The Philadelphia Flyers have matched a franchise record for points in November with 24, posting a 10-2-4 record. The team is firing on all cylinders, capping the month with four straight wins and five over their last six. Over the last six days they have defeated the Vancouver Canucks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings, and Montreal Canadiens.
The team is trending in the right direction as they have continued to build off of overtime success and strong special teams play. Something seems to be brewing in South Philadelphia as the team continues to find ways to win games. Whether it be through strong goaltending or an explosion of offense, the Flyers certainly have a lot to be proud of.
1A, 1B Goaltending Tandem
The tandem of Carter Hart and Brian Elliott has been the backbone for this team during the 2019-20 NHL season. Having not one, but two, starting-caliber goaltenders has been a boon for the team. Through Hart’s 17 starts this season, he has eight wins and has posted a 2.44 goals-against average (GAA). Elliott has posted seven wins and a 2.70 GAA in his 14 starts. While neither goalie is in the top-10 of the major categories, they have both been able to earn much-needed wins.
The best part about having a 1A, 1B tandem is that either goalie can pick up the slack when needed. Despite Hart’s early season struggles, the team was still able to string together wins on Elliott’s shoulders. The Flyers seem to be far removed from the goalie carousel that plagued the team last season. Hart and Elliott have proven through the first chunk of the season that they can carry this team.
Perhaps the most important part of the Flyers’ current win streak is that players are starting to break their scoring slumps. Shayne Gostisbehere, who spent a few games this season benched, scored in his return against the Red Wings. It was his first goal since October and he seems to have responded well to Alain Vigneault’s tough coaching style.
Related: Gostisbehere on the Trade Block?
James van Riemsdyk also broke his long-standing goalless drought against the Red Wings. With just his second goal in 12 games the Flyers will need van Riemsdyk to rediscover his scoring touch to guarantee playoff success. Vigneault has shown he is not afraid to bench players who are not performing well. Every player who has spent time in the press box this season has responded well and has returned to the ice focused and fired up.
Kevin Hayes, whose main contributions are on the defensive side of the game, is finally starting to put up points consistently. I just wanted to mention Hayes as he is currently on a three-game point streak and has been dominant during the second half of November. Whether it be shutting down the opposing team’s offense or killing an important penalty, Hayes is Vigneault’s Swiss army knife.
Scott Laughton, since returning from injury, has solidified the third line for the Flyers with his tenacity and puck pursuit. He’s put up three points over the last three games and has shown why he is an integral part of the Flyers’ lineup. Not only does he play wing and center for the Flyers, but he also allows Vigneault to utilize three different penalty kill lines.
Matt Niskanen has been the linchpin that the Flyers’ defense has so desperately needed. He brings a veteran presence to the blue line that we haven’t seen in quite a few seasons. Much like the Flyers’ goaltending situation, the team also spouts a 1A, 1B defense situation. Ivan Provorov is returning to form as this team’s number-one defenseman, because of Niskanen.
Provorov has all the ability and poise to lead this defense for the foreseeable future, and Niskanen perpetuates all of it. They feed off of each other’s play and allow each other to succeed. And for that reason I dub Niskanen as the Flyers’ MVP through this point of the season.
He has chipped in offensively, made the big and small defensive plays, and has bled for this team. Niskanen has shown, throughout the lineup, that he elevates the play of everyone on the ice. It doesn’t always show up on the score sheet, but he brings what the team needs to the ice, every game.
The Flyers are tied for fifth in the league with 35 total points. Nursing a 15-7-5 total record, the team is secured in a playoff spot despite the immense competition in the Metropolitan Division. Vigneault has the team performing, and with a strong goaltending tandem in Hart and Elliott, the team should continue to see success throughout the season. With four lines that can perform in any situation and a top-flight penalty kill, there is no reason that the Flyers should miss the playoffs. Look for Niskanen to continue his strong play on the blue line and for the rest of the team to follow by his example.
Freelance Writer born and raised in the city of Philadelphia.