There is something undeniably special about the 2019-20 Philadelphia Flyers. The regular season marked a shift for the Flyers, seeing significant improvements in almost every facet of their game.
Well, since the Flyers entered the bubble in Toronto, they’ve carried over the same energy that made their regular season so successful. In three games (one exhibition, two round-robin), the Flyers have earned a 3-0-0 record with wins over the Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins, and Washington Capitals.
After their 3-1 victory over the Metro Division-winning Capitals, the Flyers have officially secured at least a top-two finish for seeding in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
With one round-robin game remaining before the start of the Quarterfinals, it’s worth taking a look at what is working for the Flyers and, more importantly, what helped them handle the Capitals with ease.
The Flyers’ first round-robin win, a 4-1 victory over the Bruins, saw forward Michael Raffl exit with an apparent leg injury. That meant they were going to see at least one lineup change heading into their matchup with the Capitals.
20-year-old Joel Farabee would make his NHL postseason debut, becoming the fourth Flyers’ youngster to do so in 2020. However, he wouldn’t be the only one debuting against the Capitals.
Just before game time, veteran forward James van Riemsdyk was scratched from the lineup and replaced by rookie Connor Bunnaman.
Unable to find the scoresheet, Bunnaman and Farabee both played solid games. Each played around 12 minutes, with Farabee earning some valuable time on the second power-play unit. The Flyers are going to heavily rely on their young talent down the stretch, so it was refreshing to see both rookies comfortably ease into postseason action.
Contradicting Special Teams
If you didn’t have a decent grasp of how the Flyers’ special teams units looked in the bubble, you got plenty of exposure to both sides against the Capitals.
For Mike Yeo’s penalty kill, things pretty much stayed the same. They killed four minor penalties, looking composed at every turn. There’s such an incredible spread of players who can contribute man-down, limiting shots and eating valuable chunks of time. The penalty kill continues to be one of the strongest elements of this Flyers team and they’ve remained perfect in the bubble so far.
The power play, on the other hand, is an entirely different story. Throughout the game, the Capitals played a wildly undisciplined game, earning them six minor penalties with plenty more that could’ve been called.
At the moment, things just aren’t clicking for either man-up unit. The first group of Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Travis Konecny, Sean Couturier, and Ivan Provorov has yet to capitalize in the bubble, having a good deal of plays disrupted before they can even get a shot on net.
If the Flyers really want to be successful in the postseason and make a deep run, their power play is going to have to start gaining some momentum. Considering how well they’ve performed on the penalty kill, a productive man up would make them one of the most terrifying teams to play.
Second Line Shines
While most teams across the league rely mostly on their stacked first lines, the Flyers have gotten production out of all four lines so far. That’s not to say that their first line of Giroux, Couturier, and Voracek doesn’t have the potential to carry the majority of the scoring, but so far that hasn’t been the case in the bubble.
In fact, it’s the Flyers’ second line of Kevin Hayes, Konecny, and Scott Laughton that has been their best line.
Laughton, the recipient of the Flyers’ most improved player award, has probably been their best forward in the bubble through three games. With a goal in each of their three games, including two against the Capitals, he’s finally starting to look like the player the Flyers hoped he would be when they drafted 20th overall in the 2012 NHL draft.
Against the Caps, Hayes tallied three assists showing off some insane skill in the process. Konecny finally found the scoresheet as well adding two assists himself. No matter the opponent, these three have found some solid chemistry together and it doesn’t look like Vigneault should split them up any time soon.
Essentially from start to finish, the Flyers had the upper hand on the Capitals. More importantly, they were able to render most of Washington’s top players nearly invisible.
Between Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and T.J. Oshie, they were held pointless and only mustered six shots on goal. Through their first two round-robin games, the Flyers have had seemingly no problem shutting down their opponent’s top scorers for the full 60 minutes.
Statistically speaking, the Flyers didn’t necessarily dominate in every important category. The shots were fairly even, edging out the Capitals with 21 shots to 17 and getting punished in hits 42 to 23.
Where the Flyers thrived was in the face-off circle and with their forecheck. They won 67% of face-offs, an aspect where they’ve been solid all year long, and sent waves of relentless pressure in the offensive zone.
Elliott Lights Out
Once again, the Flyers had plenty of support in net. Head coach Alain Vigneault said before the round-robin began that 35-year-old veteran backup Brian Elliott would get at least one start during the three round-robin games.
Well, that start came against the Capitals, who Elliott got the better of twice during the regular season. In his third meeting with them this year, Elliott shut Ovechkin and the Capitals down once again.
Aside from a late, leaky deflection goal midway through the third period, Elliott was nearly perfect. He stopped 16 of 17 shots, including six power-play attempts, and helped keep the Capitals’ best off the scoresheet.
Related: Revisiting the Brayden Schenn Trade
Elliott has once again proven he’s one of the most reliable backups in the league and a solid alternate option in relief of Carter Hart. There’s no telling when we might see Elliott get his next start, but he’s shown he can step in when needed and still deliver a win.
The Flyers conclude the round-robin on Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning, one of the few teams they’ve been unable to solve this season. The winner will own the first seed in the Eastern Conference and if they can carry the momentum from their wins over the Bruins and Capitals, they could finally get the best of the Bolts.