The Philadelphia Flyers have been on absolute fire for the past weeks. They have racked up nine consecutive wins and are tied for first place in the Metropolitan Division. They have been clicking on all levels and don’t appear to be slowing down. So, what elements have been factoring into the teams’ surge?
All Lines Clicking
The Flyers finally have depth scoring for the first time in years. They aren’t solely relying on guys like Giroux, Voracek, and Couturier to drive the bus anymore. Travis Konecny has stepped up in a big way not only during this stretch but all season long. Kevin Hayes has been a huge piece to the Flyers in all aspects of the game, while Scott Laughton & Nicolas Aube-Kubel have taken their game up a notch (nine and seven points respectively).
Chuck Fletcher took some heat in the summer and at the trade deadline for not making any “big moves” aside from the Hayes deal, but the acquisitions of Tyler Pitlick and Derek Grant have been nothing short of spectacular. Grant has only played six games so far, but he’s racked up five points, one of them shorthanded, and been solid in all zones.
Pitlick was an underrated acquisition by Fletcher. He was highly praised by his former coaches for his work ethic and hustle, and it shows. His engine never stops and he’s constantly pressuring defenders, finishing checks, going to dirty areas, and he’s got four points to show for it.
The four lines have been rolling for the Orange and Black during their streak and because of it, they find themselves second in the NHL in goals for and first in goals for per game.
Goaltending Duo Thriving
The player that was quite possibly the biggest X factor for the Flyers’ success this season has been amazing. While the team has been playing great, they’ve also had some quality goaltending from both Carter Hart and Brian Elliott.
Hart is 7-0-0 with a .942 save percentage and a 1.72 GAA during the run, and these have not been easy contests. He faced the New York Rangers twice, who were on a tear at the time, the Blue Jackets, Jets and Hurricanes. The team did play phenomenal in front of him, which also helps, but he’s still had to make a fair share of big saves. And when the team didn’t show up like they did against Buffalo on Saturday night, he was the best player on the ice and kept them in the game.
He won his 20th home game of the season in his 24th home start, joining Bernie Parent and Wayne Stephenson as only goalies in franchise history to achieve that feat. He also became the first goaltender in NHL history to record multiple win streaks of seven or more games at the age of 21 or younger.
Elliott only started two games, but they were crucial ones against divisional opponents. He looked shaky against the Blue Jackets at first, but he settled in and helped the team bury Columbus in overtime. He then turned aside 25/27 against the Capitals.
The defensive pairs were not all that evident this year, a lot of movement and a lot of experimenting. One thing that has been consistent though, is the Matt Niskanen and Ivan Provorov duo. They have been the clear cut shutdown pair for the team and have logged more minutes than any other player for the Flyers.
The hope when trading Radko Gudas for Niskanen was that the team had found an experienced, steady partner to play alongside #9, and the trade is looking better and better for the Flyers.
The young pair of Travis Sanheim and Philippe Myers has been excelling as of late, and with the abundance of talent they have, how could they not? Both are still rounding out their games, but they complement each other very well. They are big-bodied guys who can skate and move the puck extremely well. Myers himself is a freak of nature who can really make up for any errors or turnovers with his great mobility. Sanheim is pretty solid all-around, and you can see the confidence growing by the game.
The bottom pair of Robert Hagg and Justin Braun isn’t one that is flashy by any means, but they’ve gotten the job done. Alain Vigneault has done a very good job managing their minutes and matchups. There is nothing really dynamic about these guys, but they make the simple plays that don’t hurt the team, sacrifice the body and have played solid overall, something that everyone can appreciate.
Special Teams & Coaching
It goes without saying that a team playing this well right now is not doing it on their own. Behind it lies the yet another excellent Fletcher move: Coaching.
Vigneault, Yeo, and Therrien have proven to be a successful trio on the bench. Therrien has gotten some flak with his decisions on the power play that weren’t so clear, but since putting the players back to their correct positions, they have been on fire. During the winning streak, the Flyers power play is operating at a whopping 32%, best in the NHL.
The penalty kill has taken a bit of a hit due to the game against the Rangers that saw them give up three power play goals, but overall it has still been solid. Barring that game against the Rangers, the unit has been solid thanks to Sean Couturier (Hello, Mr. Selke) and Kevin Hayes.
Vigneault has done a spectacular job with this club. They seem to finally be playing up to their potential, and the main reason is Vigneault holding players accountable for bad performances. He’s put an emphasis on defensive zone play and it shows in the players’ game. Less sloppy turnovers, more support, cleaner exits, etc. They still have the occasional off-game, but it doesn’t compare to the Hakstol-era Flyers.
He also seems to have the team ready for big games, which is why they are 15-4-4 against the Metropolitan Division this season. He should receive some consideration for the Jack Adams in my opinion, and if the success keeps coming, he could wind up being the favorite. If everything continues to click for the Flyers, they will soon overtake Washington for first in the division.
On Tuesday night, they will host the Boston Bruins and aim for their 10th straight win.
Photos by Heather Barry (@heatherbimages)