It hasn’t always been pretty (take their Game 2 OT win over the Islanders, for example) but the Flyers have posted an 8-3 record through their first eleven playoff games and notched their first series win since 2012.
They’ve won ugly, they steamrolled through the round-robin, been incredibly resilient after losses, it’s been a roller coaster postseason for the orange and black.
Let’s look back at what we’ve learned from the Flyers’ first eleven games since they returned to play in early August.
Carter Hart Is Playoff-Ready
One of the biggest question marks coming into this postseason was just how ready was a 21-year-old Carter Hart for his first postseason.
We got our answer pretty quickly as he’s allowed less than one goal in five of his ten starts, and overall, has posted a .935 save percentage with a 1.97 GAA.
He’s had the support of a solid Flyers’ defense in front of him, but no one can deny that Hart has been superb this postseason. He’s singlehandedly won the Flyers a handful of games and been arguably their best player.
What’s been most impressive about Hart (and the entire Flyers team) is just how good he is at bouncing back. From a tough loss – aka Game 2 against Montreal – or a bad goal, he just seems unphased by adversity.
The Flyers have certainly left him out to dry at times and he’s had their backs, and that’s all you can ask from a goaltender.
Their Young Defensemen Have Taken the Next Step Forward
Other than Hart, the Flyers had some other question marks coming into the postseason. They’re a team built with two cores – a veteran group and a young, talented group – and to win, they needed the young group to prove that they’re ready.
They definitely have.
The most noticeable has been the second defensive pairing of Travis Sanheim and Phil Myers. At just 24 and 23 years old, Sanheim and Myers are twelfth in TOI among all pairings at 5v5 and have posted a 65.59 Goals For % – highest among the Flyers’ d-pairings and 17th in the NHL.
Their combination in size and speed causes havoc for opposing team’s forwards and they both have the ability to score, combining for 4 goals – both notching a game-winning goal during these playoffs.
Then there’s Ivan Provorov, who is still just 23 years old, though it seems like he’s been in the league for much longer than four years. He’s been a workhorse, like usual. Averaging 25 minutes per game, powerplay, penalty kill, 5v5, the guy does it all – and at a high level.
Joel Farabee Has the Potential to Be Very Good
Surprise, surprise. Another young Flyers player that has impressed in the playoffs. They’ve depended heavily on them and they have provided – especially when their top guys weren’t producing.
Farabee has become an important part of the Flyers’ top-six, taking control of the second-line LW spot after being benched for Game 3 against the Canadiens. The second-line has easily been the Flyers’ most consistent and Farabee has played a role with his speed and willingness to drive to the net.
He’s still just 20 years old but is already playing top-six minutes and on the top powerplay unit. Farabee is really looking like a great piece for the future.
Kevin Hayes Has Solidified the 2C Role
Solidified may even be an understatement. It’s hard to describe just how important Hayes has been to the Flyers’ success. His regular-season numbers arent flashy but he’s been a big-game player for the Flyers and he’s shown it in the playoffs.
He leads the team with 9 points in the playoffs and he’s centered the Flyers’ most consistent line that constantly pins the other team in their zone.
Hayes’ confidence with the puck is something to behold and something the Flyers sorely needed coming into the 2019-20 season. He’s been a maniac on the penalty kill, he can score, play defense, and you can tell that his teammates love him.
The Flyers’ Resilience
It’s been their calling card since January – they just don’t have two bad games in a row. Give credit to the coaching staff, give credit to the players, Carter Hart, they all have played a pivotal role in their ability to bounce back.
Whether it was coming back from the 5-0 loss against the Habs in Game 2, letting a 3-0 lead slip away against the Islanders, they just find a way to right the ship every time.
Shayne Gostisbehere Has No Place in the Lineup
While Gostisbehere has had his moments during the playoffs, there is ultimately no place to put him in the lineup. Unless something were to happen to one of their six defensemen, the Flyers are simply just better with Robert Hagg in the lineup.
Outside of Game 6 against Montreal where the Flyers were dealing with Matt Niskanen’s suspension, Gostisbehere has found himself paired with Justin Braun every time he enters the lineup. It just hasn’t worked.
The pairing was statistically poor during the regular season, playing just 173 minutes together but posting a 25.87 Goals For %. In the playoffs, it’s easy to tell that they lack chemistry and are often caught out of position.
While the Flyers could certainly use Ghost on their struggling powerplay, there’s just nowhere for him at even strength.
The Inconsistency of Their Top Players
Despite their solid record since the restart, the Flyers have not had consistent production from their top players outside of Kevin Hayes and Jake Voracek.
Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Travis Konecny have certainly started to come on as of late but they have still just combined for one goal. They do combine for 15 assists but they have certainly left some missed opportunities out on the ice.
Though he’s becoming more of an afterthought now, James van Riemsdyk can’t even crack the lineups most nights and is without a point in the seven games he has played. Ultimately, it seems that JVR just doesn’t fit in the lineup with his lack of speed and defensive ability.
If the Flyers want to finish off the Islanders and continue their run, they will certainly need their top guys to cash in when they get their chances.
How They’ve Dealt With Opposing Teams’ Forechecks
While the Flyers certainly have played some good defense during the playoffs, they have also experienced their fair share of lapses when dealing with pressure.
The Canadiens relentless forecheck gave the Flyers fits at times in their first-round series and we’ve seen some of the same against the Islanders. Though the Islanders have not been quite as aggressive as Montreal, we’ve seen them force the Flyers into turnovers in their own end when they put on the pressure and it helped them erase a 3-0 deficit in Game 2.
It hasn’t been bad enough to put it in the ugly section just yet, but teams certainly have a blueprint to beat the Flyers if they aren’t able to make quick, smart decisions with the puck in their own end,
There’s no way to spin it, 4 for 42 on the powerplay is bad. Yes, they’ve gotten slightly better and don’t look as out of sync, but they’re just not finding the back of the net.
When you have that much talent on your powerplay, you need to make the opposition pay when they take a penalty. The Flyers just aren’t doing that. They’re settling for a lot of point shots that are being blocked, they’ve struggled to take away the goalies eyes, faceoffs have even become a problem at times. There’s just a lot of factors working against the Flyers powerplay.
It looked like they may have snapped their skid on the powerplay in Game 5 against Montreal when they potted three goals with the man advantage, but they’ve gone the next three without one, going 0 for their last 7.
Featured Image: Cole Burston