Going into last week, the Flyers knew they had a tough task ahead of them. Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose, and Arizona, all on the road. After floundering for three losses before they took the trip out west, the Flyers also knew they needed to come out of this road trip with a few wins.
What happened next shocked even most of the Flyer faithful.
Philadelphia came into Anaheim and Los Angeles, and snuck out of both cities with 3-2 and 5-2 wins, respectively. The Flyers gave one up to San Jose, but mustered a point after taking them to overtime. The Flyers closed out their road trip against Arizona, and took two points from them as well in a 5-2 win against the Coyotes.
For those of you at home, that’s 7 out of 8 possible points.
Sure, winning 3 of the 4 contests out west usually represents a successful conquest. However, looking deeper than just the wins and losses, the Flyers have a few things that they can improve on, and a few things they should be proud of.
The penalty kill has been atrocious, there’s no two ways about it. The Flyers ranked dead last in the league heading into the trip. They killed 2 of the 3 penalties against Anaheim, 4 of the 5 against Los Angeles, 2 of the 3 against San Jose, and 3 of the 4 against the Coyotes. All in all, the Flyers killed 11 of the 15 penalties for a 73% rate. According to hockey-reference.com, the league average stands just above that at 79.3%. Obviously there is still work to be done, but it’s not as bad as it was before the Flyers flew out west.
On the opposite side of their special teams, their powerplay hasn’t reached it’s potential either this season. Out of their 11 chances on the man advantage, the Flyers capitalized on 2 of them, putting them at an 18% rate, just below league average (20.3%). Needless to say, special teams still need more improvement, but are showing signs, very little signs, of life.
One surprising facet of this road trip was the goaltending. The Flyers flew out west with Brian Elliott, Calvin Pickard, and Michal Neuvirth, and ended up coming back with Calvin Pickard and Alex Lyon. In Elliott’s two starts against Anaheim and Los Angeles, he saved 48 of the 52 shots faced for a .923 save percentage, well above league average, which is .909.
In Pickard’s two starts against San Jose and Arizona, he stopped 65 of 71 shots faced for a save percentage of .915, still above league average.
Goaltending has been the achille’s heel for this team for as long as anyone can remember, but this trip out west showed a glimpse into what the goaltending situation could be if the Flyers goalies play to the level at which they are capable of playing.
Another positive is the emergence of a few of the younger players on the orange and black. Nolan Patrick recorded 2 goals and 4 assists in the 4 game set, while Oskar Lindblom put up the same stat line as well in just 4 games. Giroux put up six more points to put him at a point-per-game pace. Couturier, Voracek, Simmonds, all the big names posted at least a few points, while Provorov and Gostisbehere provided a spark from the blue line.
It’s only four games, but these are the kind of games the Flyers needed to jump start their 2018-19 campaign. With reports saying newly re-acquired forward James Van Riemsdyk will be back within two weeks, the Flyers could be ready to make this road trip look like a regular week at the office.
With a 5 game home stand coming up against opponents Arizona, Chicago, Florida, New Jersey, and Tampa Bay, the Flyers definitely needed a successful road trip, and got just that. Tampa will be the biggest challenge of the five game stand, but the Flyers are easily capable of taking 4 out of the next 5 games to add 8 more points to their record.
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports