Quarter Season Philadelphia Flyers Review

Not all teams have played 20 games quite yet, but they will have soon. Thus, it’s time to take a step back from the day-to-day goings on and review how the team has fared through the first quarter of the season. The Flyers play their 21st game tonight against Tampa Bay.

The Flyers have predictably gone 9-8-3.. no one expected them to be much more than a playoff bubble team. That’s pretty much where they sit right now. 1 point out of 8th in the East, fighting for relevancy. The good news is there are young players like Konecny and Provorov (teenagers!) who are playing LARGE minutes and the future of the franchise is in good hands. If the Flyers can rebuild on the fly while maintaining playoff relevancy that’s a pretty big deal (ask Leaf fans).

What’s been unpredictable is the way they’ve struggled to that mediocre middling status. Not that anyone knows it (or perhaps they’re just unwilling to admit it?) Steve Mason has provided the Flyers with very stable goaltending over the last few seasons. His 5v5 save percentage ranks behind only, ONLY Henrik Lundqvist over the last couple of seasons. If that’s not stable goaltending I don’t know what is! He may let in a muffin now and again, but I feel his mistakes have been rather unfairly put in the spotlight.

Mason

Photo via Fimmano Photography

This year however.. yikes.. has it been a struggle. Out of 47 goalies who have played at least 200 minutes at 5v5.. Steve Mason is 42nd and Michal Neuvirth is 47th. Based on that statistic alone it’s a miracle that the Flyers are even a middling team. They should be wallowing in the basement with goaltending like that. But they aren’t! Good news is it looks like Mason is rebounding as he’s been quite good in the last couple of weeks.

The reason this team isn’t wallowing in said basement is because they make a lot happen. They might give up a lot of opportunities, but they can certainly keep pace with anyone in the league by generating just as many chances. Fire-wagon hockey!

Flyers Defense Corsi For% vs. Zone Starts

Flyers Defense Corsi For% vs. Zone Starts Off/(Off+Def)

That fire-wagon hockey has started this year with the defense. This was supposed to be the weakness of the team, but I have to admit they’ve done quite a decent job so far. Coach Hakstol has used Nick Schultz and Andrew MacDonald as sparingly as possible which has been fantastic. Gostisbehere, Del Zotto, Streit, and Provorov have all generated a decent amount of shots while getting offensively slanted zone starts.

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Photo via Fimmano Photography

The big story here though has been the play of Gudas and Manning. Rather than giving these defensive zone starts to poor Nick Schultz (who was absolutely filled in last year in that role) Hakstol has found his go to defensive pair. Manning and Gudas have taken on a big defensive responsibility this year and are running with it. Generating more offense than they give up to opposing forwards despite taking on a lot more tough defensive assignments. These two are a big reason the Flyers aren’t being crushed this season.

Flyers Forwards Corsi For% vs. Zone Starts

Flyers Forwards Corsi For% vs. Zone Starts Off/(Off+Def)

As always Giroux, Simmonds and Schenn are making their money on the Powerplay. Giroux is 3rd in Powerplay Points per 60 minutes in the entire league, Schenn is 8th, and Simmonds is 13th. You can’t ask your top offensive guys for much more than that. Schenn usually doesn’t break even in terms of shots for/against so that’s normal, but both Giroux and Simmonds are breaking even. This is fine.

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Photo via Fimmano Photography

The strength of this Flyer forward group has been it’s middle six. Voracek has (predictably) rebounded from a rough 2015/16. Read is playing like the Matt Read of 3 years ago. Konecny has been excellent offensively as a rookie scoring the most points/60 of any Flyer forward. Couturier has had his defensive responsibilities lessened and is excelling. Lyubimov has been a nice surprise in a checking role. And Raffl.. well Raffl is just Raffl. He’s excellent.

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Photo via Fimmano Photography

The off-season additions Weise and Gordon haven’t exactly had an impact. Weise just scored his 1st goal of the season, and despite a ton of offensive zone starts he hasn’t generated any of offense.His contract was definitely too rich, but it’s not the end of the world. Gordon gets a pass because he’s been injured, but it worries me that Hakstol was using him somewhat offensively. Gordon was supposed to be the defensive center to take the responsibility off of Giroux and Couturier. If he isn’t doing that he shouldn’t be playing.

Instead that role has fallen to Bellemare. It’s pretty clear P.E. Bellemare just isn’t that great defensively. He gets a bad shake in terms of zone starts, and he just shouldn’t be matching up against the league’s best forwards in the defensive zone. Maybe if that job was split between him Couturier, and a healthy Boyd Gordon it would go better.. with Couturier now on the IR this situation could snowball.

Chris VandeVelde (usually attached at Bellemare’s hip) has been shuffled to playing mostly with Cousins and Weise which has had a positive effect on his play. Cousins himself however has been a little lacking. He had a pretty great debut in the last half of last season driving play better than most Flyers. Even without that type of impact he’s still valuable as an agitator; he drew the 4th most penalties among forwards who played 30 games or more last season.

Summing up; the Flyers have matched expectations pretty well so far.. despite wins coming from places we didn’t think they were going to come from. If Neuvirth and Mason (or possibly even Stolarz) can provide league average goaltending from here on out, and the Flyers can keep up their pace from these first 20 games they’ll definitely be a playoff team. It’s hard not to be pleased with this start despite the goaltending struggles.. as odd as that sounds.

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