Well folks another Flyers season has come to a close. As porky the pig states, “Th-Th-The, Th-Th-The, Th-Th… That’s all, folks!” Before we head out to play golf, or the beaches for the summer. Let’s talk about the season that was for these fly guys.
The Flyers were 8-0-1 after the Birds raised the Lombardi Trophy, and they seemed to be a splitting image of the Eagles. If one looked up and down the Flyers roster they would see some talent, but players that were supposedly “has beens,” (According to some hockey analysts). Most hockey analysts had the Flyers missing the playoffs for a second straight season, much like most football analysts predicted the Eagles to maybe, a little maybe make the playoffs (Strictly because of Carson Wentz).
While taking a page out of the legend in Eagles Center Jason Kelce’s playbook, “An underdog is a hungry dog. G is done, Couts don’t have it, Voracek has lost it, Hakstol sucks, Konecny was done before he started, Laughton who’s that, Elliott is a has been, Neuvirth sucks, Lyon can’t do it.” The list goes on and on.
Low and behold the Flyers finished the season in third place with 98 points. Just who would have thought this would have been possible after suffering through a ten game losing streak, and losing both starting goaltenders to boot.
What a redemption season it was for the redeemed Claude Giroux. He showed the world that at 100%, and no injuries to speak of, what he can really do if he remained healthy for an entire season (Including Training Camp). He really took a step forward this season as Captain of the ship. Moreover, Giroux tallied 32 goals, and 70 assists for a total of 102 points in 61 games played. He was a whopping plus 28, and finished second in the league in scoring. Giroux showed he still had the goods. Yes, his playoff numbers weren’t anything to ride home about with potting 1 goal, 2 assists, and was a dismal -10. However, he’s the engine that runs the Flyers, and Giroux will make sure the Flyers are better next season.
“Couts,” what more can be said about this young 25-year-old first line Center. He should clearly be the front runner for the Selke Trophy (Best Defensive Forward). Couturier broke his previous career highs in goals (31), and points (76), with a whopping 31 goals and 45 assists. I want to reiterate this, he is a first line Center that turned peoples’ heads with his offensive fire power this season, and was an insane plus 34 to boot. Moreover, Couturier channeled his inner Danny Briere as Mr. Playoffs, as he tallied a game winner in game 5 against the Penguins, and a hat trick in game 6. Hold on it gets better. In games 5 and 6 Couturier played with a torn MCL. He’s officially a warrior, and one reason the future looks bright for the Flyers.
“We have a young group here,” Couturier stated after game 6. “We had our back against the wall. We gave it all we had. We got a big win last game. Tonight unfortunately we didn’t but there is a lot of good these last 2 games. We just have to learn from it and become stronger as a group.”
Finally, the orange and black are seeing signs of good life on the blue-line for years to come. The young Travis Sanheim, and Robert Hagg made strides, and rightfully will be mainstays next season. Four short years ago, General Manager Ron Hextall started to revamp the Flyers future blue-line through the draft. Hextall used the attitude of, “If you build it, they will come.” In the midst of a youth infused season, the orange and black saw a superstar in the making. Thanks to a human shield in Ivan Provorov, they finally struck gold to replace Chris Pronger.
At age 21, Provorov will be the face of the franchise for years to come. Proof in the pudding came after the game on November 2, 2017, against the St. Louis Blues. The orange and black defeated the Blues 2-0, as Provorov played nearly half the game amassing 27:11 in ice time. This marked his fourth consecutive game above 27 minutes in average ice time. Even more impressive, Provorov was a human shield by blocking a whopping 10 shots. His nine blocked shots through two periods were a franchise record, a record that has stood since 1997. Moreover, this young man tallied 17 goals, 24 assists, was a plus 17, managed to block 169 shots, and averaged 24:09 in ice time per game. Simply put, Provorov was a warrior all season, and played with one arm in game 6 against the Penguins.
Ivan Provorov played thru shoulder injury. Gave it all he had
“As long as my arm was attached I was playing.”
— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) April 23, 2018
“Very proud of this team,” Provorov stated after game 6. “That ten game losing streak, the boys stuck together and played for each other all year and that’s why we were here in the playoffs, battling three injuries through, no people believed in us that we would be here and should be able to play good hockey against Pittsburgh, so just very proud of this team and I think we took a huge step forward from last year.”
Lastly, as we save the best for last… goaltending. Brian Elliott was signed via free agency to a two-year deal, as a stop-gap goaltender until Carter Hart or Felix Sandstrom were ready to take the helm. Elliott had an up and down year, as he was a candidate for Flyers Team MVP at the halfway mark of the season. Unfortunately, about two months before season’s end. Elliott underwent core muscle surgery, but eventually made his way back during the last week of season. Elliott played the last two games of the regular season, and some of the playoffs against the Penguins. However, he just didn’t look like the Elliott we became to know during the season. Elliott stood on his head during the ten game losing streak, but after his surgery he could no longer do that.
The Flyers were forced to make a trade at the deadline for Petr Mrazek, as Michal Neuvirth also went down with an injury right after Elliott went down with his. This left a tandem of Mrazek and rookie Alex Lyon with the reigns of the netminding situation.
Mrazek was so-so with the Flyers after a hot start in his first three games while donning a Flyers sweater. Lyon proved to the Flyers top brass he’s more than capable of being a serviceable backup goaltender in the NHL. Moreover, once again the orange and black had their goaltending problems, but it was more consistent than years past. Mainly due to Lyon’s and Elliott’s play in the regular season. Neuvirth did perform admirably in the final two games against the Penguins, but he just has trouble staying healthy. However, the Flyers need more stable netminding to get over the hump. If they want to be contenders or go past the second round of the playoffs, then the orange and black need better goaltending.
Elliott: 23-11-7, 2.66 GAA, .909 Save%
Mrazek: 14-13-6, 3.03 GAA, .902 Save%
Neuvirth: 9-7-3, 2.60 GAA, .915 Save%
Lyon: 4-2-1, 2.75 GAA, .905 Save%
Through thick and thin, and through it all the Flyers did have a successful season. They managed to improve their point total by ten points from the prior season. Moreover, most importantly the orange and black made the playoffs. This young, injury riddled team in the Flyers even took the back to back Stanley Cup champs to six games in the playoff series. It was never about this year, rather next year. In the off-season remember this Flyers fans, the future is bright in Flyer land.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports