Back in late October, the Philadelphia Flyers and their allegiance of fans were disarray. The franchise appeared to be heading towards a frustrating season as the Flyers opened the season posting a disappointing 4-11 record.
To make matters worse, superstar Claude Giroux was struggling, the blue line was a mess and head coach Peter Laviolette couldn’t find a way to jumpstart this team.
In a somewhat surprising decision, the Flyers brass fired Peter Laviolette and promoted Craig Berube as the next head coach.
Berube’s no-nonsense approach shook things up in Philadelphia and helped push the Flyers in the right direction.
Once the Flyers got rolling, they never looked back, ripping off 9 of their next 13 games after the horrid 4-11 start. Anchored by one of the leagues most lethal power play’s, the Flyers offensive ability has been a force to reckoned with.
Although the offence receives much of the attention in Philadelphia, particularly do-everything superstar Claude Giroux, the real turn around in Philadelphia took place on the penalty kill. The Flyers killed off 84.8% of their penalties this season, good for 7th-best in the NHL.
The development of versatile forward Sean Courturier has helped improve the Flyers overall play, especially down the middle. (Image Credit: Eric Hartline/USA Today)
Although some may feel like that metric is meaningless to a team with such great offensive prowess, it is actually very valuable because it allows the Flyers to play their aggressive, physical style of play. The Flyers ranked number one in the NHL in penalty minutes for this year and averaged 14.39 minutes a night in the sin bin. Not too many teams can apply that style of physical punishment and win games like the Flyers can, but when you have a talented group of penalty killers like the Flyers do in Sean Couturier, Matt Read, Claude Giroux and Braydon Coburn, you can get away with this approach.
The Flyers agitating approach has helped them earn a league high 293 power play opportunities. Needless to say, the reward has outweighed the risk for the Flyers.
Even though the Flyers possess a potent offence too many, they actually struggle to score goals in 5-on-5 play. The Flyers have played mediocre hockey on even strength ice, scoring 144 goals, while allowing 150 goals.
But when the Flyers gain a lead on their opponent, their 5-on-5 play drastically improves. Philadelphia has outscored their opponents 48-36 in 5-on-5 play when they have a lead.
In a nutshell, if you’re going against the Flyers, don’t fall behind.
We all know the Flyers are loaded with offensive talent as they boast one of the Eastern Conference’s best group of top nine forwards. But can this team find a way to become less dependent on the power play and produce goals at even strength?
X-Factor: Steve Mason
How will goalie Steve Mason’s inexperience effect him in the City of Brotherly Love during playoff time? (Image Credit: John Geliebter/USA Today)
After a collision against the Pittsburgh Penguins, question marks arose about goalie Steve Mason’s health. Will he be ready for game one? If not, can backup Ray Emery carry the load?
If healthy, how will Mason’s lack of playoff experience play out? Mason has not posted elite numbers by any means, but since receiving a contract extension in January, Mason has posted a .917 save percentage. Clearly he has been motivated to prove the Flyers brass right in betting on him with an extension.
In a city like Philadelphia, players are not measured on regular season performances, they are measured by playoff success. Will Mason turn out to be like Ilya Bryzgalov? Or will he rise to the occasion and perform to the level of recent Philadelphia goaltenders like Brian Boucher and Ron Hextall?
Only time will tell.
|| 1 Defensemen