In what many thought was supposed to be year one to a new Flyers reign, has turned into something completely different. Through the first 6 games of the year, the Flyers, 4-2-0, have been very dominant in each of those six games, asserting their new mentality of play that Coach Dave Hakstol has preached over the last year..
“You talk a little bit about an identity, its four lines, its six D, you know it’s everybody that is in the lineup just going out and doing their job. That’s the way we have to play.”
The Flyers, who should be at least 4-1-1 if Dave Hakstol didn’t challenge a toss up offsides in Nashville, have created some sustainability throughout the lineup, with a balance of rookies and veterans mixed into four producing lines and three solid defense pairings.
If there is a mute point, it comes on the fact that two Flyers rookies, who seemed like locks at the beginning of training camp, were sent to the Phantoms to start of the season. Flyers rookies Oskar Lindblom and Sam Morin, are two guys who the Flyers see bright futures in. However, GM Ron Hextall has always preached patience and that is what these two need to understand, that their time will come…
“It is not tough. Oskar did a good job in camp and it’s the one thing you try to punctuate with young players. You didn’t fail. You had a good camp but right now the best thing for you and the team is for you to go up there and play well.”
However, the Flyers are off to a very strong start. They have gotten great goaltending from the new duo of Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth, scoring from up and down their lineup, great defensive zone play, and just a much faster well rounded team. Here are the 5 strongest points to the Flyers season so far.
Flyers Special Teams
One strong point of the Flyers season so far, is the great play by the special teams. The Flyers over the past few seasons have always either had one or the other being good during the season, in the powerplay and penalty kill. However, this year looks to be different. Through the first 6 games, even though being such a small sample size, the Flyers sit 7th in powerplay rankings with a 26.9% rating and 27th in penalty kill rankings with a 76.0% rating. That may seem low, but if you take out 3 PP goals, 2 scored by Nashville on the poor officiating at the end of that game and 1 last night against Florida in garbage time, the Flyers rank would move up into the top 10. That shows, with only taking out 3 PP goals, how many times the Flyers have actually been penalized. Much better than the usual Flyers teams of the past who were known for taking dumb penalties and playing that rough physical style of play.
The Flyers have gotten much better goaltending this year from a majority of Brian Elliott, who is 3-1-0 on the season. However, Michal Neuvirth has shown in his two games this season, posting a 1-1-0 record, that he shouldn’t be forgotten about. From the early indications, the Flyers will be relying on Brian Elliott for the most part in between the pipes this year, but need Michal Neuvirth to have quality starts in his absence. Neuvirth has shown that already in his two games this year, posting two solid games of 25-27 & 40-41. Look for Elliott to keep the bulk of the work towards the rest of the season, with Neuvirth making starts here and there.
In game one of the season, it took the Flyers some time to get things going, but after a third period domination of the Sharks, they found their way. However, the team looks different than it did on opening night. It may have been just a minor change, but ever since Coach Dave Hakstol flipped Filppula and Patrick, this team has looked like a well balanced machine. The Flyers, for the first time in years, have 4 solid well balanced lines that have given the Flyers production from every line every game. Especially from this new first line of left-winger Claude Giroux – first line center Sean Couturier – assist genie Jake Voracek.
Speaking of this new first line, Sean Couturier has surprised many Flyers fans this season with his play. Couturier, who was mainly used as a defensive center over his career, has gotten to show off his offensive talents this season, playing first line minutes centering Giroux and Voracek. Coach Dave Hakstol had this to say about his new first line center…
“I don’t know about a carryover. I don’t know if that’s possible. He was playing really good hockey for us towards the end of last year. No question he has done the same thing this year. He has been a real positive for us, for the team.”
Couturier is off to a great start to his season and is on pace to break his season bests in goals, assists, and total points, something a lot of people didn’t believe was on the agenda this year for the 7th year pro.
The real strong point to the Flyers season so far is the play from the new 4th line in Taylor Leier – Scott Laughton – Michael Raffl. This combination has been a terror for opponents this year, mainly due to the speed at which they play at. All three guys on the line are known for their speed and it is really paying off for the Flyers. However, this line could be different if it wasn’t for an unknown, Taylor Leier, who impressed so much in training camp, earned a spot on the Flyers opening night roster. But, the line is making waves because of the resurgence from forgotten about Scott Laughton. Flyers alternate captain Wayne Simmonds said this about the new looking Scott Laughton…
“Yeah, he looks like he’s a lot more confident, I think he knows his role and what’s expected of him and he’s got a ton of offensive time at the same time so you put him in a position to succeed and he’s gonna succeed and I think that’s what he’s doing.”
Laughton and Leier played together last season with the Phantoms. Their chemistry, strong play, and comfortability with each other, has made wonders for the Flyers early in the season. They have really created a combination, along with Michael Raffl, that Coach Dave Hakstol can trust and put out there in late game situations.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports