The Philadelphia Flyers have high expectations coming into this season, and for good reason. Last season, their first under new coach Dave Hakstol, the Flyers rode a 12-5-3 record from March 1 onward to a wild-card playoff berth, falling in six games to the Washington Capitals in the first round.
One reason for their solid play in the second half of the season was the emergence of Shayne Gostisbehere. In his first full season, he was the Flyers’ top-scoring blueliner, and led the league in points, goals and assists by a rookie defenseman. Gostisbhere was rewarded for his outstanding debut by finishint as the runner-up in the Calder Trophy voting to the Blackhawks’ Artemi Panarin.
This season, the Flyers have started slow with a 1-2-1 overall record through four games. So far, their biggest issue has been a top-heavy goal scoring attack. While they have averaged more than three goals per game, with 13 goals in four games, only six different players have scored a goal for the Flyers.
One player who has not started slow for the Flyers is right wing Matt Read, who has scored four goals in as many games this season. Only three Flyers have scored more than one goal: Read has four, and Sean Couturier and Wayne Simmons each have three apiece. The other three goal scorers, each with one apiece, are Michael Raffl, Boyd Gordon (?!) and Mark Streit.
What’s not surprising is that captain Claude Giroux is leading the team with five points. What is surprising is that Giroux has yet to score a goal, all five points are assists.
The Flyers have been bit by the injury bug early in the season, with five players already on the injury report. Out of those five, three of them are defensemen: Michael del Zotto, Brandon Manning and Nick Schultz. Raffl suffered an abdominal strain on Tuesday in Chicago, and joins center Scott Laughlin as forwards on the list of the walking wounded.
- Tag Team Goaltending - The Flyers have started Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth twice each. Neither have been impressive and have let in an average of four goals per game, including a seven-spot from the Blackhawks.
- The Flyers have struggled on special teams, particularly the penalty kill. Their power play is firing at 17.6%, decent but not great, but their penalty kill has only killed 76.9% of opposition power plays, good for a tie for 20th in the league. The Canes, by comparison, are top five in both categories.
- Another mismatch for the Flyers is in the faceoff circle. The Flyers are fourth to last with a 45.5% win percentage. The Canes are currently second in the league with a 57.7% win percentage.
- Battle of Young Defensemen: The Flyers not only have 23-year-old Gostisbehere, but also 19-year-old Ivan Provorov, the seventh pick in the 2015 NHL draft. Both teams rely heavily on youth in their defense corps, and success for either team could come down to which blue line performs better.
- Dale Weise joins Radko Gudas on the growing list of suspended Flyers. Weise was handed down a three game suspension yesterday after this hit on Anaheim’s Korbinian Holzer.