what to do to make the other top lines miserable.”

Second line

Joel Farabee-Kevin Hayes-Travis Konecny

Head coach Alain Vigneault likes to accentuate the strengths of his younger players by placing them in spots where they can best show those strengths.

Down the stretch, the Flyers started putting more and more on Farabee's plate and the 20-year-old rookie proved he could handle it.

Playing with Hayes and Konecny gives Farabee a greater chance to produce offensively and build confidence. If he's not scoring, his overall game doesn't tend to slip, which makes this line such a good spot for the 2018 first-round pick.

“The thing with Joel is his game is so much more advanced than the other kids away from the puck and defensively," general manager Chuck Fletcher said in January. "He's one of our best forwards in terms of puck management and game management.”

Third line

James van Riemsdyk-Scott Laughton-Tyler Pitlick

A healthy van Riemsdyk changes the whole dynamic for the Flyers, who are 22-5-0 when he records a point.

The goal-scoring winger gives the Flyers bottom-six offensive punch, a guy who is always a threat to swing the complexion of a game with a two-goal, three-point kind of effort. Featuring that on a third line is a big-time luxury.

With more responsibility and talent around him, Laughton has had a terrific season (career-high 13 goals and plus-13 rating in only 49 games). Pitlick staying with the third unit permits him to play his natural right winger position, while Grant can play fourth-line center to keep Raffl on the wing, as well.

This third line also presents a tough-to-play-against look, a group that can win shifts and free up opportunities for the top six.

Fourth line

Michael Raffl-Derek Grant-Nicolas Aube-Kubel

Grant provides the Flyers a ton of flexibility. He can play third-line center or right winger if needed. After being acquired at the Feb. 24 trade deadline, Grant registered five points (one goal, four assists) in seven games with the Flyers.

With the 30-year-old Grant at center, Raffl, a reliable fourth-liner, isn't forced to play down the middle and Aube-Kubel, a 24-year-old rookie, can play in his regular right winger spot.

This makes Thompson the odd man out but good insurance for the Flyers as he has played 62 playoff games in his career.

First defensive pair

Ivan Provorov-Matt Niskanen

A no-brainer here as Provorov and Niskanen have been terrific as the Flyers' top pair.

The 23-year-old Provorov and 33-year-old Niskanen do everything for the Flyers, from even strength to the power play and penalty kill.

They'll play big minutes, per usual, in the playoffs. Niskanen's experience of 125 career postseason games and a Stanley Cup title should be a benefit to the younger blueliners. 

Second defensive pair

Travis Sanheim-Philippe Myers

A healthy Myers is tough to sit, at least at the start of the playoffs. The 23-year-old had shown promise and poise alongside Sanheim as the Flyers turned it on in January. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound Myers had 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) and a plus-17 rating in 50 games this season, while he was also helping kill penalties.

It won't be surprising, though, if Vigneault gives Myers a relatively short leash in a best-of-seven series. At times, the rookie has tried to do too much and can be hard on himself.

Shayne Gostisbehere, a pretty good option to have on deck, will be ready to play. Vigneault has always liked Gostisbehere's potential in his system.

"The best and the toughest offense to defend is when you have that second wave, when you have your Ds being a part of the attack," Vigneault said in November. "He’s a smart player, he knows when it’s time for him to jump up.

"His defensive play has been fine, he’s battled, he’s competed, I like his 1-on-1s. He’s got to play to his strengths, he’s aware of that."

Third defensive pair

Robert Hagg-Justin Braun

Hagg has earned his spot in the lineup to open the playoffs. He plays a simple third-pair style, blocks shots and made the Flyers better as they climbed the standings. Post-Christmas, the 25-year-old notched 10 points (three goals, seven assists) and a plus-17 rating in 28 games.

Over a similar span, Braun was one of the team's best defensemen. Since Dec. 23, the 33-year-old veteran of 84 postseason appearances had 14 points and a plus-11 rating in 26 games.

There's no real reason why this shouldn't be the club's third pairing to begin a series.

Goalies

Carter Hart
Brian Elliott

The clear No. 1 and No. 2 for the Flyers, a tandem that worked very well during the regular season.

The Flyers will be ready to ride the 21-year-old Hart, while the 35-year-old Elliott (45 career postseason games on his résumé) is a more than dependable backup to spell the youngster when needed.

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NHL releases detailed protocol for Phase 2 in potential step toward resuming 2019-20 season

NHL releases detailed protocol for Phase 2 in potential step toward resuming 2019-20 season

The NHL on Monday released a protocol for a potential Phase 2 in its hope to eventually resume the season and award the Stanley Cup.

