The Flyers start 2017 on the road in Anaheim against the Ducks, where they have not enjoyed much recent success. In fact, recent success is something that has evaded the Flyers altogether. Here are three keys for the Flyers to turn that around in 2017 and kick-starting the second half of the season.
1. Secondary scoring.
The Flyers have guys who will put up points. Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek and Wayne Simmonds all get theirs and that’s a given. But it’s the secondary scoring that needs to ease the burden off their three Horses. Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier were signed to big extensions with the expectation of providing the secondary scoring the Flyers need. So far, both have been disappointing.
Of Schenn’s ten goals, seven are on the power play. His efficiency on the power play is not the concern, it’s his even strength numbers that are. He is now playing with a dangerous winger in Simmonds and the ultra skilled rookie Travis Konecney at his now natural center position. This should hopefully prove to be the catalyst to a spike in Offensive numbers.
Couturier also signed a big extension with the hope that he will develop into more of a complete two way player. But so far his 2016-17 season has been disappointing. His eight points so far this season rank him 378th in the NHL. Given that he missed time due to injury, let’s see if he can recover and excel in 2017.
2. Rookie development.
The Flyers are blessed with not just one, but two super skilled and competitive players who also both have high hockey I.Q.’s. Travis Konecney has been electric to watch over the first part of the season, although I could not disagree more with his recent benching. He has proven to be both very elusive and very fast, which is something the Flyers had been sorely lacking over the past few years. He is one player who brings it each shift.
The second, is future Norris Trophy winner Ivan Provorov. He as already established himself as the Flyers number one defenseman, playing well over 20 minutes a night and becoming a key part of the power play and penalty killing situations. He is not the flashiest player, but always makes the right, smart play. I hate comparisons, but I see a lot of Hall of Famer Nik Lidstrom in his game. Their development over the next few months is vital.
3. Special teams improvement.
The Flyers have a top power play. Okay, let me say this a different way. The Flyers number one unit is one of the top in the league. But their second unit provides absolutely no fear in opposing penalty killing units.
Provorov and Konecney are both huge talents, but having Matt Read (when healthy) and Sean Couturier on your second unit is a huge drop off. Coaches need to find a way to mask the Offensive deficiencies and keep it simple. The penalty kill is turning back into a nightmare. The effort is there, but I’m not so sure the talent is. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Chris Vandevelde have struggled against the more intimidating penalty killing teams.. I’m a Bellemare fan as he has at least has the speed to redeem the lacking qualities, but I often wonder how Vandevelde escapes the press box on a regular basis. Their P.K. Has been in a sharp decline since their ten game winning streak and it needs to improve quickly. Special teams may not win games, but it can certainly can lose you games.
Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports