Alain Vigneault has a hook so quick it would make legendary boxer Joe Frazier proud. He does not hesitate to move guys up and down the lineup and will, when it strikes him, break out the hook and sit a guy down if he’s not performing.
But that was years ago for Hayes. The veteran coach said he needs more from James van Riemsdyk, an 11-year NHL veteran who may have one skate back at home where his wife Lauren delivered a baby girl in May. Anyway, Vigneault had JVR on fourth-line duty at practice on Wednesday, a day before a round-robin game against Washington.
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Radko Gudas spent four years with the Flyers. Was voted the most improved player in his second season, and the team’s best defenseman last season.
He said it was fun seeing former teammates “stepping up and being better players than they were.” But he also made it clear his heart belongs to Washington.
“They’re a better team than they were,” said Gudas, referring to a Flyers club that was 20 games over .500 this season after going 37-37-8 in 2018-19. “They’re doing a lot of good things, but I also think we’re a good team that is known for how well things are done and can be done. It’s going to be a good battle [Thursday], so I’m looking forward to that. But I think we’re the better team, though.”
It was a dicey thing to say given that the Capitals had more trouble with the Flyers this season than the Streets Department has had keeping up with trash day. Washington swept four games from the Flyers in 2018-19. This season, they lost three of four and finished just one point ahead of Philadelphia. The score in the Flyers’ three wins was 15-6.
His point, though, was that was in the regular season. Most of the players on the Flyers roster have never won a playoff series with the Flyers. Both teams still have a chance at the No. 1 seed in the East in this funky round-robin tournament.
“The coaching change did a lot for them, but at the same time, all of their young players developed and got better,” said Caps second-line center Nicklas Backstrom. “They’re so good defensively, too. I think that’s what the coach brought in. It’s a combination of everything. As for this year, they’ve played great hockey. Yeah, it’s good for them, but hopefully we can bring our ‘A’ game, too.”
Puck drops at 4 o’clock. Jim Jackson and Bill Clement will call the game on NBCSP.
Tampa Bay’s win on Wednesday means the Flyers must win both of their remaining round-robin games in order to finish with the No. 1 seed. Too bad for the Bruins, who won the President’s Trophy as the league’s top regular season team and were cruising to the conference’s top seed before COVID-19 hit.
Their loss to Tampa Bay eliminated that possibility.
“That part sucks, I’m not going to lie to you,” Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said. “But that’s the situation this year with the stoppage of play. We knew the rules going into it. We’re just trying to win a hockey game right now. Would I rather be the No. 1 seed? Absolutely. But that’s not going to happen.”
All games in Toronto/home team listed has last line change.
Sunday, Aug. 2: Flyers 4, Boston 1
Monday, Aug. 3: Tampa Bay 3, Washington 2 (shootout)
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Tampa Bay 3, Boston 2
Thursday, Aug. 6: Washington at Flyers, 4 p.m. (NBCSP, NBCSN)
Saturday, Aug. 8: Flyers at Tampa Bay, time/TV TBA
Sunday, Aug. 9: Boston at Washington, time/TV TBA
Tuesday, Aug. 11: First round of playoffs begin
Question: Thoughts on moving Niskanen back with Sanheim next season to make a complete defenseman out of Travis? I don’t feel we re-sign Braun in the offseason and with only one year remaining on Niskanen, why not take advantage of his experience and maybe it advances Sanheim’s game more?
Answer: Interesting idea. I wouldn’t mess with either of those top two pairings unless the wheels came off. Niskanen has been a catalyst for Provorov’s improvement and Sanheim and Myers have been together since those AHL bus rides around the eastern seaboard. I’m willing to live with occasional hiccups for the sake of development AND not to bust up Provorov-Niskanen.
Robert Hagg and Myers are both RFAs, who have earned raises, and there are a couple youngsters in the bullpen. So you’re probably right about Braun, who made $3.8 million this year. The key, as it always seems to be, is Shayne Gostisbehere. He’s a $4.5 million cap hit, which is a lot to pay a seventh defenseman. Will they roll with Ghost-Hagg as a third pair? They’ll have one more year before they have to give Carter Hart his second contract.