When it comes to the playoffs, you’re looking for stars for take over. For someone to step up under the brightest lights. Little did any of us know that it would be the Flyers’ depth stealing the show.
If there’s one thing we learned throughout the Flyers’ three round-robin games, it’s that the team may well have the deepest pool of talent we’ve seen for a long time. If I were to tell you before the team faced Boston that after the Flyers raced away undefeated to the #1 seed, that their goalscorers would comprise of:
Scott Laughton: 3
Nic Aube-Kubel: 2
Nate Thompson: 1
Phillipe Myers: 1
Travis Sanheim: 1
Tyler Pitlick: 1
Michael Raffl: 1
Joel Farabee: 1
You’d have probably laughed at me out of the building. But somehow, someway, none of the team’s major stars have been able to bury the puck in the back of the net, while the hungry players deep down the roster were the ones firing the offense to a #1 seed. It doesn’t just end there. Brian Elliott stopped 16/17 shots against the Caps, playing a pivotal role in shutting down Alex Ovechkin.
A large part in the Flyers’ depth-surge has been down to coaching. Alain Vigneault has come under some mild critique for decisions such as benching JVR in recent weeks, but all it took as a few games to see why each minor change is not only creating internal competition but sharpening the players from the top to the bottom of the depth chart. Something the Jack Adams Award finalist preached in a recent presser.
“Those are good decisions that a coach has to make.” He explained when discussing the Flyers’ depth. “That’s what I expect. That good internal competition elevates everybody’s game. Everybody has to be thinking about team first. Let us make those decisions. There’s no doubt some players right now are playing well and that’s very beneficial to our team.”
With Voracek down, it allowed Joel Farabee to move up a line, and Connor Bunnaman to receive more shifts. Both players looked strong, but the confidence was glowing from the blades of Nic Aube-Kubel’s skates, who potted two goals within six minutes.
His time on ice has improved in each of the three playoff games he’s appeared in so far and he’s had at least 3 hits in each matchup, leaving Alain Vigneault purring.
“There’s a young man that figured out what it would take to for him to play at this level.” Said the Head Coach. “He’s a strong kid. Good skater, powerful skater. If he plays a high percentage, he could be a very effective player. He’s strong on his 1-on-1 battles. When he goes to the net, he goes to the net hard. He’s tough to stop. Without a doubt, he had an opportunity and he grabbed that opportunity. He deserves the ice time and deserves to be playing right now. “
The depth is so strong, that only five players have been held without a point after the Round-Robin games. While those names may be of a higher stature, the selflessness to facilitate for the players around them is evident. You need to look no further than the team’s second and fourth lines for evidence of that.
The bonds are strengthening, the confidence is building, and the intensity is clear. AV doesn’t just have a team capable of making a deep playoff run, he has one capable of going the whole way and winning the franchises first Stanley Cup since 1975.
Photo Credit: Alex Mcintyre