PHILADELPHIA, PA – DECEMBER 19: Kevin Hayes #13 of the Philadelphia Flyers skates over to be congratulated by teammates Tyler Pitlick #18, Jakub Voracek #93, Matt Niskanen #15, and Shayne Gostisbehere #53 after they scored agains the Buffalo Sabres on December 19, 2019 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
We have now reached the All-Star Break, which this year actually coincides with the Flyers bye week. Through 50 games, the Flyers are the only team to have 3 four game winning streaks and 3 four game losing streaks. With the stretch run in front of them, the Flyer find themselves right in the mix in the East. It’s time to take a look at how they have gotten to this point of the season.
The offseason for the Flyers began rather quickly, as the team wasted no time in finding their new Head Coach. On April 15th, 2019, Alain Vigneault (AV) became the 21st Head Coach in franchise history. This coming just one short week after beginning their search for their new Head Coach.
AV came to Philly with loads of experience under his belt as an NHL Head Coach. Vigneault’s resume consists of 1,216 games of experience As a head coach. Including stints with Montreal, Vancouver, and the New York Rangers.
While in Vancouver, AV won the Jack Adams Award in 2006-2007, along with a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2010-2011. In Vigneault’s first season in New York in 2013-2014, he also took the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Final’s. Coming into the 2019-2020 season, Philadelphia was banking on this success to carry over. So far this seems to be holding true.
Emerging Young Talent
The Flyers have done an excellent job completely overhauling the youth in their organization over the last half decade. Once a team looking to make a big splash,they have finally made the transition to developing their own talent. This new philosophy, of building through the draft, can be seen by looking up and down the Flyers roster. With big time contributors like Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov were both Flyers draft picks. Konecny actually reached his first career All Star Game this season. You can look at other aspects of their lineup and see good contributions from other Flyers draft picks. Players such as: Philippe Myers, Travis Sanheim, Shayne Gostisbehere, Oskar Lindblom, and Joel Farabee just to name a few.
The rest of the organization is littered with young talent ready to contribute at the NHL Level. This includes: Morgan Frost, Nicholas Aube-Kubel, Mark Friedman, and David Kase. All of these players have seen time in the NHL this season. If there is one thing for certain when it comes to the Flyers, the future is incredibly bright.
There is one player not named in the above tribute to the Flyers young core. He might be the most important player on the entire Philadelphia Flyers Roster, that is goaltender Carter Hart.
Hart burst onto the scene in the 2018-2019 season. Making his NHL debut on December 18th, 2018 against the Detroit Red Wings, Hart solidified his future rockstar status. Leading the Flyers to a 3-2 win in his debut, Hart stopped 20 of 22 Red Wing shots. Carter went on to finish his first season putting up very respectable numbers as a 20 year old rookie. Posting a record of 16-13-1 with a 2.83 GAA and a .917 save percentage.
Entering this season, Hart was part of a tandem with veteran Brian Elliott. The expectations were that Hart would continue to grow his game and continue to improve. As a 21 year old kid playing in the NHL, the results have been good.
Carter Hart has appeared in 32 games (29 Starts), posting a record of 15-11-1 with a GAA of 2.61 and a save percentage of .905.
As a result of this strong play, the organization and the fans believe they have found their Franchise Goalie.
While the Flyers core has seen some changes over the last few seasons, the top end of this group has pretty much been intact for the past half decade. Led by their Captain, Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier and James van Riemsdyk; the Flyers came into this season feeling confident that this team had a strong veteran presence to mesh with the young talent on the roster. The Front Office went out this past offseason and decided to continue to add to this veteran group. The Flyers acquired the rights to former Rangers/Jets Center Kevin Hayes on June 3rd, 2019 and went on to sign him to a 7 year extension. Hayes played under Vigneault in New York, and brought a strong two way game to Philadelphia.
The Flyers continued to add to their veteran core by trading for Defensemen Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun in two separate deals. Both of these players have brought a wealth of experience to the Flyers, along with loads of playoff experience. The stat that I found most interesting, when diving into the Flyers this season is the 3 big time offseason acquisitions (Hayes, Braun, and Niskanen) came into opening night with 249 career playoff games combined. The rest of the Flyers Opening Night roster had played in a combined 248 career playoff games. If that doesn’t tell you what the Flyers were trying to do this past offseason, then I’m not sure what you are looking at.
The 2019-2020 season has been defined by strong stretches of play that seem to be followed by some bad hockey. In my opinion, that answer lies somewhere in the middle of each reality. Through 50 games, the Flyers sit 1 point out of a playoff spot with a record of 27-16-6 (60 points). Currently the best home team in the NHL with a home record of 17-4-4, they struggle away from home posting a record of 10-13-2. The road woes came to a head with an abysmal 1-4-1 West Coast trip over the holiday season. The Flyers really seemed lost without an identity for the first time this season.
If the Flyers can find some footing away from the Wells Fargo Center, they will find themselves in good shape.
As we have seen numerous times through the years, including that infamous Flyers run in 2009-2010, all you need to do is get into the playoffs and anything can happen. Especially when you are a team that has an incredibly talented goaltender.
As we sit here, on January 23rd, this Flyers team is right on course with the expectations for the season. While they do not find themselves at the top of the standings, they are battling for a playoff spot. With 32 games to play this season, the path too the post season lies right in front of the Flyers. Ultimately, it will be up to the Orange and Black to seize the opportunity.
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