Shame to see Michael Raffl get hurt the other day. No idea how long he’ll be out, but he’s been with the Flyers for seven years and is one of the more popular players in their locker room.
Alain Vigneault will have to dip into his reserves and bring Joel Farabee up for Thursday’s game against the Capitals. A win in regulation will assure the Flyers of finishing with no worse than the No. 3 seed, with the outlook of moving even higher a distinct possibility.
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For any number of reasons we are all too familiar with, it’s easy to forget where the Flyers were when Chuck Fletcher acquired Nate Thompson and Derek Grant at the trade deadline.
They were three points from being out of the playoffs. At least the playoffs as originally intended.
If play had been halted on Feb. 24 and the new postseason format drawn up, the Flyers would have been the East’s sixth seed and in the middle of a five-game qualifying series against Florida.
But, of course, play continued until March 12. The Flyers, who were on a three-game winning streak when Thompson and Grant were acquired, stretched it to nine games before a loss to the Bruins on March 10.
They jumped ahead of the Penguins, who acquired Conor Sheary and Patrick Marleau in their trade-deadline haul. They sped past the Islanders, who added Jean-Gabriel Pageau, the biggest name on the market.
Thompson has played for eight teams in 13 years. He’s been traded four times, so he knows all about being the new kid trying to make friends in a new school. Or, in his case, a new team.
“This group has a lot of fun together,” said Thompson, who scored a goal Sunday and helped kill three Boston power plays. “I saw it right from when I got here, me and Derek Grant. I think it’s the core group of guys here that’s been here a while. It’s an inclusive group.”
Raffl is among that core group.
The nature of the quarantine, Grant said, has helped grow the off-ice relationships Grant and Thompson have with their 30 or so new friends.
There were online poker tournaments during the stoppage and some more bonding up in the Toronto bubble. It’s even been a little profitable for Grant, who should expect a nice raise from his league-minimum $700,000 contract as an unrestricted free agent when the season ends.
“I don’t think we’ve played any poker yet [in Toronto), but we have a team lounge here and the guys are always hanging out in there,” said Grant, mentioning a spirited game of Jenga recently. “Whether we’re watching games or playing board games, I think me and Nisky [Matt Niskanen] took Pitter’s [Tyler Pitlick’s] money yesterday in a game of Sequence. There’s lots of things to do here for us, and the lounge is a great place to hang out.”
The Flyers are 7-1 since acquiring the two centers. Parlor games aside, I go back to what Shayne Gostisbehere said the day the Flyers acquired Thompson (6-foot-1, 205 pounds) and Grant (6-3, 206). The real reason they were brought to Philadelphia.
“I call them playoff bodies, for sure,” Ghost said. “You look at the couple teams that won [Stanley Cups lately], they had some big bodies like that. I think that’s a huge positive for us.”
The Flyers killed three Boston power plays Sunday, a key reason for their victory. The top four forwards used by assistant coach Mike Yeo on the PK groups were not with the club last season.
Here is how the penalty-killing ice time was distributed among the forwards: Tyler Pitlick, 2:16; Nate Thompson, 2:06; Kevin Hayes, 1:59; Derek Grant, 1:54; Sean Couturier, 1:25; Scott Laughton, 1:03; Claude Giroux, :57; Michael Raffl, :20.
The standard over/under for a hockey game is 5.5 goals. Sometimes it’s higher. Rarely is it lower.
Of the first 16 games since meaningful play began Saturday, 12 have been under 5.5 goals. There’s been a lot of sweating from bettors, however, as seven of those 12 have finished exactly at five goals. Nothing was wilder than the end of Winnipeg’s 3-2 win over Calgary on Monday when the Jets just missed a goal into an empty-net shot from 190+ feet away in the scramble of the waning seconds.
All games in Toronto/home team listed has last line change.
Wednesday: Tampa Bay at Boston, 4 p.m. (NBCSN)
Thursday: Washington at Flyers, time/TV TBA
Saturday: Flyers at Tampa Bay, time/TV TBA
Sunday: Boston at Washington, time/TV TBA
Tuesday, Aug. 11: First round of playoffs begin
Question: Of the possible opponents the Flyers could have in the first round who would you least want them to play? — Brandon McComsey via Twitter
Answer: Pittsburgh is the obvious answer, based on experience, skill and how much an opening-round series against a bitter rival would take out of the survivor. Another team that would concern me is Carolina. I know the Flyers were 3-0-1 against Rod Brind’Amour’s team during the regular season, but the ‘Canes added a number of solid pieces at the trade deadline (Vincent Trocheck, Sami Vatanaen, Brady Skjei) and it looks like Dougie Hamilton is close to returning.