Keys to a Fast Start in 2019-20

One of the biggest issues the Flyers have had over the past few years is struggling to make an impact at the start of the season. Since the 2016-17 season, the Flyers first two months of the season have looked like-

2016/17  12-10-3

2017/18  8-10-7

2018/19  10-12-2

That’s about as mediocre as you can get. Playing from behind the eight ball to start every season has been a struggle for the Flyers, who in turn have to win a vast majority of games late in the season, thus exhausting themselves before the playoffs even begin. The 2015/16 season was a perfect example, they went 20-9-6 in the last three months of the season, and that was just enough to claim the second wildcard spot.

So what do the Flyers have to do to avoid yet another slow start?

Offense from James Van Riemsdyk

Even though JVR finished the season with 27 goals and 48 points, he only had five goals and six assists at Christmas time. As early as the preseason, it was obvious he was failing to find chemistry with most of his linemates, and it wasn’t until Hakstol was fired in December and JVR saw ice time with Giroux that his game turned around. Things are a bit different this season. With new coaches and the addition of Kevin Hayes, there is a chance Van Riemsdyk can avoid the early season slump.

Goaltending

After running through eight goaltenders in 2018-19, you’d think one of the main concerns in the offseason would be building a tandem that wouldn’t fail. Well, they didn’t really address anything. Carter Hart is now the clear cut starter, but bringing back the 34-year-old oft-injured Brian Elliott probably wasn’t the smartest move. Ideally, they shouldn’t push Hart into the limelight just yet, but they may have no choice if Elliott gets hurt. Look for a 50-30 split with Hart seeing the lion’s share of the starts, but it is crucial to not run him into the ground just yet.

Well-Oiled Defense

After years of waiting, the kids are all finally here and looking to mesh together. With Sanheim, Myers, Gostisbehere, and (eventually) Provorov all slated to start the season on the main roster, things are starting to looking up. With a supporting cast of Justin Braun, Matt Niskanen, Robert Hagg, Samuel Morin, there is no reason for them to fail this year. There will probably be some growing pains from Myers and Sanheim, and hopefully Provorov re-signs sooner rather than later, but for the first time in lord knows how long, the Flyers might have a solid blueline to work with.

Chemistry in the Middle Six

The Flyers forward depth is strong on paper this season, but as stated in the JVR entry, Chemistry hasn’t exactly been a highlight. The middle six currently consists of a mix of Kevin Hayes, JVR, Travis Konecny, Jake Voracek, Scott Laughton, Oskar Lindblom, and Nolan Patrick. One of those guys will take the top right wing spot with Giroux and Couturier, and the rest will have to figure it out amongst themselves. If Kevin Hayes fits in well and Nolan Patrick can hold down the third line, the core can click and dominate like we know they can.

Breakout Seasons

The Flyers roster is filled with young players who need to take steps forward. Travis Konecny and Nolan Patrick up front, and Myers and Sanheim on the backend, there needs to be progression from all of them to continue to build a competitive roster. If Sanheim can turn into a true top guy, and Nolan Patrick has that breakout season we’ve all been waiting for, it will take a lot of weight off of the veteran players, thus making the team better as a whole.

 

By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)

photo credit: si.com

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