We’re now under 24 hours away from this years’ NHL outdoor game involving the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins. For Philadelphia, this game is crucial. It’s officially been 13 months since the Flyers have beaten the Bruins (an OT win in January of last year) and they have dropped all four games against them so far this season. Going into a game on a neutral site with such a depleted squad may leave the Flyers at a severe disadvantage, but they have an ace up their sleeve.
Believe it or not, Alain Vigneault has never lost an NHL Outdoor game, going 3-0 since 2014. All three of these victories came during his tenure with the New York Rangers. His first win came against the Devils in 2014, before beating the Islanders that same year at the same venue – Yankee stadium. He’d coach in his next outdoor game 4 years later at Citi field, where the Rangers would rise to a dramatic 3-2 OT win over the Sabres.
If we narrow this down to neutral site games, the Flyers obviously had the benefit of an extended stay in Toronto just a few months ago as they made their attempted playoff run. The Bruins had a near-identical experience, but their round-robin was a disaster, with the team losing all 3 games. One of those games just so happened to be a 4-1 demolition job at the hands of Vigneault and the Flyers.
Going back even further, AV of course started his first season with the Flyers by taking a huge victory over the Blackhawks in Prague. Why’s that important? Time difference.
Sunday’s game is an 11 o’clock start (2 PM EST) and managing that on such short notice can be problematic, but AV had to schedule a similar trip when the Flyers went to Europe.
“We’ve got an 8 am practice (Saturday) which is really 11 o’clock body time for us.” Vigneault told reporters after a gut-wrenching shootout loss to the Rangers. “What we’re going to do is do two meetings the night before the game and we’ll have a quick one in the morning before we go out for warm-up. We should be good to go.”
With 6 regulars out of the lineup due to the COVID situation, this will not be an easy matchup for the Flyers, especially considering how strong the Bruins have been all year. But the orange and black left many fans stunned in a truly gutsy performance against the Rangers on Thursday. Nobody expected a squad struggling for depth that much to be able to take it to the Rangers as aggressively as they did, and that should inspire a sense of confidence among the younger players.
If there is ever a silver lining to cling onto going into tomorrow’s game, it’s that Vigneault knows his way around neutral-site games and how to prepare his team for the best chance of success.
Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre