They may not pledge to lose weight, cut costs, go to the gym more or eat healthier. But there are plenty of things the Philadelphia Flyers need to tune up before getting into the hustle and bustle of the second half of the season.
The Flyers have already significantly exceeded expectations this season and sit comfortably in a playoff spot in the best division in hockey. That’s quite a feat for a team that was supposed to be rebuilding.
With that success, however, comes the need to improve. If the Flyers want to contend with the top teams in the Metropolitan Division, they’re going to have to change some of their ways.
Let’s take a deeper look at what resolutions the Flyers can make to stay a contender in the Eastern Conference.
Bring Back the Power Play
If there is one thing that has stayed consistent over the past few seasons, it’s the power play. Ever since the acquisitions of players like Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek, the Flyers have had one of the league’s more potent power-play units.
The start of the 2016-17 season proved to be no different, with the Flyers hovering in the top five in power-play percentage for the first two months of the season.
That success has quickly gone by the wayside.
The Flyers’ power play has fizzled out to a level where opposing teams don’t even have to blink when killing a penalty. Over their past seven games, the Flyers are an abysmal 1 for 18 on the man-advantage. That span includes a six-game dry spell that just recently ended against St. Louis.
That’s reason for concern. The Flyers’ first power-play unit picks up a majority of the points on the man-advantage. The second unit will spend time on attack, but the scoring just isn’t there. Teams have found a way to neutralize Giroux along the half-boards, Simmonds in front of the net and Gostisbehere on the breakout.
That has not only led to a lack of power-play goals for the Flyers, but it’s led to offensive opportunities for teams who are on the kill.
The bread and butter of the Flyers’ offensive arsenal is their power play. If they can’t get it back on track, they’re going to have some major problems competing with the rest of the teams in the division.
Get in Good Position
If there’s one area the Flyers have consistently lacked in the past few seasons, it’s been getting themselves in a position of power going into the playoffs.
The past two playoff appearances for the Flyers have been a fight to the finish and it has noticeably set them back come playoff time.
In the 2013-14 season, the Flyers started historically bad. In fact, they boasted a losing record all the way up until late December. That being said, they ended up being one of the best teams in the NHL over the second half of the season and found themselves in a playoff spot. It took a ton of blood and guts to get there, and the Flyers ended up with a first round exit.
The 2014-15 season saw more of the same. The Flyers got off to a very slow start, hovered around .500 for most of the season. The found themselves within two points of a playoff spot in early March, but never could fully recover.
The 2015-16 season was the same narrative again. The team started out slow, could barely put the puck in the net, and didn’t kick things into gear until mid-January. They had to fight to the finish and seemed to have no gas left in the tank when Washington came around.
This season, however, things are a bit different.
The Flyers sit in the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Despite holding the last playoff spot, they have a five-point cushion over the team who is chasing them. They are also well within reach of any of the three teams that sit above them in the Metropolitan Division.
That’s even better news because it means the Flyers control their own destiny. Twenty-three of their last 45 games come against Metro teams, including three against the Rangers, three against the Penguins, four against Columbus and three against Washington.
Despite recent struggles, that means the Flyers will easily control their own destiny, as all of the teams mentioned above are ahead of the Flyers in the standings.
The Flyers have set themselves up to control their own destiny in the second half of the season. Unlike years past, where the Flyers have had to battle back, they now have a comfortable cushion and the opportunity to climb the standings even further. They need to make sure that they continue to play well into 2017. If the Flyers can keep that their New Year’s resolution, they will find themselves sitting pretty come April.
Matt is a contributor for the Philadelphia Flyers at The Hockey Writers. He has previously covered the Flyers for GrandstandU. He enjoys playing hockey and making music in his spare time.