We’re more than two months into the season, and the Philadelphia Flyers are squarely in the mix as legitimate Stanley Cup Playoff contenders. They’ve been dominating in games played at the Wells Fargo Center, allowing fewer goals than all but four teams, killing over 80% of opposing power plays, and winning more faceoffs than anyone else. They’re currently neck-and-neck with the Pittsburgh Penguins, and well ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs. Just like everyone expected!
Jokes aside, it’s remarkable how well the Flyers are playing this year. After years of expecting and receiving mediocrity, they are putting together a rather impressive rebound season, and are unquestionably the second-best Philly sports team at the moment, behind the Sixers. While it’s nice to see some fight out of the Broad St. Bullies, this team has a history of in-season streaks before falling short, so it’s fair to wonder if this is for real or not. With that said, let’s take a look at some of the most significant aspects of the Flyers season so far, for better and for worse.
The goalie tandem is working.
By far, the most essential part of the Flyers’ success has been who they put in the net. Carter Hart, aside from a couple of nightmare games, has been this team’s starter and is allowing only 2.4 goals per game. Even so, veteran goalie Brian Elliott has been just as involved. While it’s clearly Hart’s job (Hart has almost double Elliott’s starts, and nearly 300 more minutes played), Elliott has been putting up comparable numbers in the net. One of the Flyers historically lingering issues has always been the lack of a genuinely talented goalie, and now they have two of them.
Morgan Frost is here to stay.
The Flyers top prospect couldn’t make it in the NHL when he was called up last year, but ever since he got the call to come up from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms to come up in late November, the rookie has been running away with the opportunity. He’s still the third center behind Sean Couturier and Kevin Hayes, but Frost has already tacked on a pair of goals in his short time on the active roster, and the line pairing of Giroux-Frost-Konecny has been effective. He’s not putting up Calder Trophy numbers quite yet, but this is a kid who is only going to improve as the season goes on.
But the offense is still mediocre.
Despite all the defensive success, as well as positive seasons from Konecny, Hayes, and Couturier, among others, the offense still doesn’t inspire much hope. The Flyers are still ranking in the middle of the pack in points per game, and their power play isn’t anything to write home about either. Their highest-scoring player, Travis Konecny, has only contributed 28 points on the season at the time of this writing – nearly 30 behind the league’s scoring leader in Edmonton’s Connor McDavid. The defense has kept them alive in games, but sooner or later, the offense needs to step it up if they want to keep pace with teams like the Capitals or the Bruins.
While there are plenty of reasons to feel good about this revamped Flyers teams, there are still some offensive concerns to be cautious about, which could wind up being their downfall as they get further into the season. These concerns reared their ugly heads when they fell 7-3 to the Winnipeg Jets. If this were a Hakstol-led team, there would be more skepticism, but the coaching of Alain Vigneault seems to be having an impact on this team.
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