How the Flyers Became the Hottest Team in Hockey
At the start of the Christmas shopping season, the Flyers didn’t look like they were going to bring Philadelphia much holiday cheer. They were incredibly sloppy in a 3-2 loss to the Rangers on Black Friday, dropping them to 10-13 on the season. They had just 21 points. After a promising return to the playoffs last season under first-year coach Dave Hakstol, the Flyers looked like they’d regressed.
It went beyond that, too. Just a week before that 3-2 loss to New York, Shayne Gostisbehere was benched the same day he was voted Philadelphia Pro Athlete of the Year by the Philadelphia Sportswriters Association. “He’s a coach that is — for some reason — talking himself out of putting his best squad together right now,” Broad Street Hockey’s Travis Hughes wrote. “Who’s holding Hakstol accountable for putting a subpar lineup on the ice?” The Flyers were so bad it was funny.
Fast forward to today. The Flyers are the hottest team in the NHL, and nearly at the top of the standings to boot. They’ve won 10 straight, including a 4-3 triumph in Colorado last night that gave them 41 points. And their 10-game win streak happened early enough in the season that they’re now one of the top teams in the NHL (though they have a few games in hand on some of the clubs around them).
Plenty of teams go on long win streaks, and often it’s a product of a top team hitting some lucky breaks as well. But Flyers looked like a bad team, and suddenly they’re a team that can’t lose. Even when the Flyers play pretty crummy, like they did last night against the Avalanche, they win. What happened?
A lot of it has to do with goalie Steve Mason, who has started eight times during the 10-game win streak and compiled a .926 save percentage. The Flyers had a sub-.900 save percentage in the first month and a half of play, last in the league. Mason has had several solid seasons in a row for the Flyers, so this bodes well: Maybe the early-season Mase was the flukey one.
But it hasn’t just been the goaltender. Claude Giroux has 12 points (5 goals) during the 10-game winning streak. He had 12 points (4 goals) in his previous 17 games before the winning streak. Jakub Voracek has 16 points (4 goals) during the streak; he had just 17 points in his first 22 games of the season. He’s second in the NHL in points now.
Meanwhile, 19-year-old rookie defenseman Ivan Provorov has played so well he’s already being called “a generational talent” by sportswriters. He helped set up Brayden Schenn’s overtime game-winner against Detroit earlier this week. Gostisbehere, last year’s rookie star defenseman, isn’t scoring goals like last season. But during the streak he’s started to look more comfortable on the defensive end.
It’s kind of simple: The Flyers have started to play better after a cold start, and they’ve caught some breaks to make it 10 wins in a row. What’s impressive is they’ve won their 10 games in just 17 days — one of the most compressed stretches of the season.
The Flyers get a chance to go for 11 wins in a row on Saturday on the road against the Dallas Stars.
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