The Philadelphia Flyers have found their soul again. A new regime under Alain Vigneault can be summarized in one simple statement:
AV has rekindled a fire and style of play that was beginning to burn out in Philadelphia. Years of playoff heartbreak, goaltending carousels, and a youth infusion saw a physical style of hockey that once frustrated opponents, turn into one that frustrated the fans and players themselves. But from top to bottom, all of that has changed. Something that was crystal clear in the team’s 4-1 round-robin win over Boston.
You’d assume that too defeat a rival like the Bruins in such dominant fashion, it would take a top-heavy performance from the stars. That wasn’t the case last week. It was the team’s fourth line that stole the show.
Michael Raffl kicked off the scoring in the second period before assisting Nate Thompson a few minutes later to send the team up 2-0. Tyler Pitlick led the team with 4 hits and ended with a +1 rating. What makes this performance even more astonishing is the fact that both Thompson and Pitlick were still adjusting to life within the organization.
The new kids on the block
Through 63 games before the break, Pitlick amassed 20 points (8 goals, 12 assists), while Thompson, now 35-years-old, is bringing more than just veteran experience to the table. When speaking on the game, Tyler Pitlick had this to say:
I think we have a lot of belief in our group. We know we can score goals. If we get down one or they score one, we just go right back at them. We’re not too worried about it. We just stick to what we do and keep going.
We just go north. We’re physical and grind on the other team. I think it makes it tough on them. It’s a lot of fun playing that way.
The physical brand of hockey that Flyers fans have come to know and love over the years is bursting off the screens once more. To see it embodied not only by the cornerstones of the franchise and the players who have developed under them but also by the names who have joined the team more recently.
Take Derek Grant for example, who won 72.7% of his faceoffs on the line above the goalscorers.
Obviously if we had the choice, I think we would like to score every game, but that’s not the reality. For me personally, every game I go in, I think the most important thing to start with is winning my face-offs. If I can do that, then we can start with the puck more often than not. I think it gives our line a better chance while we are out there as well as the guys following us. That’s a big area I think about before every game. I try to be good in that area. Like he said, just creating energy and wearing teams down as much as we can. You’re not always going to contribute on the scoresheet. If you can find little ways throughout the game, whether it’s frustrating guys, taking the body or creating energy for your own team, that’s a win for us.
AV has instilled a technical mentality in his Flyers that puts just as much emphasis and pride on hits and forechecking as it does on goals and penalty killing. With some stability behind them in net and a lot of firepower upfront, the confidence needed to finally make this style pay dividend is flowing at an all-time high and it couldn’t come at a better time.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports