They always say you have to wait 10 games into the season before you can judge a team. Well, we’re 10 games into the Flyers season, and the team is off to a very good start. Perfect? Certainly not, but this team has shown their ability to win in offensive explosions as well as goaltender battles. They’re just short of the top 10 in goals per game, while 5th best in goals against per game. The Power Play is above 20% (more on that later), and they’re in the top half of the league on the PK. All of this while missing some very key pieces in Ryan Ellis, Kevin Hayes, and Wade Allison (yes, the man I bad mouthed for no good reason last year). To be where they are without those three is a massive testament to how good this team can be.
I say all of this, because the Flyers are getting ready for one of the toughest stretches I’ve seen in recent memory for any NHL team. The following isn’t even close to a wholistic view of the schedule, but it just gives you some context.
You never want to see a stretch of the defending Cup champs, a team you always struggle against, and 3 of the top 5 teams in the league as of November 9th. Even more so when the team is a little banged up. Fortunately, though, it looks like Ellis and Hayes are tracking to play in about a week or so. Their addition to the lineup not only gives the team another jolt of talent, but some freedom for AV to play with the lineup a bit if needed. It cannot go unnoticed that adding Cam Atkinson in the offseason is the reason we’re seeing the Giroux – Couturier – Konecny line so much, and why they’re playing so well. Adding Hayes to the forward lineup to a line with Farabee and Atkinson (despite Brassard’s exceptional play), will make this top 6 deadly.
Another reason the Flyers seem ready for this rough trip is the play of the goaltenders. First off, Martin Jones has looked outstanding. I understand it’s only been 3 games, but the man is 3-0, and has a shutout, a .950 save percentage, and a 1.67 GAA. There could not have been a single soul that predicted he would play this well to start the year, and he’s a big reason the Flyers are competing in a super stacked Metro division.
On the topic of goaltending, I’m going to say it right now: Carter Hart is back. The numbers don’t show it yet (Fink I’m looking at you buddy), but those are skewed by his first two games and will come up as the season goes on. Anyone who has watched the Flyers this year has seen that Hart has played very well so far and is on track to have that bounce back year we all hoped for. If the two of them keep playing this way, it’s going to be a good November for the Flyers and us, the fans.
One area that does need some fixing heading into this stretch, though, is the power play. Look, I understand why AV brought Cam Atkinson up to the first unit, the guy is a stud, but why would you take something that wasn’t close to broken and try to fix it? Now the first unit has no one to take a one timer, and the power play looks stagnant as hell. There has been such a drop off since the power play changes, and it could easily be a reason the Flyers don’t have a good month, if that ends up happening. I expect AV to roll with this unit for another game or two and switch it up when they eventually don’t work. At least, that’s what I hope.
It’s truly tough to say what the result of this month will be. I expect a bad game every now and then, as it’s going to be tough to play lights out with the sheer number of games they have in the next month. At the end of the day, however, I expect we’ll see the Flyers in the top 3 in the Metro. I’ll say it for a long time until proven otherwise, this is a playoff team. Now it’s time for them to continue playing like it. Let’s go Flyers!