Ranking Philadelphia Flyers' 5 Most Impressive Players in 2013-14
Four months ago, it would have been almost impossible to imagine the Philadelphia Flyers are where they are today.
Three games in, the Flyers fired their head coach.
Eight games in, Philadelphia had just one win.
Fifteen games in, the Orange and Black had managed more than two goals in a single game just once.
And yet, the Flyers enter the Olympic break third in the Metropolitan Division and just one standings point back of the second-place New York Rangers. What's more, Philadelphia is in the midst of a season-high four-game winning streak and has claimed victories in five of its past six outings, including triumphs over Western Conference heavyweights Los Angeles, San Jose and Colorado.
Philly's recovery and subsequent resurgence doesn't happen without some outstanding individual efforts. Here's a look at the team's five most impressive players so far.
5. Scott Hartnell
After last season, Scott Hartnell needed a bounce-back campaign, and so far he's delivered.
A year ago, the 31-year-old forward missed 16 games due to injury and managed just eight goals and 11 points in the 32 games in which he was able to participate.
This season, however, Hartnell's missed just four games and has already produced 15 conversions (tied for third among all Flyers) and 37 points (fourth).
It took the Regina, Saskatchewan native a little while to get going, as he failed to point in his first nine games, but he has been a reliable source of offense since early December. In 32 games since December 4, Hartnell has recorded 10 goals and 29 points and has failed to point in a game just six times in the new year (19 games).
And Hartnell's success has translated into direct success for his team. The Flyers are 11-1-2 in games in which their rugged winger finds the back of the net.
4. Jake Voracek
One of just two Flyers forwards representing his country at the Sochi Winter Games, Jake Voracek enters the Olympic break third among all Philadelphia skaters in scoring with 40 points and tied for third on the roster with 15 goals.
Like Hartnell, Voracek got off to a dreadfully slow start.
In his first 15 games, the 24-year-old winger registered just one goal and only four total points. And this came after Voracek blossomed in the lockout-shortened campaign the year before, where he produced a career-high 22 goals in just 48 games.
But after that sluggish start, Voracek came alive, recording eight points in a seven-game span in mid-November. That momentum carried into December, where the dynamic winger notched his most productive month so far, as he tallied 15 points in just 14 outings.
One of Philly's pure snipers, Voracek is second among all Flyers with 159 shots on goal and has managed multiple shots in all but 15 of the team's 59 total outings.
3. Wayne Simmonds
Wayne Simmonds has been on the rise ever since the Flyers acquired him from the Los Angeles Kings in the summer of 2011.
In two-and-a-half seasons with the Orange and Black, he's missed a total of just three games and is quickly establishing himself as one of the game's premier power forwards.
This year, Simmonds enters the Olympic break second among all Flyers in goals (18) and total points (42). Averaging nearly 16.5 minutes per game, the 25-year-old winger is third on the team in shots (144) and yet still boasts the third-best shooting percentage (12.5 percent) on the squad.
And Simmonds has been a beast as of late, pouring in 13 goals and 30 points over his past 31 games. That surge included three straight two-goal outings in late December, when he became the first Flyers player to record three straight multi-goal games since Reggie Leach in 1981.
At 6'2", 175 pounds, Simmonds is a force and uses that size to his advantage. He's not afraid to grind away on the forecheck or bully his way to the front of the net. His combination of size and strength is particularly useful on the power play, where the Scarborough, Ontario native currently leads the Flyers with nine man-advantage markers and is tied for second among all Philly skaters with 16 power-play points.
2. Steve Mason
Where would the Flyers be without Steve Mason?
Despite a patchwork defensive corps and an in-season shift in the team's defensive mindset, Mason has still produced a 23-14-5 record in 44 appearances to go along with a 2.49 goals-against average and .918 save percentage.
The 25-year-old netminder was the team's lone bright spot early on.
Even though the Flyers dropped six of Mason's first nine outings, the former Vezina Trophy winner failed to surrender more than three goals against in any of those appearances. What's more, the Oakville, Ontario native closed the season's first month with a .928 save percentage even though Philadelphia left October with just a 3-8 record overall.
To date, Mason has allowed more than three goals in a single game just eight times and has already turned in 17 30-save performances. He's recorded shutouts against Ottawa, Detroit and Los Angeles and entered the break on a three-game winning streak, having allowed just three goals in his last three outings while posting a jaw-dropping .969 save percentage.
1. Claude Giroux
Philadelphia managed to score more than two goals just once in its first 15 games this season. The Flyers' record at that time (4-10-1) reflected a squad with little to no offensive rhythm.
During that time, Philly's captain and offensive catalyst Claude Giroux had just seven points, was a minus-12 and had yet to find the back of the net.
But everything started to turn around on Saturday, November 9.
That was the day Giroux snapped a 22-game goal-less drought by netting the game-winner in a 4-2 triumph over the Edmonton Oilers. The Flyers would go on to win three straight and six of their next seven thereafter while Giroux produced eight points during that seven-game stretch.
And it's been nothing but continued points and production from Philly's captain ever since.
In 32 games since December 4, the Hearst, Ontario native has registered 15 goals, 24 assists and 39 points. Giroux has turned in 13 multi-point efforts during that time and managed a season-high nine-game point streak during that stretch where the 26-year-old pivot notched 17 points from December 11 to December 30. What's more, he's failed to point in just 10 of those last 32 outings.
All told, Giroux leads all Flyers in goals (19), assists (38), points (57), power-play assists (18) and power-play points (24) and enters the Olympic break 11th among all NHLers in total scoring.