Philadelphia Flyers Must Build on Recent Road Success
Just over a week ago, things looked pretty dismal for the Philadelphia Flyers. The team was in the midst of a three-game losing streak; one of those being a shutout by the Boston Bruins. After that, head coach Dave Hakstol then called on his team telling them to “sack up” only to be handed a 6-1 loss by the Islanders the next day. With only two goals in three games, the team saddled up and rode west in search of greener pastures.
Now, Philadelphia found just that. However, the team must build more on their recent success.
Wrangling the West
One of the biggest positives out of the team’s road trip was the ability to finally take control of games early on. As per NBC Sports Philadelphia, the Flyers never trailed in any of the four games after having been scored on first in the first 11 games of the season. Chasing games was one of multiple stand-out problems for Philadelphia going into the trip. In first periods, the Flyers have been outscored 15-13 this season. Recent success in the problem area has helped balance out the team’s early game troubles.
Young Guns Get it Going
Another stand-out on the road for the Flyers was their contribution from a trio young guns. Nolan Patrick, the 2017 second overall pick, notched six points throughout the four-game stretch. In addition, second-year forward Oskar Lindblom matched Patrick’s point total to the tee with two goals and four assists of his own. Defenseman Ivan Provorov seemed to find his stride as well posting a point in three out of the four games. As per Broad Street Buzz, the 21-year-old went goalless in his first 11 games of the season before his first tally against Anaheim on Oct. 30.
“Saving” the Days
Goaltending was also an important aspect of Philadelphia’s western success. Although one game was lost to San Jose in overtime, goalies Brian Elliott and Calvin Pickard backstopped a reemerging Flyers team. Elliott took on the first two opponents making a total of 48 saves against the 52 shots he faced. Then, the veteran goalie went down after a collision in practice and was sent back to Philadelphia for evaluation. Luckily, according to NBC 10’s John Boruk, it was announced on Wednesday that Elliott is ready if needed for an upcoming game.
Pickard also held his own getting a win on the road against the Arizona Coyotes. In his two games, the fifth-year goaltender stopped 65 of 71 shots faced. Pickard’s phenomenal, 34-save effort against Arizona on Monday was a huge part of the team’s win to close out the trip. It’s likely that he’ll also start Thursday’s game against the Coyotes once again if the Flyers choose to ride a hot goalie.
Patching Up Problems
For as much success as Philadelphia had away from home, there are still some problem areas.
Special Teams Turmoil
Still, one of the biggest flaws in the Flyers’ game is their penalty kill. In each recent road game the opponent scored a power play goal; Philadelphia comes home killing 11 out of their last 15 penalties. At 69.1 percent, the Flyers’ PK is still one of the league’s worst at no. 30 just above the Florida Panthers’ 68.4 percent. One thing the team may want to leave out in the wild west is their atrocious ability to stymie opponents’ power plays.
Also, the Flyers goaltending carousel has started to spin once again. Elliott’s brief injury had the Flyers call up Alex Lyon from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Lyon, who played seven games with the big club last season, served as Pickard’s backup on Monday night. Michal Neuvirth has also been in and out of the lineup as well. The usual backup goalie has played just two games this season, one being a conditioning game with the Phantoms and the other against the Islanders, as per Broad Street Hockey.
Neuvirth’s latest condition is uncertain. Currently, the Flyers’ goaltending duo is sort of back to normal with Elliott and Pickard at the helm. However, if players continue to fall, the revolving door of Philadelphia’s goalies will just keep spinning.
As Philadelphia returns to the comfort of home for the next five games, there is a sense of confidence yet also worry. The team found a stretch of swagger from their trip out west, but can they translate that to home ice? If the Flyers can build on the positives while stomping out the negatives, the road from here on out won’t be nearly as rocky as it’s been early on.
Author: Matthew Mastrogiovanni