The Philadelphia Flyers completed the first half of the 2016-17 season on a high note with a solid 4-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Let’s take a look at what has worked, what hasn’t worked, and what needs some tweaking if the team are to mount a playoff charge over the second half of the NHL year.
Welcome back Jake:
Jake Voracek is back. He leads the Flyers in points with 39 (good for 10th in the NHL). He is currently on pace for 26 goals after scoring just 11 all of last season. Each time he is on the ice, he is playing to the level that earned him that eight-year 66 million dollar deal.
Travis Konecney is off to a solid start despite some questionable coaching decisions regarding his use. He is on pace for around 40 points which is solid considering the way he is used. Ivan Provorov simply gets better game by game. He plays in all situations and is on pace for 35 points. Interestingly, he also leads the team in ice time at 21:14 per game.
It’s been a hot topic for the Flyers since general manager Ron Hextall controlled the nets in the 90’s. Steve Mason is the Flyers number one. At 14-13 with a goals against of 2.82 and a .903 save percentage, that’s the definition of average at best. Mason needs to take the reins of being the number one and play the way he did during the teams 10 game win streak. Yes, the Flyers defense needs work, but Mase needs to come up with clutch saves.
The need for speed:
And speaking of the Flyers defense, it goes hand in hand with the goaltending. Other than Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere, the team is older with no mobility. The NHL is a speed league, and the Flyers simply have trouble keeping up with the faster teams like Pittsburgh and the Rangers.
Dave Hakstol steered the Flyers to an unexpected playoff berth last year. But some of his decisions this season have been questionable. Benching guys like Gostisbehere and Konecney (not to mention Michael Del Zotto) makes no sense for a team that lacks speed and scoring to begin with. Decisions like that can absolutely destroy a young players confidence. The Flyers are a fringe playoff team to begin with. Let the kids play as they are the future of the team and the core the front office will look to build around.
Special teams are vital to a teams success. The power play has too much talent not to score, and they are still in the top ten in the league. But the penalty kill currently sits at number 18. The PK is all about effort and positioning. Too many times we see them not putting max effort out there. Top ten special teams is a realistic goal and get them into the playoffs.
They Flyers are a streaky team as evidenced by their ten game winning streak followed by one win in the next eight. They cannot continue to be an up and down team and expect to get back into the playoffs. The Eastern Conference is just too competitive. Stability on defense and in goal along with the development of the young players can carry the Flyers in the second half.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports