The Philadelphia Flyers increased their win streak to five with a blowout win against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Taking a 1-1 tie into the third period, the Flyers scored five unanswered goals to win the contest 6-1. Joel Farabee scored an empty-net goal to make it 4-1 but the team wasn’t done yet. James van Riemsdyk and Shayne Gostisbehere both tacked on a goal following the empty netter.
After a torrid November, the Flyers are quickly establishing themselves as a top-flight team in the league. Over their last three games, they have scored 16 goals while only allowing five. This can largely be contributed to head coach Alain Vigneault’s propensity to ice four lines, and his trust in his players.
Depth is usually attributed to forward lines but the Flyers boast depth at every position. Four forward lines, seven rotating defensemen, and two winning goaltenders will be the key to the Flyers maintaining their remarkable success in November and throughout the 2019-20 NHL season.
Four Lines of Fun
The top line of Claude Giroux, Morgan Frost and Travis Konecny have been electric on the ice. Giroux and Konecny are developing palpable chemistry and have been tearing it up during the win streak. The most surprising part of the Flyers’ top line is their ability to shut down other top lines almost completely.
The moniker of “top line” is a bit of a misnomer as Vigneault likes to distribute ice time almost evenly to all four lines. Giroux and fellow center Sean Couturier are both averaging more than 19 minutes of ice time per game. “Third-line center” Kevin Hayes averages just under 18 minutes per game. Having this sort of center depth allows for all four lines to get chances in the offensive zone. With players like Scott Laughton, Michael Raffl, and Tyler Pitlick starting to tally points, this team becomes even tougher to play against.
“Fourth line winger” van Riemsdyk has started to return to his scoring ways during the win streak. He finished a beautiful breakaway goal against the Maple Leafs off an incredible feed from defenseman Philippe Myers. If van Riemsdyk can find his game down the stretch, he will surely be promoted with more ice time and with more potent linemates.
Laughton, who spends most of his time in the bottom six, also contributed against the Maple Leafs, potting his third goal in four games. Since returning from injury, Laughton has settled into his wing responsibilities extremely well. His chemistry with Hayes is apparent and they are ferocious on puck pursuit and puck protection.
A Defensive Rotation
Myers, who recently sat against the Detroit Red Wings on Nov. 29, is part of the Flyers’ new three-man defensive rotation. Vigneault deploys Myers, Robert Hagg, and Shayne Gostisbehere seemingly at will. All three players have spent time in the press box and have responded well to their benching. Each player must earn their ice time and this has ignited the competition for the fifth and sixth defense spots. In their game against the Maple Leafs, Myers contributed three assists and Gostisbehere tallied a goal and an assist.
These three players, including Hagg, have forced Vigneault to switch into a rotational defensive pairing. All three players have stepped up and accepted their role seamlessly and it is starting to show up on the score sheet.
The Flyers are one of only two teams to sport two goaltenders with more than seven wins this season. Carter Hart and Brian Elliott have transformed the Flyers’ goaltending situation from a weakness to a strength. The steadying presence that these two bring to the back end has paid dividends for everyone on the ice. Hart, in particular, has been a monster at the Wells Fargo Center. He boasts a 1.44 goals against average and a .944 save percentage in eight games.
The Flyers’ blowout win against the Maple Leafs reaffirms the strengths this team showcased during their historic November. The team boasts depth at every position, especially on defense and in the crease. The Flyers’ depth will take a hit though as Raffl sustained a broken finger and will be out four weeks.
Vigneault, as he as all season, will adapt to the injury and most likely showcase why this team is as deep as it is. Look for players like Hayes, Laughton, Myers, and Gostisbehere to continue their hot streaks as this team looks to further their win streak against the Arizona Coyotes on Dec. 5.