The Flyers have already completed a quarter of their season so far, sitting with a record of .500 at 10-10-3 and are in the bottom half of the Metropolitan division, though it’s early, they need to start playing more consistent hockey if they want to reach the playoffs for a second consecutive season.
The offensive production for Philly has been a key component to start off the year and is a promising sign for a good season. They average just over three goals a game, which ranks fourth in the NHL. The Flyers have been on the attack all season as they have piled up shot after shot in each game, generating more scoring opportunities with every one. It is no surprise that Wayne Simmonds is the team leader in goals as well as in points with 11 and 21, respectively. Half of those goals are power play goals for Simmonds, as once again he is a lethal weapon on the extra man team. He is especially dangerous around the net as he uses his big body to his advantage and is great at controlling and dictating the play.
Just behind him in points is the captain of the Flyers, Claude Giroux, who leads the team in assists with 15, and is second in scoring with 19 points. The captain has played in every game this season and has been able to stay healthy up to this point. Jake Voracek and Matt Read are other players who have contributed to the scoring this year and Read, who is bouncing back from a poor season, has stepped up as he had a hot streak with five goals in five games, though only has had one goal since. If he can keep it up the rest of the year, it would give the Flyers another weapon for teams to worry about. Former top prospect and rookie Travis Konecny has been active and playing well with four goals and 12 points overall. He is a very important piece for the future. Consistency will be the key to the Flyers offensive success this year.
Goaltending has been plagued by inconsistency and ineffectiveness between the tandem of Michal Neuvirth and Steve Mason. Neither has been able grab the full time starting spot. It shows in their record that hovers around .500, as neither goalie has stood out with their play thus far. But injury also forced a change into the goalie situation momentarily as Michal Neuvirth is out for at least a month, which has given Steve Mason a chance to possibly claim the spot for himself as he will start most of the games while Neuvirth is out. Mason has been shaky as he has gone 5-8-3. Though Mason has played in more games and has more wins and losses, Neuvirth was the better goaltender going 4-2. However, some of his stats are less encouraging as he had a goals allowed per game average of 3.54 and save percentage of .859, both are less compared to Steve Mason’s numbers. However both are allowing at least 3 goals a game and that won’t win games in the NHL. Mason has a chance to gain the starting spot.
Coming into the season, the defense for the Flyers was the most suspect as it was filled with aging veterans on their last legs like Mark Streit and Nick Schultz and young, inexperienced guys who haven’t spent much time at the NHL level like first round pick Ivan Provorov. So far this year it has showed that these players can no longer fill the big responsibility or aren’t ready for it yet as defensive breakdowns, miscues, and turnovers have been many reasons for the goals that were allowed this. In last Friday’s game against the Rangers, the Flyers had 2 turnovers which quickly turned into Rangers’ goals. One by Streit where his lazy pass was intercepted and the blue line and shot back in for a goal while another was lost in front of the net for another. Shayne Gostisbehere, coming off a terrific rookie season, has played poorly this year even so he was a healthy scratch just a few games ago. The Flyers definitely need him this year and he has to play better both ways considering the 2-way defenseman he is. The defense has to be straightened up and is absolutely killing the Flyers. One bright spot for the Flyers has been Radko Gudas who has played much better this year with six assists thus far and is letting the game come to him which has benefited the team as a whole, especially with him not taking the dumb penalties. Streit’s defensive play might be declining a bit he’s still producing this year with 12 points with four of them coming as goals. The Flyers have to get this situation fixed or they will be sitting home in April.
The Flyers are indeed needed for changes, particularly on the defensive end as fans have knew since before the season defense would be the problem. Maybe switching the pairings up or possibly acquiring another player is possible. Coach Hakstol has continued with the goalie tandem of Mason and Neuvirth and has made multiple forward line switches to try to generate more goals. The movement among the linesman helped as the Flyers have been scoring more goals recently as well as getting more shots to the net as in the past three games, though they have went 1-2, they have fired 43, 42, and 31 shots on net. That is important to keep up and as they get more shots, more goals will start to come. Just recently they put five in the back of the net against Calgary and that is a definite boost moving forward.
As for where the Flyers stand in the division, it is definitely going to be a hard climb to the top even though it’s early. Three of the NHL’s top teams have already solidified themselves in the top three of the division as the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Washington Capitals are all dominant teams and are a level up from the Flyers and are going to be hard to beat. Though they are currently at the bottom half of the division, they are really in the middle of the division as only a couple of points separate the majority of the teams as they have 23 points. They are on par with most of the teams in the division as teams 1-7 are even only separated by a couple of points. In the spots ahead of them, the New Jersey Devils and Columbus Blue Jackets have 25 points, while at the top, New York has 31, which shows the small separation in the division.
With Coach Hakstol using the two goalie system, it shows that the Flyers still don’t have the confidence in either goalie to take the load and are still testing both to see possibly which one they might choose to stick to. The Flyers won’t start consistently winning games unless they stick to one goaltender, which would create some better chemistry with the team. Also keeping the goalie comfortable instead of one sitting and getting a little rusty if he only starts one game then sits. It was smart for Hakstol to switch up the lines a little bit. In particular the first line as he moved Michael Raffl up for better chemistry and they feel he gives a better attacking presence for more puck possession. It shows that this move has benefitted them as they’ve recently had more shots on net which has led to more goals.
It’s still very early so if the Flyers can fix things on the defensive end and keep playing aggressive like they have on offense, they definitely have the ability to make the playoffs with plenty of games still ahead, these adjustments will be crucial in how their season plays out.