Fun fact: No other team had more points than the Philadelphia Flyers during the month of November.
With a record of 10-2-4, the Flyers propelled themselves into third place in the Metropolitan division. What we shouldn’t turn a blind eye to is the opposition and the difficulty of the schedule. The Orange & Black played three sets of back-to-backs, a sequence of games consecutive games against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals and finally, they ended the month with four games in five and a half days.
To call it a gutsy month would be an understatement, the Flyers proved that they can stand toe to toe with some of the heavyweights in the NHL and battle on a nightly basis despite an arduous schedule.
Were they perfect the entire time? Absolutely not. They gave up leads late in games, failed to capitalize on scoring chances at key moments and were frustrating to watch at times, echoing the “same old Flyers” mentality among the fanbase.
One thing they’ve done a lot more this season compared to previous ones? They are beating teams they are supposed to beat. The amount of times the team failed to show up against the bottom feeders of the NHL is too high to count, but they’ve been much better this season, barring that game against the Ottawa Senators (who played a strong 60 minutes).
Another thing they’ve gotten? Goaltending. Hallelujah. The tandem of Carter Hart and Brian Elliott has been more than efficient thus far. The Flyers have been allowing more shots, but it’s good to have a reliable goaltender back there that can save their bacon from time to time. Hart and Elliott posted a .927 and .926 save percentage respectively.
The special teams have also been a bright spot on the team, especially the penalty kill. The power play could still use some work, as they ranked more towards the bottom tier that month. However, the PK has been outstanding thanks to the goaltenders and especially centers Sean Couturier (Selke, anyone?) and Kevin Hayes.
So, how do they stack up against the 2018-19 Flyers?
A few things stand out. As previously mentioned, the goaltending and PK have been off the charts. But the Flyers have also been generating more shots on goal. The quality isn’t always there, but the offense is still trying to find its groove, and when it does, this team will be even more dangerous.
When it comes to defense, the additions of Niskanen and Braun have certainly helped out. The Provorov-Niskanen & Sanheim-Braun duos have been successful at killing offense as soon as it enters the zone. When the other team settles in more often than not, they do not generate quality chances from the slot. A lot of the shots against are from the point or the perimeter, which as we know, isn’t a good way to get on the board.
There are still many people in the hockey universe that are doubting the Flyers, and why wouldn’t they? After all, they have been known to have good stretches of games and come up empty-handed at the end of the year. That being said, this team is different.
The coaching staff has done a marvelous job. Under Alain Vigneault, players have been held accountable for their play, which is something that never happened under the old regime. He was often criticized for the way he handled young players, but those stories appear to have remained in the past. Vigneault has not hesitated to play his young guns and put them in a position to succeed. Frost is on the first line, Farabee played in the top six and first power play unit for a while too.
The forward lines seem to be developing chemistry slowly. They have legitimate scoring threats on each trio that are also responsible defensively, it’s only a matter of time until the floodgates open. Travis Konecny and Oskar Lindblom have been excellent all season, which we all knew would happen if they were given a proper shake. The center core is very strong, giving them depth down the middle, something they have lacked for years.
The Flyers have a lighter schedule in December but will need to keep up their solid play to put themselves in a great position for the playoffs. They have their California road trip right after Christmas and two sets of back-to-backs. Let’s see what they can do.
Photos by Heather Barry