The Philadelphia Flyers are once again the talk of the town in early December, but this time it’s for a good reason. The Orange and Black are surging after a historic November and are sitting pretty in the Metropolitan Division just over a third of the way into the season.
The Flyers got a wake-up call in late October with a 7-1 loss to the Penguins, and have been on a roll ever since. They are 11-2-4 since Nov. 1, good for 26 points in 17 games.
Along the way they proved that they can play with the best of them, taking down the Boston Bruins in a shootout and losing 2-1 in a shootout to the Washington Capitals. They also let a 3-0 lead against the New York Islanders slip away in a game that could’ve been huge for the Orange and Black. Still, they got a point out of the losses to Washington and New York, allowing them to keep moving up the standings.
The Flyers have gotten contributions from up and down the lineup this season, and that has been prominent over the past few weeks. They have been able to roll four lines, three defensive pairs (while even mixing in their seventh man successfully) and split goaltending duties as well.
Alain Vigneault has pressed the right buttons to spark the offense, thanks to some help from Chuck Fletcher calling up Philippe Myers to solidify the backend at the end of October, and Morgan Frost to get the offense going toward the middle of the month. Frost ignited the top line and the trickle-down effect was real. Vigneault mixed and matched to find four lines that can produce on any given night.
No one player’s stats have jumped off the page during the Flyers’ 17-game stretch since Nov. 1. Instead, they’re getting a balanced attack throughout the lineup. Eight players have at least nine points, including Myers who has only played in 15 of those games. Every full-time forward has registered at least four points since Nov. 1, including Scott Laughton who has only played in six games.
While no one has stolen the show, the Flyers’ top guys are still getting the job done. Sean Couturier is leading the way with a nice stretch of 15 points (6 goals, 9 assists), with top-liners Travis Konecny (14) and Claude Giroux (13) right behind him. Even the forwards who have struggled and were called out at times, Jake Voracek (11 points), Kevin Hayes (7) and James van Riemsdyk (6 points, 3 in last 4 games), are getting back on track as well.
This year’s Flyers team has the perfect mix of young talent and core veterans. Konecny and Oskar Lindblom have emerged into top-six forwards, while rookies Frost and Joel Farabee have fit right in. The pair of rookie forwards have had their bumps along the way, but they have transitioned smoothly to the NHL level. That has given the Flyers a formidable group of top-nine forwards and a fourth line that can keep up with most teams’ third lines — or even second lines on some nights.
The Flyers’ most improved facet, however, is their defense. They have allowed just 74 goals in 28 games, which comes out to 2.64 goals per game — sixth-best in the entire league. That is a drastic improvement from last year’s 3.41 goals against per game, third-most in the league.
Ivan Provorov has gotten over his sophomore — and junior — slumps with an amazing season thus far. He is averaging over 25 minutes per game and has been a force on both ends of the ice. That is in part due to his growth as a player, but also due to the right-handed veteran defensemen alongside him. Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun have been very-welcomed additions to the blue line as steady veterans to hold down the right side. They have allowed Provorov to thrive as he comes into his prime, and Travis Sanheim has also flown under the radar as a good second-pair option at just 23 years old.
While the third pair has gone through some flux recently, Shayne Gostisbehere and Myers have the skills to be a good, offense-first third pair for the Flyers. Having Robert Hagg as an option to mix in against certain matchups is an ideal scenario for this group.
Last, but certainly not least, is the Flyers’ improved play between the pipes. A full season of Carter Hart has not disappointed thus far — save for a few games in late Oct. — as the young goalie has found his bearings in the NHL. He and Brian Elliott have combined for a .910 save percentage, good for 10th in the NHL.
After using eight goalies last season for the NHL’s third-worst .895 save percentage, having a goalie that can make a big stop has been huge for the Flyers. Both Hart and Elliott have kept the Flyers in games this season and the tandem has been a big part of the team’s success.
The Flyers are sitting pretty with a third of the season in the rearview mirror thanks to a new coach, system, and mixing and matching throughout the lineup. This is one of the best Flyers teams in a while, and they have the ability to do some damage this season.