The Philadelphia Flyers have already accomplished the unexpected. They have defied all odds and not only finished sixth in the league but have entered the Stanley Cup Playoffs as the best seed in the East. The Flyers constructed a recipe for success which included a combination of dominant 5-on-5 play and elite goaltending. This is an excellent team that only has one issue which is their defense.
The Flyers have led themselves into the conversation as the emerging darkhorse candidate, rightfully so. This is not a roster that has to make every effort to score or overcompensate defensively as a result of a deficiency up front. This is an elite and well-rounded club that has a legitimate chance to win the Stanley Cup as long as they can improve defensively.
The Flyers trio of wins against the Bruins, Capitals, and Lightning has resulted in a first-round matchup against the Montreal Canadiens. The three round-robin games included dominant performances against top teams in the East. The Flyers had the edge in the season series winning two of three.
Depth Is The Pinnacle Of The Flyers Offense
The Flyers are not a great team at generating offense, which is supported by their rate of expected goals. On the contrary, they are a great team at executing, their top five shooting talent gets the job done. Another huge facet of the Flyers is their incredible depth. Despite not having Oskar Lindblom or Nolan Patrick in the lineup, their depth players have been nothing short of crucial to their success. It is also interesting where they primarily generate their offense. The Flyers primarily shoot from the slot and the point which is displayed by their quantity of shots. They generate more shots from those respective areas relative to league average.
The Flyers are led by their MVP, Sean Couturier who has emerged as a top 10 center in the NHL. He was unbelievable this season providing the Flyers 2.6 wins above replacement and also led in many other statistical categories. He was unable to replicate his past two seasons scoring over 30 goals but still notched 22 goals and 59 points.
Couturier’s linemates Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek are not what they once were, but are still quality players. Giroux is two years removed from his Hart worthy campaign where he reached the feat of 100 points. Both wingers reached 50 points and combined for 3.4 wins above replacement this season.
The Flyers’ second line centered by Kevin Hayes with wingers Scott Laughton and Travis Konecny was fantastic. The trio combined for 3.1 wins above replacement and 60 goals. This roster has good depth even without Lindblom and Patrick. Nicolas-Aube Kubel has had an impressive rookie season where he notched 15 points, 82 hits, and 1.1 wins above replacement in 36 games.
The Only Hole In the Lineup Is Defense
The only weakness the Flyers have is their defense. The Flyers ranked 22nd in goals against per 60 and 20th in expected goals against per 60. Plain and simple, their defense is not good. This is a team struggling defensively despite their defensive core being good defensively.
This is an odd team due to the fact that the Flyers are a good team at suppressing shot quantity where they are slightly better than league average yet struggle to prevent quality shots. They are a good team at preventing shots from the slot and center of the defensive zone. They make you shoot from the perimeter which would normally make you think that this is a good defensive team. It is simple as that the Flyers give up a large number of quality shots.
Their back end consists of three solid up-and-coming young players, including Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, and Phillippe Myers. The trio of defensemen are all solid top-four defenseman with elite potential. They also have veterans Matt Niskanen, Justin Braun, and Shayne Gostisbehere.
Carter Hart Continues His Unbelievable Start To His NHL Career
Carter Hart continued his dominance in the NHL with another unbelievable season. The 21-year-old has already become one of the better goalies in the NHL and has excelled in the starting position for the Flyers. He has been vital in the Flyers run.
Hart finished the season with a .914 save percentage which was tied for 15th among starters. According to Evolving Hockey’s goals saved above expected, which takes into account shot quality, Hart’s 7.25 ranked 5th among all starters. He also ranked middle of the pack in high-danger save percentage and goals saved above average.
Hart is the pinnacle of the Flyers’ future, he has shown as a 21-year-old that he is already an NHL goaltender. He has a bright future ahead of him.
The Flyers ranked 14th on the powerplay and they generate fewer shots than league average on the man advantage. Likewise, they generate their offense from directly in front of the net and near the point which can be supported by having more shots than league average in those respective areas.
The Flyers ranked 11th on the penalty kill which is courtesy of preventing a large volume of shots. Their penalty kill allows fewer shots than league average in almost every area aside from the center of the point and right near the net. The Flyers have a very good penalty kill overall despite allowing more shots than league average near the net.
How Do The Flyers Match Up Against The Canadiens?
This will be a very entertaining series and I think these two clubs match up well against each other. The Canadiens are the better team at generating offense but lack the shooting talent the Flyers have. The Flyers are a better team at executing offensively which is why they have a higher rate of goals per 60. The Canadiens are the better defensive team meanwhile the Flyers have the edge in goaltending.
Prediction: Flyers in 5
All Stats Information Via NHL.com, Hockey Reference, Evolving-Hockey, HockeyViz & Natural Stat Trick
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