With the Philadelphia Flyers’ season fully underway, we’ve had a quick glance at what is to come. Traveling from Prague to Philadelphia, and now to Western Canada, the Flyers have been impressive in spite of their grueling early-season schedule. No other team has traveled as much as the Flyers, as they’ve gone over 7,000 miles in just 12 days. After four games and clocking in a record of 2-1-1, the team has been propelled by key three players, each from their own position group. If they can keep this up, the Flyers should be seeing a return to postseason play in 2019-20.
It may not show up on the score sheet but Matt Niskanen has been the defensive stalwart that the youthful Flyers’ defense has needed. Avoiding the flashy plays and being solid in all three parts of the ice has been Niskanen’s modus operandi this season. Choosing to make the subtle play and cover for his defensive partner has paid dividends for the Flyers.
Whether he is paired with Ivan Provorov or Shayne Gostisbehere, Niskanen has allowed for the defense to attack up the ice while he protects the blue line. He’s even begun to garner the attention of his fellow teammates. He is tied for first on the Flyers in plus/minus and total points while also being second on the team in blocks with five. His most notable block coming against the Vancouver Canucks, breaking up a four on one.
If the Flyers were going to be successful this season, it starts and ends with the play of Carter Hart. With Brian Elliot tackling back up duties, this year will come as a true test for his fan-dubbed moniker, “Starter Hart.” He started with a bang, notching his first career NHL shutout against the New Jersey Devils, while also making a play for save of the year candidate. He has brought a steadying presence to the net that the Flyers’ have so desperately needed. In three games this season, he has posted a 1.62 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage. He has yet to lose in regulation and his only loss comes in the shootout against the Canucks.
Hart seems to possess the clutch gene as well, doing some of his best work while on the penalty kill. He’s contributed to killing off multiple five-on-three situations as the team sits at a 90.91 penalty kill percentage. If he keeps up this level of play and starts in 50 to 60 games this season, look for a Vezina nomination to come his way and for the ceaseless Flyers’ goaltending carousel to be retired.
The most impressive Flyer this season through the first four games has been none other than Travis Konecny. Fresh off a brand-new, six-year, $33-million contact, he has been on fire. After posting seven points in his first four games, he has shown early returns on his contract. He currently sits at number five in the league with a blistering 1.75 points per game.
As an integral part of the Flyers’ best line this season, he has contributed both at even strength and on the power play. His linemates Sean Couturier and Oskar Lindblom have reaped the benefits and have seen similar production. Look for Konency to continue his torrid pace and earn some time on the number one power play unit.
The three best players of the Flyers’ early season have been Niskanen, Hart, and Konency, and it isn’t even close. Each player has stepped up in their own way and filled in where others haven’t. This comes as both a surprise and a blessing as each player entered the season with some amount of doubt. Was Niskanen going to bounce back from his poor play with the Washington Capitals last year? Could Konency and Hart handle the pressure of increased responsibility? If the first four games are any indication, each player has solidified their roles, and brought a positive impact to the ice. If their play continues like it is now, the Flyers will reap the benefits of a promising playoff berth.