The 2020-2021 season has already seemed like a rollercoaster ride for this Philadelphia Flyers hockey team. This season gives us much to discuss. From being dominated by the Boston Bruins, giving up leads late in games, and having the COVID-19 virus postpone games. In a 56 game season, the Flyers finally played their 14th game, the quarter season mark.
After playing a quarter of their season, the Flyers sit in a fourth-place tie in the East Division with the Pittsburgh Penguins. With an 8-4-3 record, we sit above the NHL’s average and are continuing to streak upwards.
Before game postponements, the Flyers played an overall dominant game against the Capitals. Eleven days later, with the roster makings of an AHL team, Alain Vigneault and company looked dominant at times. However, the NHL inexperience of some of the players proved the Flyers were missing their key players. Let’s break down the entire team by the offense, defense, and goaltenders and give out some grades, if you will, for the quarter season evaluation.
Flyers Quarter Season Evaluations
At times this season, the offense has looked dominant in the opposing team’s end. They have proven that they can go out and score goals and shut other teams down. Still, there are other times where they forget to bring their sticks. Games where they forgot their sticks include Buffalo and Boston’s 6-1 shellacking.
The reemergence of James van Riemsdyk has been a welcomed production to the team this year. He recently just went on a seven-game point streak and is currently leading the team in assists and points. Linemate Joel Farabee has also surprised many this season as he is currently tied with van Riemsdyk in goals (8).
Kevin Hayes, Claude Giroux, and Jakub Voracek have silently produced, even amongst fans still calling them out for more. All three have combined for 38 points and are all in the top five points on the team. Travis Konecny, at one point, was the team’s leading scorer up until his benching by the coaching staff – he has all but disappeared since last season’s career year.
Some of you might be tired of hearing this, but the wingers of the fourth line, Nicolas Aube-Kubel, and Michael Raffl, have produced for the Orange and Black in many different ways. Their consistent forechecking on the opponent’s defense and their constant digging have helped them turn plays into goals. Regardless of who is centering those two, they find ways to be productive and have been the most consistent line for this Flyers team.
The offense has shown a lot of upside and can score big goals when they are on their game. One aspect of the game they need to improve upon is shots. This must be tough for them in the Wells Fargo without fans yelling at them to “SHOOT!” but they are being outshot 330-465 this season (that’s not good).
FORWARDS GRADE : B
Since the retirement of Matt Niskanen, the defense has never been the same. The front office failed to replace the gaping hole that Niskanen left with a viable defenseman to solidify that top pairing alongside Ivan Provorov. The re-signing of Justin Braun and the free-agent signing of Erik Gustafsson wasn’t the ideal additions that this defense needed.
In fourteen games played, the coaching staff has been putting together numerous defensive combinations. Throughout injuries, Covid-19, or just overall bad play, these shake-ups are needed in order to put the best six defensemen on the ice. In the shootout loss to the Rangers, AV and company went with the following combinations :
The only consistent player for the blue line has been Ivan Provorov. He has logged more than 25 minutes of ice time a night and still produces in the points column. Currently leading in defensive points, Provorov continues to impress as he has become the top defenseman for the Orange and Black.
This season, the defense was a major concern, mainly due to their transition out of the defensive zone. Many of their breakout attempts led to turnovers, allowing the opposing team a high-risk scoring chance. Even early on in the season, opposing teams somehow found ways to sneak past the defense and score goals while being left wide open.
In games as of late, the defense has started to shore up and play a better game all around. They have started playing physical by playing the body as soon as the opposing forwards cross the blue line and protect Carter Hart a lot more after whistles. There are still more areas of improvement, but with as young as this defensive core is, they are still finding ways to help the Flyers win games.
DEFENSEMEN GRADE : B-
Chuck Fletcher decided to use the same goaltending tandem from last year after resigning Brian Elliott to another one-year contract. Brian Elliot and Carter Hart’s tandem worked very well last season and still looks really good this season. Having a good 1A/1B goaltending system helps this season with having it be such a shortened and condensed schedule.
The amount of back-to-back games is tough, especially if a team is trying to ride a goaltender marked as their starter. We have seen Carter Hart come back down to earth after allowing four or more goals in a game, proving that the young netminder is still human. Alain Vigneault isn’t afraid to take Hart out of the crease after a terrible game to switch it up to Elliott.
Hart has looked…. okay, so far this season. In 11 games started, Hart has recorded a 5-3-3 record with a .891 save percentage and 3.68 goals-against average. Obviously, the goals against needs to come down, but his overall play could improve. His puck handling skills could improve, which is something that he is working on during this season. Fans that keep saying to “trade Hart away for a goal scorer” need to sit down and mind their place. Hart is young and is still adapting to the NHL pace in just his full second season. Expect Hart to start turning it around as the season goes along.
Elliott has looked decent in his six games played this season. He has started four games, recording a 3-1 record with a .928 save percentage and a 2.25 goals-against average. He has recorded a shutout as well this season as he blanked the Sabres in relief of Carter Hart the next day. Brian Elliot shows no signs of slowing down at the ripe age of 35, which should excite Flyers fans and help Carter Hart’s development.
Both goalies have had a decent run this season with having impressive numbers early on. A lot of the goals against them have not been their fault, due to failed assignments on the defense or bad (or really good, depending on how you look at it) deflections by the other teams. As soon as the defense begins to shore up and play better, the goaltender’s jobs will get 100% easier. Looking forward to watching Carter Hart make some fantastic saves as the season goes on.
GOALTENDING GRADE: B
The Philadelphia Flyers have looked decent so far this season. However, they still have not proven to the league or their faithful fans that they are at the top of their game. Even the players and coaches know that they have not played to their highest potential. If this team can start firing on all cylinders, the East Division will be in trouble. They have strung together wins against the Penguins, Sabres, Devils, Islanders, and Capitals.
For whatever reason, the Bruins have had their number all season regardless of how they have played this season. If they can turn up the knobs a couple of notches against the Bruins, any team in this league can be beatable. It has been an exciting season, to say the least, and the fact that the Flyers still find themselves in second place in the East after still playing less than ideal hockey.
OVERALL GRADE: B
Photo Credit – Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire