As things stand, things aren’t looking too good for the coming weeks in the world of Flyers hockey. COVID-19 has ripped through the NHL. A number of Flyers players are currently in COVID protocol and the list isn’t getting shorter, with Oskar Lindblom and Scott Laughton being added today. We may be without Flyers hockey for quite some time, so here’s a quick look back at the team prior to the pause and what we can take away from their opening 13 games.
Shot differential is worrying, or is it?
The Flyers currently sit second in the Eastern Conference with a record of 8-3-2. In fact, it’s actually their best 10-game start since way back in 2002-2003 (Hat Tip Jordan Hall/ NBC Sports Philadelphia). But you wouldn’t think that’s the case going off of public perception.
The Flyers look like a very different team to the one we saw take the Ice last season. Not in terms of personnel, but mainly playing style. The Flyers are putting up the fewest shots of any team in the league and have been outshot in 11 of their 13 games this season. They were outshot in fewer games during the entirety of last season.
However, they rank 5th in goals scored. So if you consider that the team are firing at the lowest rate of any team, they’re converting at a stunning 14.9% rate, the highest of any team in the NHL.
Regardless of how you view this, it’s hard to really be too concerned. The obvious worry is that if the shots do stop finding the net then the team isn’t generating enough aggressive attempts to compensate. Until we hit that point, watching AV capitalize on what could well be the equivalent of the NBA’s three-point bubble, constantly screening the goalie and setting up high-percentage chances.
The Flyers need Coots on the ground
The Flyers may well be firing on all cylinders, but they’ve been doing so without the presence of one of their most valuable players, and it’s shown.
Sean Couturier suffered a costochondral separation during the second game of the season and returned to practice at the beginning of the week. The Flyers have done well in his absence, but there have been several occasions, especially in the losses to Boston, where his presence could well have changed the course of the game.
Boston has proven to be a bogey team for the Flyers this year, remaining undefeated and outscoring them 11-5 in the third period. The Flyers have let a third-period lead slip away on three occasions against their bitter rivals.
The Selke-winning center is a menace offensively but more importantly, has proven time and time again that he can win defensive faceoffs and hold his own against the big boys when trying to cling onto a late lead.
There’s no doubting that the team has been missing Couturier’s play and if there’s any positive to come out of this situation, it’s that his return should help stop the bleeding late in games.
James Van Riemsdyk is different gravy
One of the biggest positives this season has undoubtedly been the resurgence of James Van Riemsdyk. After an offseason of non-stop talk surrounding his contract, value, and potential 2021 offseason exit via the expansion draft, JVR decided to silence the doubters in the best way possible.
JVR had the hottest start of his entire career this season and his value to the team has been absolutely monumental. He even earned the NHL East player of the month honor for January.
Flyers wonderkid Joel Farabee spreads his wings
Talking of feel-good stories, it’s hard not to be impressed with 20-year-old Joel Farabee. A hat-trick against the Islanders meant he became the third Flyer in franchise history to record a regular-season hat trick before his 21st birthday, joining Mike Richards and Eric Lindros, who did so four times. Hat-tricks can often be seen as one-game bursts of production…but that couldn’t be further from the truth for Farabee.
A first-round pick back in 2018, Joel Farabee posted 8 goals and 13 goals as a rookie through 52 games. He has 12 points through 13 games in 2021. A key contributor on the power play,
The ceiling is sky-high for the former 14th overall pick and if he can pick up where he left off, he may well enjoy one of the best young Flyers breakouts in recent memory
Photo Credit: Alex Mcintyre