The Flyers, the NHL’s hottest team when play was paused March 12 because of the coronavirus outbreak, will start Training Camp II on Monday in Voorhees, hoping it leads to their first Stanley Cup since 1975.
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The Flyers (41-21-7) finished second in the Metropolitan Division, so there is optimism that when they resume the season and start a round-robin tournament, they will resemble the team that had won nine of their last 10 games when play was halted.
In the round-robin tourney, the Flyers will face Boston on Aug. 2, Washington on Aug. 6, and Tampa Bay on Aug. 9. All the games will be held in Toronto.
During the regular season, the Flyers went 2-1 against Boston, 3-0-1 against Washington, and 0-2 against Tampa.
If teams are tied in points after the three round-robin games, the winner will be decided by their overall points percentage during the regular season. Boston has the best points percentage of the four teams (and in the entire league) at .714, followed by the Lightning (.657), Capitals (.652), and Flyers (.645).
The Flyers, however, had the best record (5-3-1) among the four teams in their head-to-head, regular-season matchups against each other. In those games, the Flyers had a .610 points percentage, followed by Washington (.600), Tampa (.563), and Boston (.500).
That should give the Flyers confidence heading into the round-robin tourney, which will be played in an empty arena.
“It’s definitely going to be interesting with no fans and kind of being locked in a bubble, but that’s why we play the game,” center Kevin Hayes said after working out in Voorhees the other day. “We play to win the Stanley Cup and this is just another chance to do that.”
Alain Vigneault, a strong coach-of-the-year candidate who is finishing his first season with the Flyers, was asked during the long break if his team would be able to quickly regain its momentum.
“That is going to be our challenge,” he said. “We were playing our best hockey of the season at that time. ... The world has been put on pause and with what people are going through right now, when we come back, we can help them by doing the best job we can as far as playing on the ice. We’ll be exactly like everyone else. We’ll have the exact same amount of time” to get ready.
In other words, there will be no excuses for a Flyers team that is trying to win its first playoff series since (gulp) 2012.
Teams are permitted to have 30 skaters and an unlimited number of goalies at camp. General manager Chuck Fletcher said the Flyers would likely announce their roster Monday morning.
Players have until 5 p.m. Monday to opt out without a penalty.
Assuming everyone is healthy, here is how the Flyers’ lineup may look:
Line 1: Sean Couturier centering Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek.
Line 2: Hayes centering Scott Laughton and Travis Konecny.
Line 3: Derek Grant centering James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Pitlick.
Line 4: Nate Thompson centering Michael Raffl and Nic Aube-Kubel.
Defense 1: Ivan Provorov and Matt Niskanen.
Defense 2: Travis Sanheim and Phil Myers.
Defense 3: Robert Hagg and Justin Braun.
Goalie: Carter Hart.
Top reserves: Left winger Joel Farabee, defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, and goalie Brian Elliott.
After training camp, the Flyers will travel to their hub city, Toronto, to get ready for the NHL’s 24-team tournament. They will play one exhibition game.
During training camp (Phase 3), players and coaches will be allowed full activities on and off the ice while following preventative health measures, including enhanced coronavirus testing.
In Phase 4, rosters are limited to 31 players, including goaltenders; there will be daily coronavirus testing, symptom checks, and temperature screenings for players and club personnel.
Phase 4 is also when the games resume after a delay of nearly five months.
“Our team was in a good place,” Vigneault said, “and it’s going to be all our jobs -- from coaches to management to players -- to get back to that good spot we were in.”