DO I SOUND “TOO EXCITED” TO YOU?
Listen, I get it. The Philadelphia Flyers have only played two games. But, they’ve won them both for the first time since 2011-12, which happens to be the last season in which they won a playoff series.
Sure, the Chicago Blackhawks (0-2-0, minus-2 goal differential), and New Jersey Devils (0-2-2, minus-11 goal differential) aren’t exactly what most people would call “good” teams. But it’s not about the opponents the Flyers have defeated, or even the fact that they’ve won both of their games, although that is contributing to the excitement level, obviously.
But it’s more about Philly’s style of play, and that a bunch of things we, as fans, have convinced ourselves of over the years could come true if just positioned correctly, are coming true.
The impetus for this article, of course, was a tweet by Charlie O’Connor of the Athletic, who you can hear for free on BSH Radio. Check out the latest episode right here:
Now, what the hell was I talking about?
Oh right, Charlie’s Tweet.
Gotta say, I did not expect that Flyers fans' biggest complaint a week into the season was going to be "I am worried I'm getting TOO excited about this team because they've only played two goddamn games and this could all just be a mirage."— Charlie O'Connor (@charlieo_conn) October 11, 2019
Of course, we all know it’s only two games. While they haven’t done it to start a season in a while, the Flyers have played plenty of good stretches of hockey over these last few incredibly frustrating and inconsistent years to keep fans skeptical. This team once won ten straight and missed the playoffs. It was historic!
But the reason I’m diving head first into the over-reactive hysteria is because, more than anything, these two games (TWO GAMES!) have shown me that I’m not crazy.
I wasn’t crazy to buy the hype on Carter Hart (2-0-0, 1.50 GAA, .946 save-percentage).
I wasn’t crazy to think that conceding time and space on the penalty kill (operating at 85.7%), or on rushes against was a recipe for scoring chances and goals against.
I wasn’t crazy to think that this core was capable of playing at a high level if they got good goaltending and had a little bit of help from the rest of the lineup (Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Shayne Gostisbehere, Jake Voracek, and James van Riemsdyk have combined for two points, and yet this team is 2-0).
I wasn’t crazy to think Dave Hakstol was one of the team’s biggest problems, both in terms of on-ice strategies as well as “in the room.”
I wasn’t crazy. We weren’t crazy. Everybody who thought this team wasn’t that bad, but underachieving, wasn’t crazy.
Through two games the Flyers have dominated puck possession, leading the league with a 58.43 CF% and registering 66.21% of the expected goals at 5v5. The team’s three leading scorers are Hextall-era prizes Travis Konecny (3 goals, 2 assists), Ivan Provorov (1 goal, 2 assists), and Oskar Lindblom (1 goal, 1 assist).
Only five teams are averaging more goals per game than the Flyers, and only two are averaging fewer goals against.
Yes, I know it’s only two games. We’ve been over this. IT. IS. ONLY. TWO. GAMES.
But that’s not what we’re talking about. What we’re talking about is a plan coming together. Something we’ve all seen in the distance, finally giving us a reason to be optimistic about the direction of this organization.
It feels very much like when Lou Brown turned to his bench coach, Pepper, and confirmed that the Cleveland Indians were starting to play the right way...
It is, in fact, finally starting to come together. And that is a reason for excitement. It’s not about winning a couple of games, or setting up a spot on Broad Street for the Stanley Cup parade, as I alluded to (well, stated directly) on the most recent BSH Radio postgame, which you can listen to right here:
It’s about seeing the thing we thought was possible actually happen. Anybody who has been watching this team since the Craig Berube era has seen the plan unfolding, has seen them chugging slowly towards this, and they finally seem to be living up to the promise of building the “right way.”
It took finding the right coach in Alain Vigneault, spending some money on free agents ($85 million allocated to JvR and Hayes over the last two summers), and more than anything, patience.
No, we didn’t suffer in silence. We were loud and angry for much of these last nine or so seasons. But it’s because what we were seeing and what we thought this team was capable of were so disconnected, it made us feel crazy. And these two games showed us we’re not. At least as it pertains to this hockey team.
So are we getting TOO excited? Probably. But after a decade of inevitable disappointment and underachieving, seeing the promises come to fruition is actually exciting.