Apparently, the Philadelphia Flyers didn’t get the memo that they weren’t supposed to look like one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference so quickly.
After missing the postseason last year, this was supposed to be a “bridge season” of sorts, where the nucleus of young talent they’ve assembled would receive guidance from the group of veterans that remain as this roster, and the latter would help the former (and the team as a whole) hopefully steal one of the Wild Card spots in the NHL playoffs.
But two weeks into the regular season, the Flyers have accumulated 10 points in the standings after just eight games, which has them tied for the fifth-best total in the Eastern Conference.
After their win on Saturday afternoon against the Edmonton Oilers, the Flyers already have four different guys who have accumulated four goals this year, which is as good as any team in the league.
Veteran right winger Wayne Simmonds picked up his third goal in four games against Edmonton, giving him a team-high five goals this season. He’s already well on pace to put up his third straight season with 30+ goals. After a season where he was mired in a “sophomore slump,” defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere is currently tied with Alex Pietrangelo of the St. Louis Blues and Mike Green of the Detroit Red Wings for the most points by a defenseman this season (10); Gostisbehere picked up a goal and an assist against Edmonton.
Veterans Sean Couturier and Valtteri Filppula, who looked like little more than depth guys coming into this year, each have four goals themselves already; Couturier only had 14 goals all of last year, and Filppula had only five.
But what might be the most pleasant surprise of the season is that the Flyers are currently 5th in the NHL in goals allowed per game (2.4). Perhaps the biggest question for this team coming into the 2017-2018 season was whether someone would step up and be “the guy” in net for this team.
Brian Elliott, who the team signed in the offseason, was on his third team in three years. He was expected to share the net with incumbent Michal Neuvirth, who signed a two-year, $5 million extension in March, but has always been more of a reserve or part-time guy himself.
While neither guy has taken full control of the job, they’ve still played admirably. Elliott as three wins in his four starts this season, while Neuvirth has allowed only four goals in the three games he’s been the guy between the pipes.
If the the team’s goaltending can keep playing better than the sum of its individual parts, this team has the potential to be very interesting in what could be a wide open Metropolitan division.
They’re getting scoring production from right winger Jakub Voracek (his 10 assists is good for third in the NHL), along with Giroux and Simmonds. There’s still time for promising young Oskar Lindblom to show what made him so spectacular in the Swedish Elite League. Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov are a couple of young studs on the blue line.
So far, so good for the Flyers. The question is whether they’ll be able to keep up their start in an otherwise stacked Eastern Conference. Pittsburgh, Washington, and Columbus will likely be back near the top of the standings by season’s end. Tampa Bay, Toronto, and New Jersey have looked terrific so far. Ottawa is off to a fast start as well.
Philadelphia looks like they’ll be in position to snag one of the two final Wild Card spots in the East, given their hot start. It’ll all come down to how things shake out in the spring, but things look promising for a return to the playoffs after watching them from home last year.