The Philadelphia Flyers are set to play their first game of the 2021-22 season after a disappointing 2020-21 season. They’ve made moves, will have to overcome injuries, and trained hard to get to this point and create better results. They will look to get back into the conversation for Stanley Cup contenders as they look to kick off the season and their home opener in front of a packed arena vs. the Vancouver Canucks.
Flyers Need to Overcome Injuries, Find Chemistry
The season hasn’t even begun and the Flyers are dealing with a lot more injuries than they would be comfortable with. On top of the injuries listed for Kevin Hayes, Wade Allison, Samuel Morin, and Tanner Laczynski, it was reported that Rasmus Ristolainen would miss the season opener due to an upper-body injury. That takes a big piece out of the defence group and Nick Seeler will pull into the lineup and fill in on the fourth line. This will cause the other defenders to play many more minutes, as you cannot expect Seeler to log the minutes Ristolainen would have.
Other names listed as day-to-day include Ryan Ellis, who will be a game-time decision for the game vs. the Canucks. This would be a huge hit, especially with Ristolainen already out, as their right defence would be very bare and cause for concern in their own end. Recently acquired Patrick Brown is also listed as day-to-day ahead of the first game.
“There’s been a lot of moving parts. As coaches and management, we’re trying to fit the parts where they have they’re going to give us the best chance to win considering the personnel we have available.”
– Alain Vigneualt
Derick Brassard and Scott Laughton each move up a line and slot in at the centre position on lines two and three. That allows Max Willman to make his NHL debut on the fourth line beside Nate Thompson and Nicolas Aube-Kubel. Each player, in general, will have to step up and cover the losses of Hayes and Ristolainen in the Flyers game tonight and in the foreseeable future.
“Things happen and opportunities happen, and there’s an opportunity for a young man to step in and be a difference in tonight’s game”
This is what the Flyers will be looking for with a more balanced lineup than we see around the league. Players with opportunities throughout the lineup and guys looking to make a difference every night.
Flyers Special Teams Improvement
The Flyers had a horrible year on the penalty kill in 2020-21 and a below-average showing on the power play. Both need to improve this year if they want to make any strides forward.
A massive factor in allowing the most goals against last season was the inability to kill penalties. They finished the year out of the playoff picture looking in with a penalty kill percentage of 73.1, the second-worst in the league ahead of the New Jersey Devils. We will come back to Carter Hart later because it isn’t solely his fault, but a save percentage (SV%) of .777 while shorthanded is not helping the matter.
While Hayes watches from the sideline, his penalty kill efficiency was well established last season, defensively and offensively, scoring four times while a man down (“Flyers roster explainer: Why Patrick Brown was claimed, Kevin Hayes’ status and the injury situations”, The Athletic, Oct. 12, 2021). They will need a group effort to fill his place and work as effectively until his much-anticipated return to the Flyers’ lineup.
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The Flyers will ice two power-play units that look like this.
Power-Play Unit 1
James van Riemsdyk – Sean Couturier – Travis Konecny
Claude Giroux – Keith Yandle
Power-Play Unit 2
Joel Farabee – Derick Brassard – Cam Atkinson
Ivan Provorov – Ryan Ellis
Changes may be made based on performances and injury statuses, but the Flyers look to take advantage of a Canucks’ penalty kill that started the season at 50 percent after the loss to the Edmonton Oilers in their opener. The Flyers finished tied in 17th on the power play with a 19.2 percent efficiency with the Montreal Canadiens. They will have to get that up to at least 20 percent to add a bit of extra offence to their team that will change the outcomes of even a few games at the very least.
Hart Returns to Form
Multiple Flyers’ players have seen improvements in Hart’s game in practice and in training camp this season. Cam Atkinson and Scott Laughton in particular were asked about Hart and what they have seen from him. Laughton said Hart looks really good in practice every time he’s seen him as well as his play will be important to the end goals and how the Flyers’ season turns out. Atkinson noticed that his new teammate comes to the rink every day ready to work and has looked sharp.
The late addition to the Flyers’ lineup with the injury to Ristolainen is Seeler, and Hart had nothing but good things to say about him and his play in the defensive zone.
“He competes hard, he plays hard in his own end, makes the simple plays and he battles … made some good plays in the d-zone.”
– Carter Hart
This shows that Hart is confident in a new player coming into the lineup and helping out in front of him to make the job of stopping pucks a bit easier. He has a good opportunity to bounce back from the disaster that was last season. He is looking like a goalie on a mission to correct the wrongs from last year and should improve on the .877 SV% and 3.67 goals-against average (GAA). He can and will improve in all categories with a motivated team around him.
Hard work and contributions all around are what it’s going to take tonight vs. the Canucks. All four lines going and everyone helping out in the defensive end. The bounce-back season starts with a strong performance in game one.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with the NHL Stat Corner and trade talks from around the NHL.