It was time to “Sack Up”….
After a shaky, inconsistent, and all around mediocre effort at the start of the season, the Flyers have now gone 3-0-1 in their last 4 games and have finally started looking like the team they were supposed to be heading into this season. While I still believe we’re only scratching the surface of where they are going as a team, this is exactly why you do not want to panic, nor is it the correct thought process to jump straight to firing the coach or trading assets from a position of weakness. It’s important to note that to win a negotiation or deal, you must be in a position to walk away and making a move out of desperation is only setting yourself up to lose. Hextall is well aware of that and has worked hard to make sure the team will not fall into that trap.
While the team has looked far worse than anyone expected at times, is this really enough of a sample size to make the decision as to what they will be? It’s easy to lose control of your emotions, it’s easy to jump on a player for not living up to expectations. It’s not easy to stay calm through the chaotic waves of winning and losing.
Most Flyers fans are livid that Ron Hextall is not firing Dave Hakstol or that Hakstol isn’t yelling and screaming at his players, calling them out in the media publicly. I can say with 100% confidence, that it is far more valuable to stay the course; as mentioned in my previous article which reviewed the opening 9 games.
The Flyers first game of the trip against Anaheim wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination and they had moments where they reverted to the team that struggled in the games early on this season. However, you could see the improvement from game to game.
A late win against the Ducks lead directly into another solid effort against a reeling Los Angeles Kings team could have easily snuck up on them. In the end, the Flyers did what good teams must do and won the games that they needed to win. When the Flyers finally got into San Jose they were clearly a more confident team and it showed as Nolan Patrick scored in the very beginning of the game. However, when the Flyers were pressed, they showed that they are still prone lapses in execution and defensive breakdowns.
The results are in the numbers in this case. They Ranked in the bottom five for both goals against per game and penalty kill percentage. The Flyers have struggled immensely when protecting leads and shutting down opponents in those big moments. The Penalty kill is a good representation of how the Flyers team defense tends to lock up when forced to adjust quickly. It could be a coaching problem, but I’m not convinced it is just all systematic. The fact that there are long stretches when the team plays well defensively, only to lapse for a minute or two in the game, is a good indication that they are capable of improving their situation.
Goaltending has had some positives at times in the early season, but the consistency is still not there and with Brian Elliot out after a collision at practice with Travis Konecny, the job doesn’t get any easier. Calvin Pickard and Alex Lyon have both shown the ability to play well at the NHL level, but the Flyers have no choice but to play a mature game to compensate.
Elsewhere, several key players such as Nolan Patrick, Oskar Lindblom, Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Ivan Provorov, and Shayne Gostisbehere are now starting to really get going. The stars who must produce, are beginning to do so. Particularly, it should be noted that you are watching something very special happen with Nolan Patrick.
It’s still very early in the season, but he looks to be truly healthy and confident for the first time in 24 months. As a fan of the team, it’s exciting to watch the very early steps of stardom. While most fans will look at this game and not see the flash of most elite young stars, like Mathew Barzal or Elias Pettersson, that is only because Nolan is holding back. Patrick is a conservative player. Similar to Sean Couturier, Nolan Patrick will very rarely attempt a risky decision in an attempt to make a play. He’ll normally opt for the short pass or the simple dump and chase. That’s exactly how a 19 year kid trying to make the NHL should play. Of late you can see that his leash has been taken off and his ice team increased. You’re watching a player ready to prove to everyone he was always worthy of being taken first overall in 2017.
Nolan Patrick and the Philadelphia Flyers are back in action on Thursday November 8th against the Arizona Coyotes, who will look for revenge. The Flyers have not been able to execute at home and has shown to get easily rattled in their own building. However, I suspect this game will have a very different tone than what we saw prior to the road trip.
POSSIBLE CALL UPS:
Phil Myers – Myers has been getting progressively better over the 11 games the Phantoms have played in the early season. He has 3 goals 5 assists in 11 games this season and holds an impressive +10. If the Flyers have an injury on defense, look for him to get a call up after the 20-40 game mark.
German Rubtsov – Rubtsov has been very solid for the Phantoms this year and has been an impact player almost every time he’s on the ice, while playing the power play and the penalty kill. This is exactly what you want to see from a late 1st round pick.
Misha Vorobyev – Flyers will look to give Vorobyev a shot to get back on the team as the season progresses and so far he is making a strong case for himself. He’s become the most dominant player for the Phantoms throughout his first few games. He should continuing putting up points at the AHL level.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports