With 11 points in 11 games, the Philadelphia Flyers’ 2019-20 NHL season has left fans wanting. They entered the season with new players, a new coaching staff, and presumably a new, winning attitude. Their 5-5-1 record projected over 82 games would have the Flyers barely missing the playoffs and fans would be rightfully irate. However, there are multiple silver linings in an otherwise disappointing October: the team’s advanced metrics.
The Flyers have a 53.6 Corsi For %, and they consistently push play in all three zones. Whether you attribute the massive upgrades in both their power play and on the penalty kill to the coaching or the new roster additions, the team has shrugged off its special teams demons. There are reasons to be hopeful and the numbers trend towards the team turning it around. Here’s what October has shown us about the Flyers and their playoff chances.
Allow yourself room for optimism. Aside from their record, the Flyers have some incredible bright spots, the brightest of all being the play of young forward Travis Konecny. He leads the team in goals (6), assists (7), power-play points (6) and points (13). The team needs players like Claude Giroux (seven points this season), and Jake Voracek (nine points this season) to lead this team offensively but Konency has wrestled for the reins.
The Flyers have a 23.81% success rate on the power play, and an 85.29% on the penalty kill. Compare that to the league averages of 19.78% and 80.22% and it shows promise.
Head coach Alain Vigneault’s tutelage seems to have solved the special teams woes, though it is still early in the season. Vigneault is a bright spot in the early season too. He wastes no time in changing lines or pairings that don’t work or aren’t playing well and has been vocal about sitting players who aren’t performing.
A tale as old as time, the Flyers’ goaltending has not been good enough. Both Brian Elliott and Carter Hart have had stretches of great play and stretches of horrid play. I will attribute some of their struggles to the defense, but they have allowed several easy goals against. Both have over a 3.00 goals-against average.
The defense, specifically the bottom pairing, has left a lot to be desired. Robert Hagg and Shayne Gostisbehere have been susceptible and downright porous. Vigneault has shuffled the bottom-four multiple times, but nothing has stuck yet. Sam Morin recently got his chance to play for the big club in Hagg’s spot, but it didn’t go well. Also, the Flyers were blown out by their cross-state rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins. A 7-1 loss is embarrassing, especially to a rival.
What Needs to Change
The biggest change I need to see is to the offense. The Flyers are strong on possession but the pucks haven’t found their way in. Through 11 games, they rank in the middle of the league with 36 goals for and 38 against. Giroux, Sean Couturier, and James van Riemsdyk are pivotal to the offense going forward.
Team defense needs to be stronger as well, and I don’t just mean the defenseman. I would like to see the forwards come back a little faster on the opponent’s counter attack to relieve some of the pressure. The centers do this extremely well, but if the wingers could make it a priority as well the team would suppress enough shots for the goalies to bounce back. Elliott and Hart have shown flashes of the talents they can be this season, they just need to be more consistent.
This season’s Flyers have shown how strong they can be on the puck and how weak they can be on defense. After 11 games in October, they rank near the middle. Strong special teams have carried them through the early goings, while sub-par goaltending has held them back. Konecny leads the team in points but he will need help if the Flyers are going to make a playoff push.
Related: Flyers Goaltending is the Key this Season
That means they’ll also need a big step up from Giroux, van Riemsdyk, and even Gostisbehere. Once everything starts to click the group will be tough to play against. Take it from Vigneault, they’re “still trying to sort out this group, and that’s normal. I mean, we’re only 10 games in and it usually takes a little bit of time to figure out what you have.”