9 Game Review #6: Steamrolling into the Second Half

After what was by far their worst stretch of hockey during the 2019-20 season, the Philadelphia Flyers knew that they were at rock bottom. Things could only get better, and they would have to if they wanted to be playing for the Stanley Cup come April. They faced a daunting road with matches against some of the top teams in the league, but the Orange and Black rose to the occasion.

Games 46-54 (Home games are underlined)

  1. 6-5 SOW vs. Boston
  2. 4-3 OTW at St. Louis
  3. 4-1 L vs. Montreal
  4. 4-1 W vs. LA
  5. 3-0 W vs. Pittsburgh
  6. 4-3 OTL at Pittsburgh
  7. 6-3 OTW vs Colorado
  8. 3-0 W at Detroit
  9. 5-0 L vs. New Jersey

Overall, the Flyers played very well, putting up an awesome 6-2-1 record. The Flyers started off red hot, rattling off wins in four of their first five games. What makes these wins more impressive is that the Bruins, Blues, and Penguins, are all in the top five of the NHL right now. These were games that the Flyers were reasonably expected to lose. Instead, they came out rolling and easily controlled play in these games, and rightfully came out victorious. However, they did deliver a clunker against Montreal.

After the shutout win over the Penguins, Philadelphia went into the All-Star Break and bye week. There was a worry that an extended break of nine days could kill their momentum that they worked so hard to get back after the disastrous road trip. However, the Flyers were back to business, playing well in Pittsburgh despite the tough loss and absolutely destroyed the Avalanche, a team filled with scoring threats from top to bottom. Then, they flew to Detroit and shutout the lowly Red Wings in a strong performance, but then came home and got blown out by New Jersey, another bottom-feeding team.

This stretch of games displayed a frustrating common theme of the team over the past few years. They clearly have the talent to stand toe-to-toe with the best teams in the NHL, and even beat them. But then shortly after, they will come out to play a team much worse than them and look like they’ve forgotten how to play hockey. At this point in the season, the Flyers cannot afford to do that – they need to pick up wins against the teams they are clearly better than. This is even more important this year, with the Metropolitan Division being as extremely difficult as it is. Good teams typically beat poor ones, and if the Flyers are looking to prove that they should be contending for a playoff spot, they need to play like one even against teams well below them in the standings.

Some More Observations:

Forwards:

  • Travis Konecny was the Flyers’ representative at the NHL All-Star Game in St. Louis. He participated in the Fastest Skater Competition, finishing 7th. He garnered three assists playing for the Metropolitan Division team, but they lost in the first round to the Atlantic Division.
  • The PHWA released their midseason awards for the NHL, and Sean Couturier was the top vote-getter for the Selke Trophy, ahead of perennial contenders Patrice Bergeron and Ryan O’Reilly. Couturier is finally getting his recognition from the national media, and as long as he continues his stellar play, it would be a shock if Coots didn’t take home the hardware in June.
  • It seems that Joel Farabee is starting to find his footing in the NHL. The Flyers’ 2018 1st round pick has been on fire during the past nine games, putting up points in X straight. He’s put up 4 goals and 2 assists this stretch, and he looks promising playing with Sean Couturier and Jake Voracek. Farabee’s best game was the home blowout against Colorado, in which the rookie scored twice. However, he sat out the game against the Devils with the flu; hopefully he gets back into game action soon.
  • For the first time this season, Nolan Patrick joined the Flyers for practice. The 2017 2nd overall pick has been out the entire season thus far dealing with migraine disorder. Seeing him join the squad on the ice is an encouraging sign on his progress, and certainly is a boost to team morale.

Defense:

  • Ivan Provorov continues to have a career year. Being paired with “team dad” Matt Niskanen has done wonders for the Russian blueliner’s confidence. During these past nine matches, the veteran pair has posted a 60.70 CorsiFor% and a 55.46 GoalsFor%, despite starting just 32.61% of their shifts in the offensive zone. This pair has been a force to be reckoned with the entire season thus far, and they don’t show signs of slowing down any time soon.
  • It looks like the second pairing of Travis Sanheim and Phil Myers is beginning to find their rhythm. Over this three-week span, Of the 80 defensive pairings that have played at least 60 minutes together, Sanheim and Myers rank 5th in CorsiFor% (60.26), 13th in GoalsFor% (57.32), and 17th in ScoringChancesFor% (56.57). The Flyers will need their two young blueliners to keep the pedal to the metal as the team continues their push for a playoff spot.

Goaltending:

  • With Carter Hart still injured, Alex Lyon was recalled from Lehigh Valley to back up Brian Elliott. Lyon started off poorly with an ugly loss to the Canadiens, but rebounded with a stellar showing against the Avalanche, routinely making difficult saves to keep Philadelphia on top. In 3 appearances during this stretch, he posted a respectable .914 save percentage and 2.89 goals against average.
  • Brian Elliott continues to have a good year. In the wake of Hart’s injury, Moose was expected to carry the goaltending load for a bit. With the way that Elliott’s usage has been managed in the past, combined with the team desperately needing to stay in the playoff race, there was worry about how Elliott would hold up. However, Elliott was absolutely lights out when called upon. During this stretch, the thirty-four-year-old netminder delivered an insane .945 save percentage and 1.27 goals against average in 6 games.

 

Up next for the Flyers: Philadelphia will be staying primarily on the East Coast for their next nine games – seven of them are against Eastern Conference opponents. What makes these games even more important is that all of these matches are against teams that the Flyers are currently trailing in the playoff race; they face Washington, Florida twice, the New York Islanders, Tampa Bay, and Columbus twice. Philadelphia will have to be on their A-game if they want to raise their position in the standings and stay in a playoff spot.

Image credit to Len Redkoles (via NHL.com)

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