The door has closed on the Philadelphia Flyers’ disastrous month of March, and not a moment too soon.
Even after the grim loss to the Boston Bruins at Lake Tahoe in late February, the Flyers closed out the month with a pair of 3-0 shutouts of the Buffalo Sabres. Their 11-4-3 record had them fourth in the East Division in real points, but their .694 points percentage was tops in the division. And their goal differential was plus-seven, with an average of three goals against per game.
Here’s the final tape of the tape from March:
- 17 GP, 6-10-1
- .382 points percentage (third-worst in the league)
- 75 goals against, 4.41 goals against per game (worst in the league and worst month in franchise history in both categories)
- goal differential is now minus-22
And of course, the month wrapped up with a crushing 6-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres, owners of the league’s worst record and, before Wednesday, an 18-game winless streak.
What Lies Ahead In April
But as of Friday, the Flyers are still just three points out of a playoff spot. They’re still within striking distance of the Boston Bruins, who have two games in hand but have been struggling with inconsistency — and putting pucks in the net. Boston ranked 30th in the league in March with just 2.15 goals scored per game.
The Rangers are also in the mix — tied with the Flyers with 38 points, but with one more game played. It looks like it’ll be a three-horse race for that final playoff spot. The Capitals, Islanders, and Penguins have built a comfortable cushion at the top of the division, each with 50 points heading into Friday’s action.
After squeezing 17 games into their March schedule, the Flyers will play 15 times in April — a slightly less grueling workload. But 11 of those games will be on the road, and there are four sets of back-to-backs.
Next week’s three games against the Bruins could decide the season — a home-and-home on Monday and Tuesday, then a matinee next Saturday at Wells Fargo Center. Along the way, they’ll also visit the Islanders twice — this Saturday, then next Thursday.
In an effort to find a spark for his team, Alain Vigneault has been juggling his roster over the past week.
Most notably, Carter Hart was given three games off to take a break, mentally, and work with goaltending coach Kim Dillabaugh. Hart did not dress for either game in Buffalo this week. Alex Lyon saw his first 24:08 of NHL game action this season when he relieved Brian Elliott on Wednesday. He allowed one goal on 10 shots.
On Friday, the club recalled forwards Tanner Laczynski and Linus Sandin from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. They’re swapping spots with Connor Bunnaman and Carsen Twarynski.
Laczynski has been tearing up the AHL of late, with six goals in five games before his recall. The 23-year-old, who was drafted in the sixth round in 2016, could make his NHL debut on Saturday against the Islanders.
Alain Vigneault said he hasn't decided on lineup yet, so perhaps Tanner Laczynski may not make NHL debut Saturday. I'd think he would, but we'll see.
Nolan Patrick and Oskar Lindblom are both in lineup Saturday.
— Jordan Hall (@JHallNBCS) April 2, 2021
On the blue line, Shayne Gostisbehere did clear waivers as expected on Wednesday. He has been assigned to the taxi squad, but skated on the third pair at Friday’s practice.
Lines and combos:
Lindblom took a few reps in place of TK, but mostly sat out.
— Charlie O'Connor (@charlieo_conn) April 2, 2021
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NCAA Update: Cam York Turns Pro
Cam York became the latest blueliner to join the fold when he signed his entry-level contract on Wednesday.
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) March 31, 2021
Drafted 14th overall by Philadelphia in 2019, York is an offense-minded defenseman. In January, he won a gold medal as captain of Team USA at the 2021 World Junior Championship. Now 20, he spent his last two seasons at the University of Michigan. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the opportunity to participate in the NCAA Tournament. The 2020 edition was cancelled due to Covid-19, of course. This year, the Wolverines were forced to withdraw before their first game due to a positive Covid case on their roster.
York will be starting his pro hockey journey with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. If he adjusts well, don’t rule out a call-up from the big club before the end of the season.
As of Friday, there’s no word yet on the plans of 2018 first-rounder Jay O’Brien of Boston University or 2019 second-rounder Bobby Brink of the University of Denver. College players who sign before the April 12 trade deadline are allowed to be added to their clubs’ playoff rosters.