5 Trends That Must Continue for Philadelphia Flyers to Keep Winning in 2013-14
The Philadelphia Flyers are back in the hunt in the NHL's Metropolitan Division after a dreadful 1-7-0 start to the season. Now, the team is 11-12-1 which leaves them just two points behind the New York Rangers for third place with a game in hand.
Early in the season, not much was going right. The Flyers struggled to score goals and seemed to lack cohesion. Since then, the team is looking a lot better. They have gone 10-5-1 in their last 16 games, a good enough pace to reach the postseason.
There are several factors that led to the Flyers improved play after the first eight games. Here is a look at five trends that must continue for the Flyers to keep their recent turnaround going.
Feel free to comment on these or to mention any factors that you feel belong on this list. As always, indicate why you feel the way you do.
5. Continue to Get Solid Goaltending
Before this season started, most experts questioned whether the Flyers had good enough goaltending to win a lot of hockey games. Yet, through the first 25 games of the season, goaltending has been the most consistent position on the club.
Steve Mason and Ray Emery have done a good job between the pipes thus far. Just look at the numbers. Mason's record is a very average 7-8-2, but he has a strong 2.17 GAA and a great .931 save percentage. When you consider how the team was struggling to score early in the season, Mason's performance is even more impressive.
Emery has been a reliable backup. He is 3-4-0 with a 2.60 GAA and a .910 save percentage. Both goalies have recorded one shutout.
While goaltending has been a given this season, if the Flyers hope to continue their rise in the standings, they need to continue to get consistent performances from the men between the pipes.
4. The Improved Defense Must Continue
The Flyers had a little trouble early in the season finding the right combination on defense.
Now, coach Craig Berube has found some pairings that are working well. The duos are Braydon Coburn and Kimmo Timonen; Nicklas Grossmann and Mark Streit; and Luke Schenn and Erik Gustafsson. That leaves both Andrej Meszaros and Hal Gill available to provide depth.
The results have been stronger team defensive play and a bit more production offensively from the blue line.
Because of these new pairings and the fact that the team is now more familiar with Berube's system, the Flyers defense has been stronger than it was during their early season slump.
"It took us a while to get 'Chief's' [Berube's] system," Gustafsson explained to Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer. "Now we don't have to think about it. We just do it."
This new level of play needs to be maintained to help the club win consistently.
3. Remain Relatively Injury Free
Injuries have not been a major issue for the Flyers thus far this season.
Matt Read is day-to-day right now with a lower body injury and Marc-Andre Bourdon has missed the entire season due to post-concussion syndrome. But other than that, injuries have not been as significant as what many other teams have faced this season.
Scott Hartnell and Vincent Lecavalier have each missed four games while Steve Downie was unavailable for a few games after joining the Flyers, but overall, the team's health has been pretty good and most of their key players have remained in the lineup.
Losing top players for an extended period of time would be dangerous to the Flyers, especially top offensive players like Claude Giroux, Lecavalier or Brayden Schenn.
2. Get Secondary Scoring
Like most teams, the Flyers will need goal scoring from other lines besides their top line to continue to win consistently.
Players like Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, Sean Couturier and Matt Read will need to step up and provide offense at different times when opposing coaches put their best defensemen and checking forwards against the Flyers top line.
When the team opened the season with a 1-7-0 record, they scored just 11 goals in those eight games. The Flyers weren't getting enough goal scoring from anybody. In the team's recent 6-0-1 streak, they scored 27 goals, or nearly four goals per game.
On paper, the Flyers have the potential to have a deep and dangerous forward corps. That depth must produce for the team to have a chance to climb toward the top of the Metropolitan Division standings.
1. Get Consistent Production from Their Top Players
The old cliche in hockey is that to win, your best players need to be your best players. That means that your stars have to produce or you won't win too many games.
Many of the Flyers' best players got off to a slow start, and so did the team. After 11 games, Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell had yet to score while Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds had only one goal each.
Since then, the attack has come around in large part because the top players are starting to be more productive.
Vincent Lecavalier remains the club's goal leader with nine. But now Giroux is starting to produce consistently and Voracek is beginning to show signs of improvement as well.
If the Flyers most talented players produce regularly, the team has a good chance of winning a lot of hockey games. Now they just have to go out and do it.