Flyers Day 1 Phase 3 Update: Back to Business
The Flyers were back on the ice for Day 1 of Phase 3 training camps as they prepare for the return to play and the 24-team playoff that is about to take place. Technically, this is the second training camp Alain Vigneault has conducted as Flyers head coach...even if it is still part of his first season with the team. That said, this was very similar to his other practices.
This was a test of conditioning, a way to determine where players were in their progression to getting back to game shape all crammed into two one-hour on-ice sessions. While there wasn’t the preparation that usually comes with the practice -- drills were diagrammed using the whiteboard on the ice and not before the practice -- the intensity and energy was there from the start.
The Flyers were also a team that could report no absences on the first day of Phase 3. All rostered players took part in the on-ice portion.
"I liked what I saw from our players today, but I did tell them that we were going to go progressively,” Vigneault said. “We're not quite sure what people had the opportunity to do during COVID. Some guys had gyms at home. Some guys were able to find ice time and etcetera. We're not quite sure where everyone is as far as conditioning-wise and as far as where they are with their timing on the ice and conditioning on the ice. What we want to do is we want to be real smart about this and we want to be scientific about this.
"We sort of laid out what the science says and we're going to progress through different stages of things we need to do of skill and conditioning on the ice, technical and tactical things we need to do on the ice. We're going to put it all together. We have 30 days to be smart. We need to use the science we have available. That's what we are going to do. Once we got the dates about Phase 2 and when Phase 3 was going to start and Phase 4.”
Group A consisted of the Flyers projected top line of Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Jake Voracek. James van Riemsdyk, Scott Laughton and Nicolas Aube-Kubel formed another line, as did German Rubtsov, Morgan Frost and Andy Andreoff. Defensively, the Flyers lined up Ivan Provorov and Matt Niskanen together and Robert Hagg and Justin Braun on another pairing. Tyler Wotherspoon and Nate Prosser were on the final pairing of the group. Carter Hart and Alex Lyon were the goalies.
For Group B, the projected line of Joel Farabee, Kevin Hayes and Travis Konecny took the ice, as did Michael Raffl, Derek Grant, Tyler Pitlick, Carsen Twarynski, Nate Thompson and Connor Bunnaman. Defensively, Travis Sanheim and Phil Myers were paired, as were Shayne Gostisbehere and Mark Friedman -- who signed a two-year contract extension on Monday -- and Egor Zamula and Andy Welinski. Brian Elliott and Kirill Ustimenko were the goalies for the group.
The vibe on the first day of camp was a renewed excitement and energy to try to make a run for a Stanley Cup.
"I hope we just gradually get better and better,” Niskanen said. “It's hard to replicate in small groups or on your own. Some guys had a lot of access to skate, some guys not much at all. I think practice reps will get faster and cleaner as we go along.
“The world is pretty bonkers right now. Nothing is normal. But as hockey players, we just want that chance.”
"You can practice as much as you want. When the games start, the speed is different,” Giroux said. “Everyone is starting from Point A. It's a unique situation. It's up to us to get back the momentum as much as we can."
Gostisbehere also spoke to the media, and reported that he had arthroscopic surgery on his knee about seven weeks ago. He hasn’t skated much since the pause, but hopes to make a contribution to the team over the playoffs.
"Obviously, my ultimate goal is to get back in the lineup, and contribute,” Gostisbehere said. “I'm working my way back, just grinding along. I'm not going to feel sorry for myself. There's a lot going on in the world right now."
So after a successful day on the ice to start Phase 3, the energy is alive and well as the Flyers look to build the momentum they had going at the time of the pause.
"As a staff, we got excited about the opportunity to come back and compete for the Stanley Cup,” Vigneault said. “We've been talking almost every day for the last three weeks on a regular basis with the conditioning guys, with Jimmy [McCrossin] and Sal [Raffa], our athletic therapist guys about what we needed to do with our group, not knowing what everyone had available during COVID. We got a plan laid out. It's precise. I think it's science-based. I believe it's going to work.
“You can see it on their face. There was excitement. They are ready for the opportunity. We’ve progressed. We’ve earned this right to compete for the Cup and now it’s our time to get the job done.”
Fletcher Updates Status of Nolan Patrick
It may not have been much of a surprise, but when the Flyers Phase 3 roster was unveiled, Nolan Patrick was not on it. Patrick has not played in a game in over a calendar year after suffering from migraine disorder at the start of the 2019-20 season. By not being included on the roster, Patrick’s season is officially over.
"Our focus is on getting him ready for the 2020-21 season,” GM Chuck Fletcher said. “We want to be prudent and prioritize his health and safety in the long run. We have a short runway here before we jump right into playoff hockey.”
Fletcher did say that Patrick has updated him on his status and that he is feeling “the best he has in 12 months.” While that doesn’t help get him back on the ice this season, he is able to work toward next season with the knowledge that there is an extensive period of time to continue to recover and feel better for a new season.
As for the current group, Fletcher has helped assemble a team that combines depth and high-end talent, veterans and rising prospects. With all of those factors coming together, he hopes this team could be a contender.
“We like our team. We like our group. Why not us?” Fletcher said.
Strategy of Round Robin
The Flyers are one of four teams in the Eastern Conference that will participate in a three-game Round Robin to determine the top seeds in the first round of the playoffs. While these games are important, both Vigneault and Fletcher said that the focus falls on the first round, when the best-of-seven series will start for the Flyers.
“I intend on using more than 20 guys for those games,” Vigneault said. “I’m going to look at different players in different situations.”
Fletcher echoed this sentiment, stating that while the Round Robin games are important and that the team will play to win, they are also trying to focus on the big picture and being ready for the first game of the first round.
The Flyers will take the next two days to continue to run multiple groups and then slowly transition to larger groups and scrimmages as they continue to get the team ready for the trip to the hub city in Toronto and the start of games in less than a month.