The 2017-18 Philadelphia Flyers season was a roller-coaster ride that ended with their second postseason berth in the last three years. The season was filled with great moments, goals, saves and players’ performances. Over the next couple of weeks, The Hockey Writers will take a deep look at each month of action. We will break down what happened in a specific month and what it meant to the season and the future of the franchise.
The First West Coast Road Trip
The 2017-18 season started with a four-game road trip, with three of those games in California. The Flyers went 2-1 in the three Cali games and Wayne Simmonds seemed poised to have another dominant scoring season. ‘Simmer’ started the season with a hat trick against the San Jose Sharks and then scored the overtime winner in Anaheim. Brian Elliott won his first two starts with the team, stopping 53 of the 58 shots he faced.
The Moment of the Month
The last game of the early-season road trip brings us to the Moment of the Month: the game, play or moment that helped define the Flyers’ season. On Oct. 10, the Nashville Predators stormed out to a 3-0 lead, but the Flyers would answer back with five consecutive goals. One of those goals was the first of Nolan Patrick’s career, but it was the last three minutes of the game that would give us the Moment of the Month.
With the score at 5-4 Flyers, and under three minutes to play, Mattias Ekholm drew two penalties on the same play—holding on Dale Weise and tripping on Andrew MacDonald. This gave the Predators a full two minutes of 5-on-3 to try and tie the game, and they took full advantage.
The Flyers’ old friend, Scott Hartnell, scored his second goal of the game with 1:17 remaining, on a six-on-three, and tied the game. Dave Hakstol decided to challenge the call for offsides, knowing that if he was wrong, the Predators would have another five-on-three opportunity.
Hakstol was wrong, the Flyers were assessed a penalty, and Filip Forsberg scored on that power play to complete the crushing loss. It was the first such penalty to result in a game-winning power-play goal since the coach’s challenge rule was changed. The decision likely cost the Flyers at least one point.
This moment is what Flyers fans point to when they chanted “Fire Hakstol” during the season. The coach should have known the situation his team was in and the rules set forth.
Home Sweet Home
The Flyers then played their next five games at home in October and went 3-2. They made a statement in their home opener beating the Washington Capitals, 8-2. It was the first time in 35 years the Flyers scored eight goals in a home opener.
Claude Giroux had a four-point game against the Caps, and two nights later recorded his 400th career assist in a 5-1 win over the Florida Panthers. Giroux was on his way to his career year with eight points (four goals, four assists) during the five-game homestand. Sean Couturier also started his career year with five goals in the five games played at home.
Two big injuries occurred during the homestand. On Oct. 21, Andrew MacDonald would sustain a lower-body injury against the Edmonton Oilers and miss the next 15 games. Nolan Patrick would be out nine games after taking a hit by the Anaheim Ducks’ Chris Wagner during the Flyers’ 6-2 loss on Oct. 24.
The Numbers Don’t Lie
The Flyers finished the inaugural month with a 6-5-1 record. Jakub Voracek paced the team with 16 points (two goals, 14 assists) while Couturier led them with nine goals. Simmonds had four game-winning goals in the month; he would finish with five game-winning goals for the season.
Shayne Gostisbehere had 12 assists, including eight of them on the power play in 11 games played. The power play would finish as the eighth best in the NHL, scoring on 23.3 percent of its chances. It was no surprise that the penalty kill struggled out of the gate, killing off only 79.1 percent, good for 23rd in the league.
Elliott started eight times in the month, with a 5-2-1 record, 3.22 goals-against average and .884 save percentage. Michal Neuvirth was a hard-luck loser with a 1-3 record but a 2.30 GAA and .925 SV%.