By Eric Goldstein
The Flyers have won three of their last four games and picked up at least a point in 12 of their last 14 games to head into Thanksgiving Day with 31 points (13-7-5) and tied with the Hurricanes for two wild card spots in the Eastern Conference.
Plus, they are tied for the ninth most points in the NHL.
Considering how last season unfolded – you know, when the GM and head coach were fired and the tem failed to qualify for the playoffs – it is easily to classify the first two months of the season as a positive and step in the right direction.
So, the team has plenty of reasons to be thankful today. In the spirit of the holiday, let’s take a look at the five things the Flyers should be most thankful for on Turkey Day.
The player who are 23 and under have carried the team thus far. Paced by Travis Konecney, who has a team-high 24 points, Oskar Lindblom, who leads with nine goals, and Ivan Provorov, who is enjoying a bounce-back season, the Flyers have been able to overcome slow starts by more established stars like Jacob Voracek, Kevin Hayes and James van Reimsdyk. Of course, we’d be remiss if he we didn’t include rookie forwards Joel Farabee and Morgan Frost, who have provided a much-need spark, and defenseman Phllippe Myers, who leads the team with a plus-9.
The offseason acquisition of the veteran defenseman didn’t exactly garner much attention or fanfare. However, Niskanen has brought stability and experience to the blue line. For most of the season, he’s been paired with Ivan Provorov on the top defensive unit, and his calming and steady play is a big reason for Provorov’s, and the entire team’s, improvement this season.
The head coach has brought accountability to the locker room, and no one is immune to it – just ask Shayne Gostisbehere, who has been benched the last three games, or James van Riemsdyk, who has been relegated to the fourth line. Many veterans have learned they will see their minutes reduced, spend a night or two in the press box and even called out publicly if they aren’t producing. Conversely, AV is not afraid to play, and reward, young players.
In just a few short months, the veteran coach has clearly showed he doesn’t care how many years someone has spent in the league, how many goals they’ve scored or the number of zeroes that appear on their paycheck.
Everyone, and we mean everyone, is held accountable.
Wells Fargo Center
Following a season when they finished a lackluster 19-18-4 on home ice, South Philly has been a strength for the Flyers. They improved to 7-1-4 at home with Monday’s 2-1 victory over the Canucks. They have picked up a point in nine straight home games, which is the longest point streak at home since going 10-0-0 from Nov. 9, 2013-Jan. 8, 2014.
Outside of a shaky few games in September by Carter Hart, the tandem of Brian Elliott and the second-year netminder has been stellar. Regardless of who is between the pipes, the Flyers they have given their team a chance to win each night. It’s a big difference from last year, when health and poor play led to the team employing an NHL record eight goalies, including unforgettable appearances by Calvin Pickard and Anthony Stolarz.