The 2016-2017 Regular Season will be officially in the books after play finishes tonight in the NHL. For the Carolina Hurricanes and for the Philadelphia Flyers, it is a season in which expectations were not met, as neither franchise is headed into postseason play.
For the Flyers, coming off a wildcard appearance last season, and with a solid group of veterans surrounded by some young and exciting players, missing the playoffs is particularly disappointing, but their struggles were across the board, and will lead to an interesting offseason in the City of Brotherly Love.
Offensively, the Flyers actually marginally improved their goal-scoring as they tallied 216 goals so far this season, after notching only 215 last season. While this is basically the status quo from 2016, improvement was expected as the team’s young talent including Shayne Gostisbehere, Sean Couturier, Nick Cousins and Brayden Schenn continued to gain experience, while veterans Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek and captain Claude Giroux maintained their level of excellence.
Defensively and in the net, the Flyers could be cast as a disappointment. Gostisbehere showed more of an inclination to be a offense-first defenseman, similar to the developing years for Justin Faulk in Carolina, and starting netminder Steve Mason was below average all season long, sporting a .908 save percentage in 54 starts. As a team, the Flyers are currently 18th in the league in goals allowed, which basically aligns with their place in the NHL. Going forward, the Flyers, like the Canes, must figure out their goaltending situation before they can make any meaningful progress.
Jakub Voracek has led the Flyers this season with 61 points, while netting 20 goals. Wayne Simmonds leads the Flyers with 30 goals, and overall the offensive punch has continued to come from the veteran leadership. Perhaps the biggest development for the Flyers would be the solid contribution offensively from Ivan Provorov. The 20-year-old rookie defenseman has contributed 29 points on the season, and has shown to be another perhaps valuable young contributor offensively on the blue line to go along with Gostisbehere and Michael Del Zotto. Polishing his defensive game remains for the young rookie, as his minus-9 rating would attest, but this season is definitely a step forward for the young Russian.
As for tonight’s game, expect to see a wide range of matchups and line combinations, as each team finishing the long season. For the Flyers, there has already been one addition to the lineup as defenseman Robert Hagg will make his NHL debut tonight. With the Flyers possessing some of the strongest minor league talent in the league according to many evaluators, expect to see more young talent continue to make its way to Broad Street.
As for tonight, there is not much in terms of strategy or game plan prediction needed. Each team is playing out the season with unusual matchups all over the ice. The game will be won on effort, but that doesn’t particularly matter to a certain extent when playing a meaningless game 82 of 82.
If you are a Canes fan, enjoy seeing your team one more time before the curtain closes on the 2016-2017 campaign. Appreciate the wondrous season of Jeff Skinner. Appreciate getting to see Eddie Lack back in the net after his scary and dangerous injury a few weeks prior. Celebrate the career of Bryan Bickell. Enjoy 60 more minutes of Hurricanes hockey. The matchups and evaluation will still be there for us again in October. And besides, we have a pretty big draft and offseason coming!
What to Watch For
- Bryan Bickell competes in his final NHL game. Let’s hope the Hockey Gods smile on him today. Congratulations on a championship career and for the bravery he continues to show in his bout with MS. Of all the things that happen on the ice tonight, merely his presence is the most important.