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Takeaways From the Flyers’ First Quarter Season

About a quarter into the 2019-2020 NHL season, Philadelphia has been, for the most part, pretty good. Most recently, the Flyers collected points in seven straight games, including wins in back-to-back nights on the road in Toronto and Boston. The goaltending from both Carter Hart and Brian Elliott has been good to great, and the penalty-kill has been outstanding.

However, some cracks have shown in the early goings: the point streak was broken by a regulation loss in Ottawa, after the Flyers couldn’t capitalize on a full four minute double minor with their goalie pulled at the end of Friday night’s game. The bottom-six forwards aren’t supplying any offense. Kevin Hayes hasn’t scored a goal since October. Jake Voracek doesn’t look especially dynamic, but in classic Voracek fashion, will randomly make an awesome play out of nowhere.

They’re really missing Nolan Patrick and Scott Laughton down the middle. The injuries are forcing Alain Vigneault to either roll three lines in close games, or play Claude Giroux at center, where he isn’t as effective at this stage of his career. Laughton has a timetable for return, and it should be in the next week or two. The same can’t be said for the 2017 second overall pick. Patrick hasn’t seemed to make any significant progress through five months of this issue being publicly known, and it’s becoming a legitimate concern that he may not play at all this season. Michael Raffl has been playing center, which isn’t really ideal considering he’s a winger.

And yet, here the Flyers sit at 10-6-3, tied for third in the Metropolitan and ahead of Pittsburgh. They’re finding ways to win close games, with three coming by way of shootout. Things haven’t been awfully inspiring some nights, but wins are wins. They’ve lost just one regulation game at home ahead of Saturday night’s gut-check against the 13-3-1 New York Islanders. It’ll be their seventh game in 12 nights, and fatigue will be a major factor after leaning heavily on the top-nine the previous night to try and tie things up in Ottawa.

The Flyers have played nearly 30 minutes of overtime hockey, plus five shootouts, in the first seven games of the month. The schedule has been brutal to them, and it doesn’t get much easier over the next two weeks. They play every other day until a back-to-back, home/away weekend to end November. We knew they would have to make up for lost time after the European tour, and they’re continuing to play well.

Sean Couturier is too good for us.

Yeah, this is the same Couturier who’s shoulder is bothering him enough to keep him out of the faceoff dot. We’ll take one fully-healthy Couturier for the playoffs, please.

Phil Myers was an undrafted free-agent.

The Flyers went 5-0-1 immediately after benching Robert Hagg for Philippe Myers, who also scored in three straight games. Not only is he fun to watch in the offensive zone, his 6’5″ frame makes him a vacuum on his own blue-line.

Credit to another young player carrying his own weight for that pass.

Myers has been playing with Travis Sanheim, who hasn’t fallen down in a while, on the second pairing. He aces the eye-test, and while his possession metrics aren’t sparkling, you tend to forgive him for plays like the one above. He has four points in eight games this year, and is playing over 19 minutes per game most nights. The best thing the Flyers could have would be for all of their young defensemen to play at the high levels they’re capable of at the same time.

Starter Hart is back.

Fans got understandably nervous when, for a brief stretch of games, Carter Hart looked flustered in goal. He was pulled twice in 11 days, and lost three straight. Brian Elliott held down the fort exceptionally, and Hart regained his confidence in full.

He hasn’t allowed more than two goals in a game since the November 1st shootout win in New Jersey. The Flyers are 4-1-1 in Hart’s last six starts, and they’ve all been one goal games with the exception of a 4-1 win against Carolina on November 5th. Unfortunately, that’s also the last time the Flyers have scored more than twice in regulation. Hart has given them four wins during the offensive cold spell.

Matt Niskanen is better than we thought!

I was a little skeptical of this trade when it happened. What we knew at the time was that Matt Niskanen was in a decline, his numbers weren’t what they used to be, and the Flyers coughed up quite a chunk of their remaining cap space to get the deal done.

Well, Niskanen has been the Flyers’ best defenseman this season. Provorov could give that title a run, but it’s hard to remember Niskanen having any bad games thus far. He’s been solid on odd-man rushes against, and is a big part of a resurgent Flyers penalty-kill. His Corsi numbers are the best he’s had since 2016. Smaller sample size, but he looks good doing it. Niskanen has eight points this year and is averaging over 20 minutes per night against the best competition.

Joel Farabee is for real.

The 14th pick in the 2018 draft has been given high praise since the minute he was picked. He hasn’t disappointed, but I’m not sure anyone expected such an impact player so soon.

Farabee needs to bury his chances, as he’s admitted himself, but he’s creating some of the most high danger chances on the team in his short time as a pro. He’s the high-quality shooting linemate that Giroux has needed for a long time, and that JvR has struggled to be this year. The Flyers could very well have a second Travis Konecny in the making here. Farabee has immediately been rewarded with ice-time with the big stars, and has two goals and two assists in his 13 games this year. He must have had four A-grade opportunies in Ottawa alone, with a season-high five shots on goal, but he couldn’t beat Anders Nilsson.

The Flyers will probably look to continue this semi-successful beginning to the season tonight against the Islanders at the Wells Fargo Center, where they outscore opponents 29-17. It’s their best start to the season at home in years, but the Islanders have a 13 game point streak. For everyone’s sake, we’ll hope for a regulation finish.

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