There are reasons for praise and reasons to be concerned about the Philadelphia Flyers in 2021-2022.
The clear concerns stem from injuries and the unimproved penalty kill. Yes, it is only the preseason. Patterns and trends carry on week-to-week. Through six games, regardless of who was on the ice, the Flyers couldn’t completely shut down a powerplay.
If there is a silver lining, it’s the character of this lineup. Against the Washington Capitals, the opposition dictated the pace for most of the game in puck possession, shots on goal, and special teams performance. Philadelphia remained physical and scrappy though they played from behind for two of three periods. Chuck Fletcher acquired the right players to strengthen his lineup from a leadership standpoint.
In the NHL, there will be nights where the home team is outplayed and shouldn’t be victorious. The object is to mitigate that outcome. Fletcher and Alain Vigneault are looking for consistency in 2021-2022.
What Went Right
Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier continue to spearhead the Philadelphia Flyers offense. The captain put the team on the board against the Washington Capitals before an opportunistic explosion followed from Cam Atkinson. Giroux remains one of the most consistent players actively playing and with more leadership in the locker room, expect the Flyers to push the needle closer to 2019-2020 than 2020-2021. The first line, specifically with Ivan Provorov and Ryan Ellis, cycles the puck more effectively than with any of the carousel partners Provorov had a season ago.
Joel Farabee stood out on the powerplay because of his two-goal performance versus the Boston Bruins. His switch to 2LW last night was a surprise because he’s primarily a 2RW. Rounding out the preseason, Alain Vigneault could have toiled with his lineup to see players compete in other positions due to injuries. Philadelphia has preached line chemistry in training camp, so a return to normalcy could be due before inviting the Vancouver Canucks into the Wells Fargo Center.
Cam Atkinson potted two goals last night, but how those scoring plays began were is where the juicy details live. A defensive play created offense in both cases. Credit where it’s due, Chuck Fletcher found a snug-fitting forward to aide the penalty kill.
As much as I openly battled against the idea of Fletcher trading for Ristolainen, and there’s still a way to go before he’s matched the price paid to acquire him, he’s at the least showing that he wasn’t represented accurately with the Buffalo Sabres.
What Went Wrong
Overall, it’s tough to judge a 2-3-1 preseason. In preseason games where both teams play a starting lineup, the Philadelphia Flyers are 0-1-0. Even that isn’t a fair assessment of what 2021-2022 could hold.
What sticks out like a sore thumb is the penalty kill. There was not a single game where the Flyers held the opposition to no powerplay goals. However, against a generally fantastic powerplay from the Washington Capitals, Philadelphia surrendered one on the disadvantage. Tom Wilson stuck with the puck that ricochets off the boards into the slot. Overall, there is room to believe the penalty kill won’t be as bad during 2021-2022 because the starting lineup represented one of six preseason games.
A concern last night was the separation of Oskar Lindblom from Derick Brassard and Cam Atkinson. During camp, Lindblom and Atkinson were blooming together. Brassard acts as the glue that binds, ideal for a third line fit. Yes, that means James van Riemsdyk and Farabee return to their usual positions, but on the second line centered by Scott Laughton according to my utopia.
Understandably, Laughton is the offensive spark with a two-way forward presence in the bottom six. He’s fantastic in his role, but an upgrade to 2C isn’t the worst idea while Morgan Frost is with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and Kevin Hayes is rehabbing.
Injuries are forcing less than ideal lineups, but the Flyers can afford to be more versatile with their lineup because of the improvements made away from the offensive zone.
Stay tuned for these in a separate article, including the rest of the Philly Sports Network Philadelphia Flyers team. We thank you for always reading our content. Here’s to the 2021-2022 season!
Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre