The Flyers open up their season with a West Coast swing
It’s finally time. Hockey is back.
Cue the angels singing.
Cue the celebrations.
Philly will be….well, honestly, the Eagles are in season, so most of Philly is preoccupied. I, on the other hand, am chomping at the bit to see what the NHL season has in store.
Don’t read my excitement the wrong way. I don’t have high hopes for this Flyers squad. I think they’ll be a bubble playoff team again. But their infusion of talented youth has them moving in the right direction and I wouldn’t be surprised if that youth movement turned a few heads.
Let’s take a look at the squad and where its strengths, and weaknesses, lie.
The biggest aspects of the Flyers offense are the top line and the addition of their first round pick from this year. Claude Giroux has centered the top line for the last several years, but in the preseason, he played wing and will likely start out as a flank with Sean Couturier in the middle. It may free up Giroux from his defensive responsibilities, which may in turn help him pick up his production.
The other big news is Nolan Patrick centering the second line. The second-overall pick was expected to make the team, but it’s still good news that he did. He didn’t have the best jump in preseason, but he’s still overcoming offseason surgery. Hopefully the youngster will get some jump—if he does, he could have a heck of a year.
Defensively, the Flyers have gotten younger, fast. Robert Hagg is definitely playing on the blue line and one of either Samuel Morin or Travis Sanheim will be up there too. Both will be up for a time as Shayne Gostisbehere may have gotten hurt in the final preseason game. It doesn’t seem to be serious, but the team has been pretty mum about it. Sanheim will likely be the one heading to the AHL. It’s not because he didn’t play well, but they’re chock full of blue liners and some time in the AHL will only help to continue his development.
The new guys will be joining Ivan Provorov and Ghost, giving them plenty of youth back there. Andrew MacDonald is still (unfortunately) back there too, along with Radko Gudas and Brandon Manning. Manning is likely the odd man out for much of the season, but don’t be surprised to see him still get some game action.
There’s lots of hope both offensively and defensively. Then you get to the goalies and…well, why would the Flyers want to improve there?
Honestly, the Flyers are banking on some of their prospects panning out. Carter Hart is a big hopeful and Felix Sandstrom has looked really good in Sweden. They there’s the former Yale standout Alex Lyon. Ron Hextall is bidding his time and using his acquisition Brian Elliot and Michal Neuvrith to span the gap unti they’re ready.
Elliot was BAD to start last season in Calgary but bounced back strong. His numbers in the playoffs fell off again, so it’s hard to tell how he might play.
Meanwhile, Neuvirth is looking to get back into form from two years ago. Last year he was unimpressive, though he shows moments of brilliance.
Overall, the team should be improved. Without Matt Read in the lineup (in the AHL) and a new-look fourth line with lots of potential, they should improve on their point total from last year. I can’t see them being any more than a bubble playoff team again. Pittsburgh, Washington, Columbus and the New York Rangers are all better teams.
If I had to guess, they’ll finish in the 90-point range and again be on the outside looking in come mid-April.