9 Game Review #1: The Flyers are Fun Again(?)

In the 9 Game Review series, I will examine short stints of the Flyers’ season and analyze their performance to generate an idea of what has gone right and what has gone awry. I chose nine games as the benchmark because it is a decent sample size to provide a good glimpse at how the Flyers have been playing. The final edition will have 10 games in its review, because math!  All stats are courtesy of Corsica.Hockey unless otherwise noted.

For the premier edition of 9 Game Review, let’s take a look at the first few games of the 2019-20 season, which took place over about a 3 week stretch from October 4, 2019 through October 26, 2019 (home games are underlined):

  1. 4-3 W vs. Chicago (in Prague)
  2. 4-0 W vs. New Jersey
  3. 3-2 SOL at Vancouver
  4. 3-1 L at Calgary
  5. 6-3 L at Edmonton
  6. 4-1 L vs. Dallas
  7. 6-2 W vs. Vegas
  8. 4-1 W at Chicago
  9. 7-4 W vs. Columbus

Overall, the Flyers posted a record of 5-3-1, which isn’t too shabby! However, the numbers are more than meets the eye. Even though they didn’t go 9-0, the Flyers have looked pretty damn good. The Flyers rank 1st in the league in CorsiFor percentage (CF%) with a whopping 54.97%, and 2nd in Expected Goals/60 (xGF/60) with 2.70. With the exception of the Calgary game, the club has dictated the pace of play and have gotten the better of the scoring chances in each game. Under Alain Vigneault, the Flyers are flourishing thus far, and are playing a fast, exciting brand of hockey.

So, why did the club pretty much break even in terms of wins and losses? It certainly was not for a lack of trying, as the Flyers often were the better team on the ice. After a strong 2-0-0 start to the season, the team just simply could not find a way to put the puck in the back of the net during their road trip to western Canada, and this continued when they came home to take on the Dallas Stars. The process was sound, but the results were clearly not there. Sometimes that’s just the way the puck bounces in hockey. Even though Philadelphia’s domination was not translating to wins in the standings, the team was correct in its assumption that things should start coming their way soon. Sure enough, the Flyers thrashed the Golden Knights at home, pouring a deluge of goals into Vegas’ net en route to a 6-2 win. They subsequently followed up their performance against Vegas with strong wins against Chicago and Columbus.

Observations on each section of the team:
The Offense
  • The newly-formed top line of Oskar Lindblom, Sean Couturier, and Travis Konecny has easily been Philadelphia’s best thus far. TK leads the team in points (6-7-13), and both Konecny and Coots have a CF% over 65%, good for 6th and 5th, respectively, in the entire NHL. Lindblom has been breaking out as well, scoring 5 goals through 9 games. This line has been absolutely dominant thus far, so it will be exciting to see what they accomplish this season.
  • The veterans who are entrusted to provide much of the team’s goals, such as Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, and James van Riemsdyk, were largely snakebitten through the first 5 games. Their scoring woes played a large role in the Flyers’ losing streak this season. JVR in particular, has lobbed just over 4 SOG per game, but has scored just 3 goals. However, now that they’ve shaken a bit of the rust off, they seem to have found a groove. Since the loss in Edmonton, through 4 games, Giroux has 3 points, Voracek has 4, and JVR has 5.
  • Kevin Hayes has been one of the most noticeable players on the ice. He has scored 4 goals so far, including a wicked SHG against the Blue Jackets. After starting the year centering Giroux and Voracek, Hayes has been centering Scott Laughton and Joel Farabee, and the trio has been pretty solid.
  • Speaking of Joel Farabee, he was recalled from Lehigh Valley and made his season debut against Vegas. Additionally, Carsen Twarynski and Connor Bunnaman were sent to the AHL after not playing well through the first 5 games. Farabee, the club’s first round pick in 2018, has looked like he belongs in the NHL. What would have been his first career NHL goal and assist were called back in the Blackhawks game due to offsides. He did register an assist later in that game, and that one counted!
The Defense:
  • After a rough game in the season opener, Provorov is beginning to get back into form, scoring 7 points, including a PP goal! The numbers back this up, with Provorov posting a 5-on-5 CF% just under 60%. Much of the Flyers’ success relies on the Russian defender living up to his “top-pair defenseman” billing, so to see Provorov look good to start the year is quite promising.
  • Shayne Gostisbehere looks like a shell of his former self. The once-dynamic defenseman has looked completely lost through 9 games. In addition to barely touching the scoreboard, #53 has turned the puck over often, has been unable to execute passes, and has been a liability in the defensive zone. The team needs Ghost to find his footing, and fast.
  • The off-season acquisitions of Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun have been quietly solid to start the year. Niskanen has especially shined on the powerplay, where he has scored 4 out of his 5 points. Braun has also been quite reliable. Despite betting burned on a highlight reel goal by Connor McDavid, Braun has provided the veteran presence he was brought in for and has vastly improved the penalty kill. With the help of these two, the Flyers PP is 5th in the league, and the PK is 11th.
The Goaltending
  • The Flyers are getting the opposite of what many expected from their goaltending this year. Carter Hart has not impressed in his first full NHL season. In his 5 starts, Hart has delivered an underwhelming .890 SV%, and was pulled in favor of Brian Elliott in his homecoming game against the Oilers. After a strong start to the season with 2 wins, including his first career NHL shutout, the sophomore goaltender hasn’t been good, going 0-2-1 in his last three starts. Brian Elliott, on the other hand, has been stellar, posting a respectable .915 SV% in his starts and relief efforts.

So, there has been a lot of good to start the year, but there have also been some glaring negatives. It’s not time to hit the panic button on anyone yet, as it is just the first nine games of the season. But, should these trends continue for an extended period of time, much of the Flyers Faithful will rightfully become concerned.

Up next for the Flyers: all next nine matches are against Eastern Conference opponents, with 5 of them coming against division rivals. This is a crucial stretch of games for the Flyers, and they must perform well if they hope to improve their standings in the division.

Thank you for reading the very first edition of 9 Game Review! If you have any suggestions for future editions, please drop a comment below or send me a message! Go Flyers!

-Katie Bogan (@nolanp4trick)

photo credit: nbcsports.com

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