It is safe to say that the Flyers still have yet to find their groove quite yet.
Sure, part of that can be attributed to this unconventional season and the unrelenting East division.
In fact, looking back at last season, it was around this time that the Flyers were playing their best hockey. The team went into the COVID-19 shutdown, winning 8 of their 9 prior games and looking like a surefire contender for a top seed.
Could a mid-season resurgence be on the horizon? Only time will tell.
There are plenty of positives to discuss as the sample size for games played continues to grow. I have assembled a list of 3 players who I believe have provided the largest impact to the Flyers thus far – and in this odd year, far more goes into this analysis than just points, especially if the player was not expected to be a focal point of the team.
As the Flyers continue to find their identity and we itch closer to the trade deadline, this team must make plenty of material improvements to gain a top-4 finish in the division.
If these players continue to impress, the team may elevate its performance as a result.
James van Riemsdyk
JvR has been the surprise of the year. As stated in previous articles, he was a near-lock for becoming unprotected in next year’s expansion draft before this season. However, his turnaround has been quite incredible, to the point where the Flyers will almost certainly protect him despite his large contract.
Through 23 games, his time-on-ice average is nearly 2 minutes greater than last year’s average of 14:54, reflecting the team’s reliance on him in important situations like the powerplay. He is likely to surpass his 66-game point total from last season in fewer games this year, as his total currently sits at 27. Additionally, early-season shot percentage numbers often prove to be unreliable as the season progresses. Still, it is important to note that his current percentage is 20.8, compared to his career average of 12.2.
Coaches have sung his praises, and his on-ice performance tied in with his locker room leadership cannot be understated.
I hope I don’t get attacked for this one. But I was wrong- at the beginning of the season, I wrote that Brian Elliott should not be relied on and that Carter Hart would have to be a clear #1 if this team were to go on a run. However, shaky play from Hart has not resulted in disaster for the Flyers. Brian Elliott has filled in when needed and has been incredibly impactful.
As an aging veteran, Elliott understands his role.
He has been quoted repeatedly saying he knows Hart is the future and will likely be the starter as we advance. But as more and more games pass by with Hart’s GAA taking hits left and right, Elliott has been superb. It has gotten to the point where if Hart were to have a good second half of the season, there would still be a legitimate question going into the playoffs regarding who should get the nod. I still refuse to hit the panic button on Hart as he is young, inexperienced, and playing behind a subpar defense.
If I were Alain Vigneault, I would certainly not throw the towel in on the youngster quite yet- and he most certainly will not.
Yes, after grilling the defense in the prior description, I’m going to highlight the bright spot. Ivan Provorov, if he hadn’t already, has cemented his spot as a true #1 defenseman in the league. If it weren’t for him, the team would truly be in panic mode regarding the defense. Thus far, he has logged a career-high average of 25:20 TOI to go along with 11 points. While quarterbacking the powerplay unit, he plays one of the most important roles in the league.
The biggest question mark from now on is who to pair him with; Vigneault has recently expressed his disappointment with Phil Myers. Erik Gustafsson has certainly heard some less-than-pleasant remarks about his performance. Shayne Gostisbehere could be an option from now on, as he has looked more and more comfortable each game.
Provorov’s stats could increase if trade rumblings surrounding the Flyers prove to be true in getting a solid #2 D to play alongside him could not only fix the defense but also improve goaltending and power play numbers.
These are just a few of the Flyers’ contributors who I believe have been the most impactful to the team this year.
Sean Couturier is clearly the most important player on the team. Still, I opted to examine deeper than surface-level into players who may have floated under the radar or who have had an unexpected impact.
- Joel Farabee
- Kevin Hayes
While on paper, these players may not come to mind as MVPs, without them, the Flyers would be worse off.
As more contributors emerge later in the season, this list will most certainly grow.
Featured Image: Frank Franklin II/AP