Flyer of the Week Rankings: Week One
Every week, with the conclusion of Wednesday night games, the best Flyers on the week are summarized and included in a top-10 ranking.
This week marks the first complete week of the season, with four total games played and a split of 2-2-0.
Getting right to the point with the first honors of the new year:
#1 Flyer: Jakub Voracek
He’s looked on point and strong with the puck at all times. Voracek earned a promotion to the top line in an effort to kickstart offense, and turned in his first career five point night in Ottawa to finish the week (2G, 3A).
Jake the Snake has a total of eight points in four games (2G, 6A), good for a tie as the third best mark in the NHL. He’s been threading impossible passes through minimal gaps on the powerplay, and a driving force as a major puck carrier.
He recorded his 400th NHL assist early in the week and seems to be picking up right where he left off from last season. Pick up his Chia-pet at the Golden Knights game Saturday afternoon.
#2 Flyer: Shayne Gostisbehere
Ghost gets a lot of sympathy points for being almost entirely alone on defense for the week, it feels. He scored in the home opening self destruction, and all three of his points (1G, 2A) come from quarterbacking the powerplay.
Gostisbehere was one of the few Flyers looking good in all four games, and all 12 periods. He’s consistently good on both ends of the ice. Self-proclaimed as “one of the old guys”, Ghost is a leader without a letter.
#3 Flyer: Claude Giroux
It was a tight race for the #2 spot on this list, but Giroux will have his #1 weeks for sure. The captain logged six points (1G, 5A) with five of them coming from the powerplay. He continues a 14 game regular season point streak dating back to last year, and has 25 points in those games.
Giroux played in his 742nd game as a Flyer and moved into sixth all-time for games played for Philadelphia. He makes some ridiculous passes, even if not all of them lead to goals directly. His saucer passes quite literally create passing lanes out of thin air, with total disregard for defending sticks. It’s his pass that usually ends in a Simmonds goal.
#4 Flyer: Wayne Simmonds
Until the game in Ottawa, Simmonds was probably a top-2 candidate for the week. Not that he played poorly, but he didn’t fill the stat sheet as the guys above did. Simmonds continued dominating opening nights with a two goal game in Vegas, and adding a third in the home opener. He had four points this week (3G, 1A).
He should have had more, but Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson had all the answers before the Flyers finally broke through for seven goals. Both Simmonds and Travis Konecny should have had multi-goal games.
#5 Flyer: Scott Laughton
Gritty, for sure, but effective nonetheless. Two goals in Ottawa cemented a solid week for a member of the honey bees. Laughton was a great penalty killer and caused havoc shorthanded with Michael Raffl just about every shift on the kill.
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) October 11, 2018
His underrated ability is key to a bottom six forward group and their overall depth. Laughton slid up to the third line with the injuries to Nolan Patrick and James van Riemsdyk, two massive losses. He works hard every night and has big skates to fill to make up the deficits. His point total for the week was all goals, with three in his four games.
Team points leaders, Week 1:
Jake Voracek, 2-6–8
Claude Giroux, 1-5–6
Radko Gudas, 0-4–4
Wayne Simmonds, 3-1–4
Shayne Gostisbehere, 1-2–3
Robert Hägg, 2-1–3
Scott Laughton, 3-0–3
What Needs to Improve?
The defense, and fast.
Philadelphia was getting pasted at even strength before the Ottawa outburst. Even then, that’s a projected lottery winning team, someone they absolutely should beat.
A team can only ask so much of a goaltender guarding 24 square feet of net, so it’s either pot seven like they did tonight on a daily basis or patch the holes. Robert Hägg has had himself a nice start to the season, even playing with Andrew MacDonald— who has had a less enjoyable week.
It leads to questions about how A-Mac returned from a six week injury three or four weeks early. He may be hurting.
Ivan Provorov is a name that shouldn’t ever be in this particular bit, but here he is. He’s not been egregiously bad, or making crucial mistakes, but he hasn’t looked his usual self with the puck. It may just be the extremely high standard he’s set for himself. Nobody should doubt his ability to bounce back.
The second powerplay unit, alas without much ice time to prove themselves, doesn’t look as cohesive. Injuries to JvR and Nolan Patrick kill the hype this unit brought heading into the season. Hakstol has put Sanheim and Provorov on the blue line for a two defenseman set, something the first unit doesn’t do. An errant pass to the point allowed a shorthanded goal against San Jose in garbage time.
The beginning of all four games has been the same: the Flyers are playing from behind. They’ve come back to win twice of the four times they’ve allowed the opening goal. Better teams like San Jose are going to make them pay.
Travis Konecny has caught Lindblom disease and can’t buy a goal. He’s rung posts in what feels like every game, with a loud one Wednesday in Ottawa. Not a big deal, as he’s creating opportunity, but we would all love to see some finish.
What Needs to Continue?
More than what needs to improve (a good thing). The bottom lines are having some fun of their own, while Giroux and Co. on the top line are near rather unsustainable two point per game paces so far. Hägg has shown offensive upside before, and now leads Flyers defensemen in goals with no powerplay time.
Believe it or not, the goaltending could be worse. The “we want Carter” chants, while they make a lot of sense because who doesn’t, don’t give credit to the many, many times that goaltending has bailed out poor defense. Elliott made 20 saves in the first period Tuesday, and the locker room knows it.
Prevailing view from inside the Flyers locker room was that the skaters totally hung Elliott out to dry. That was universal.
— Charlie O'Connor (@charlieo_conn) October 10, 2018
Calvin Pickard added a few beauty saves of his own, and three of his four allowed goals came on the penalty kill. It’s looking like a season of high scoring, high danger chances on both ends of the ice.
The first powerplay unit is looking even more dangerous than last year. A healthy, reincarnated Wayne Simmonds can do that kind of thing. It seems that every time they step on the ice, five or six quality chances come flying in to a waiting Simmonds. He’s going to have a comeback season, however driving up his renewal price. Claude Giroux continues to be one of the premier faceoff winners in the world, a huge factor in setting up for a full two minute attack.
A powerplay force himself, Shayne Gostisbehere is going to force himself into Norris conversations eventually. A premature reaction to a four game sample size, and nowhere near Morgan Reilly’s ten point explosion for Toronto, but he’s doing it all. Ghost, dare to think it, is outplaying Ivan Provorov.
Honorable mentions for weekly Flyer rankings include Michael Raffl, Sean Couturier and Robert Hägg. Each one has contributed two goals, Raffl displaying great patience and poise on a primary assist to Hägg from behind the Ottawa net.
HAGG PUTS IT IN THE OPEN CAGE AND IT'S 5-3 FLYERS ! pic.twitter.com/lPmTfwXb9a
— Flyers Nation (@FlyersNation) October 11, 2018
It’s not all about points, though. Couturier’s defensive play has been as advertised in all phases of the game.
Congratulations to Calvin Pickard for his first win in his first NHL start since December of 2017. He’s 1-0-0 as a Flyer goaltender.
The new week starts Thursday morning, with the first game of week two starting Saturday afternoon. Vegas is coming to town.