Phase 2 would see players being allowed to return to team practice facilities for voluntary small-group individualized training activities, whether it be on or off the ice.

The NHL is targeting a date in early June for an implementation of Phase 2, "however, it has not yet been determined when precisely Phase 2 will start or how long it may last," the league stated.

The 2019-20 season was suspended on March 12 because of the coronavirus outbreak. The league is hoping to resume the season under a 24-team format, but specific details for such a scenario are to be determined.

As for Phase 2, here is a section from the NHL's memorandum:

We are continuing to monitor developments in each of the club’s markets, and may adjust the overall timing if appropriate, following discussion with all relevant parties.

As we have stated repeatedly, the health of the players and club personnel is our top priority, and that will dictate how Phase 2, and any progression thereafter, may evolve. We again emphasize that player participation in Phase 2 is strictly voluntary. In addition, clubs are not permitted to require players to return to the club’s home city so they can complete a quarantine requirement in time to participate in Phase 2.

Clubs whose local health authorities would allow for the reopening of club facilities will be required to consult with and seek approval from the league prior to any reopening of club facilities. In those jurisdictions which continue to restrict or prohibit such activity from occurring, and in order to address potential competitive concerns, the league will work with those clubs to facilitate alternative arrangements, if desired. Further, clubs are required to comply with the public health mandates and recommended best practices of the CDC and/or Public Health Agency of Canada (“Health Canada”) applicable to them and the facility in which Phase 2 activities are to take place, including any changes to such recommendations that may take place after the commencement of Phase 2.

Let's look at some of the key points from the league's memorandum, which you can read in full here.

Testing

Players and club personnel shall be administered laboratory-based RT-PCR tests 48 hours prior to anyone returning to their team's training facility. The testing "must be done in the context of excess testing capacity, so as to not deprive health care workers, vulnerable populations and symptomatic individuals from necessary diagnostic tests," the league stated.

To determine if this will be feasible in each club’s local market, clubs shall engage with your local health authorit(ies) (as well as any other applicable health authorities such as state, provincial or federal) to determine whether asymptomatic players and other club personnel are eligible under applicable regulations and local conditions to receive PCR tests, either publicly or privately, provided that doing so does not take testing resources away from publicly necessary testing.

If testing is not available at the start of Phase 2, players who wish to participate in Phase 2 activities and “Player Access” club personnel must self-quarantine for 14 days prior to entering the facility (or, certify that they have already served a self-quarantine for the prior 14 days in the club’s home market, in which event they will be eligible to enter the facility when Phase 2 begins).

Self-quarantine

Before being allowed access to club facilities, players and permitted personnel may be required to serve a 14-day self-quarantine period imposed by local health authorities, regardless of their mode of travel (private or charter travel).

Even if not imposed by the local health authorities, such individuals returning to the club’s home city by public transportation, including commercial air or rail travel, must serve a 14-day self-quarantine period post-travel before engaging in training activities at their club’s facility.

If players and personnel departed this week for their respective club's city, it would allow them access to the facility sometime in the second week of June, if the league has decided to implement Phase 2.

Permitted activities

Six players are permitted inside the facility per session, while coaches and hockey operations personnel will be allowed to observe "the player-only non-contact skates commencing on the later of the date on which the commencement of training camp is announced by the League or two weeks after the club’s commencement of Phase 2 activities," the league stated.

Skating will consist of non-contact sessions with appropriate social distancing.

When players are not participating in on-ice activities they will be permitted to utilize the club’s exercise and weight room equipment, or receive individual treatment from the club’s medical/training staff:

• Weight training that does not include the need for a spotter 
• Circuit-based activities such as resistance training
• Cardiovascular exercises and endurance training
• Rehabilitation and treatment for players with ongoing disabling injuries and for players with non-disabling injuries, may be provided as directed by club medical/training staff

What's next?

There is no firm date for Phase 2. But if the NHL implements it in early June, it could allow for eventual training camps in late June and a possible resumption of the season at some point in July.

That roadmap is in complete theory. The situation will continue to be a day-to-day process for the NHL. Things can change and there are still many obstacles but the detailed plan for Phase 2 is a potential step forward.

June is when the Stanley Cup is typically awarded and the month in which the NHL entry draft is normally held. The NHL will soon have decisions to make on the date of the currently-postponed draft. There could also be an announcement this week on the specifics of the 24-team format. Here's how it could look for the Flyers.

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