Philadelphia Flyers' 5 Most Pleasant Surprises in 2013-14
How quickly things can change.
On October 24, the Philadelphia Flyers were an atrocious 1-7 and with just two points were in dead last place in the Eastern Conference.
Now, just a month later, the Orange and Black are back at .500 with a 10-10-2 overall mark and are just two standings points back of third place in the Metropolitan Division and eighth place in the 16-team East.
It's been a season full of surprises so far for the Flyers. Here's a look at Philadelphia's five most pleasant surprises in 2013-2014.
The Month of November
In 11 October outings, the Flyers earned just three wins while claiming a pedestrian six standings points. Philadelphia was just 2-5 in seven home games and managed more than two goals in a single outing just once in the season's opening month.
But things have been significantly better in the season's second month.
In 11 November contests to date, the Flyers have earned seven victories and 16 standings points. After a 7-0 drubbing at the hands of the Washington Capitals to open the month, Philadelphia has outscored its opposition 29-16 in 10 games since.
The Flyers have won four straight games at home and six of seven overall. What's more, the Orange and Black have earned at least one standings point in seven straight contests and nine of their last 10.
Maybe it's the familiarity with Craig Berube's new system or the overabundance of Movember facial hair but whatever it is, the Flyers are once again relevant thanks to a second-month surge.
Power Play Emergence
One of the biggest reasons for Philadelphia's recent turnaround has been the emergence of the team's power play.
A unit that mustered just six man-advantage conversions in the Flyers' first 16 games has suddenly accounted for seven goals in the club's last six contests.
After opening the season just 6-for-64 (9.4 percent) on the power play, Philly has produced at least one man-advantage marker in six straight games while posting a 31.8 power play percentage (7-for-22) during that stretch.
Six different Flyers have registered man-advantage tallies this season, including four Philadelphia skaters with multiple power-play conversions. Vincent Lecavalier, the prize of Philly's free agent summer, is proving he's still got a cannon of a one-time shot from the right circle as he leads the Orange and Black with four power play goals.
The Flyers are 6-4-2 when connecting on the power play this season and have earned at least one standings point in seven straight games when producing a man-advantage marker.
Entering the 2013-14 season, Brayden Schenn had managed just 20 goals and 44 points in 101 games since coming to Philadelphia in a trade that sent former Flyers' captain Mike Richards to the Los Angeles Kings.
In that time, Richards has won a Stanley Cup with the Kings while Schenn has yet to deliver on the hype that made him the fifth overall selection back in the 2009 draft.
The Saskatoon, Saskatchewan native needed a big season this year to keep him as part of Philadelphia's future plans and so far, Schenn is delivering.
The 22-year-old forward is second only to Claude Giroux in team scoring with 14 points. Schenn is converting scoring opportunities of his own (seven goals on 42 shots) while creating offense for his teammates (seven assists). He's second among all Flyers with three power-play goals and is tied for third on the team in man-advantage points.
What's most valuable, though, is Schenn's ability to rise to the occasion in big-game situations.
He converted the first goal of the season for the Flyers and produced both Philly tallies in a gutsy 2-1 signature triumph over the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier this month. What's more, the Flyers are 5-1 in games in which Schenn finds the back of the net this season.
It isn't exactly surprising that Matt Read is scoring goals but what's come as a pleasant surprise for the Flyers is the rate at which the third-year forward is producing them.
Entering the week, Read is tied with Lecavalier for the team lead with eight goals. He's notched a pair of goals in back-to-back games and is the only Philadelphia skater this season to have registered multiple multi-goal outings.
All eight of Read's conversions so far have come at even strength and the former Bemidji State standout has recorded more than twice as many even strength tallies as any other Flyers skater.
One of the team's more consistent yet unheralded offensive contributors, Read is one of just four players to have recorded double-digit goals in each of the last two seasons. And he's well on his way to a third straight campaign this year.
But it’s surprising he’ll get there so quickly.
It took the 27-year-old Read 39 games to reach the double-digit goal plateau last season. He’s on pace to get there much sooner this year.
The solid netminding the Flyers have received this year from the tandem of Steve Mason and Ray Emery is arguably the most pleasant surprise for a franchise that's been riddled with goaltending concerns for the last 20 years.
Without question, Mason has been the team's best player to date.
Despite limited offensive support throughout much of the season, Mason has given the Orange and Black a chance to win virtually every night. He enters the week boasting the league's ninth-best save percentage (.933) and the 10th-best goals-against average (2.11).
The five-year veteran has allowed two goals against or fewer in 11 of his 16 appearances this season, including six straight outings. He's already turned in nine 30-plus save performances and 13 games with a save percentage better than .900.
Meanwhile, despite some early season struggles, Emery has lived up to his nickname of late and has been razor sharp in his last four starts.
The 31-year-old goaltender is 3-1 in his last four appearances and has surrendered just four goals against while posting a .959 save percentage during that stretch.
Questions will always linger as to whether Philly's goaltending can hold up throughout the marathon NHL campaign but for now, it's the kind of pleasant surprise that has saved the Flyers' season.