When the Flyers 2019-20 season came to an end with a less-than-stellar playoff series against the New York Islanders it brought a new reality to the team. It was a mix of emotions ranging from excitement of reaching the second round for the first time in eight years to frustration after clearly not giving their best effort throughout the series. With the roster staying very similar from last season, there isn’t much to break down as far as interior change is concerned, but there is an interesting caveat to the 2021 season that may bring a crushing reality to the Flyers- the schedule.
Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the NHL has determined that team will only play within their division as to limit any outbreaks of one were to occur. That means the Flyers will face the same seven teams all season, mostly in two-game series, never separated my more than a couple weeks.
That could lead to a lot of very competitive, playoff-feel hockey. And one has to wonder how the Flyers will hold up to that?
The 2020 playoffs weren’t exactly anything to write home about for the Flyers. Outside of Carter Hart standing on his head every night, there were very few other notable players that stood out in a positive way. After sneaking past the Canadiens in six games during the opening round, they lost to the Islanders in seven games during the Eastern Conference Semi-Final in a rather disappointing series. While there were exterior factors in the Toronto bubble and the fact they didn’t play in four months, but those conditions didn’t stop them from showing up for the round robin where they earned the number one seed in the east.
Now with a full season of pairs of games ahead of them with little excuses, the Flyers are finally going to learn whether or not they are built to compete in high-energy, competitive situations.
Not only will the Flyers play games in pairs this season, they will only play seven other teams. The East Division is by far the most stacked of the new realigned division, with at least six of the eight teams posing a serious threat to earning a playoff spot. Every game will be important and the Flyers will have to show up with their best foot forward every night if they want to stand a chance to punch their ticket to the postseason.
With returning third line center Nolan Patrick and the addition of forward Samuel Morin, the team is in a much better position depth and grit wise to attack the challenge of heated hockey games. Energy and consistency are issues that have plagued the Flyers for years now and it’s the biggest hill they will have to overcome once again if they want to find sustained success this season.
If the Flyers can raise a few eyebrows during the regular season and learn to adapt to winning both games of each set, there is a much better chance the team will be built better to handle the playoffs during the summer. Time will tell how the lineup ends up shaking out, but the biggest missing piece for the Flyers, experience, may be gained during the regular season in the new schedule and if they can approach the playoffs with an understanding of how to win, this team may just be unstoppable.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: nhl.com