Though the Flyers are nine games past the official halfway point in the 2019-2020 season, the NHL All-Star break has traditionally served as a de-facto midway mark.
A caveat this time around for the Flyers is that not only do they get the weekend off for All-Star festivities, they’re also in the midst of their bye week. The result? Just two games in the span of 10 days against the Penguins, and a whole lot of time for reflection (and to get healthy) in-between.
With 50 games down and 32 left to go, the Flyers are just outside of the playoff picture by the slimmest of margins —missing out by just a lone point. With plenty of time left and a lot of hockey left in front of them, we’ll take a look at a few players who can help propel the Flyers down the stretch to a playoff berth.
James van Riemsdyk
After netting 27 goals in 66 games in his return to the Flyers last season, JVR has seen his production dip this season to the tune of 14 goals and 15 assists in 50 games. That’s a pretty steady drop in goal scoring for a player in the second season of a five-year deal who will turn 31 in May.
With Nolan Patrick having suited up for a total of zero games this season due to migraine issues and the team losing Oskar Lindblom to Ewings’s Sarcoma during the season, the Flyers have needed all the scoring they can get and JVR just hasn’t delivered at his career rates thus far. The good news is that JVR isn’t a lost cause by any stretch, and there are a few signs that point to the veteran turning things around in the very near future.
For starters, he went into the break with four points in his last two games, including a season-high three points against the Kings to give him points in four of five. He’s got 18 points in 23 games since the calendar flipped to December after scoring just 11 points in his first 27 games.
His shooting percentage is also slightly down (11.7%) after enjoying some high percentage rates the last two years. While some regression is always expected in that area, his shot totals are also a little down this season. Simplifying his game by getting pucks on net should help, as well as any boost he could get if the Flyers could ever figure out their power play.
The Flyers need more production from JVR in the second half if they’re to find themselves playing postseason puck.
The Flyers have enjoyed their acquisitions of Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun as established veterans on defense, but have been let down by the young guns expected to take a leap forward.
Included in that could very well be Shayne Gostisbehere, but we’ll tag Sanheim here with Ghost battling an injury and his status up in the air.
While the 23-year-old hasn’t been bad, the Flyers need more from him in the second half —especially without being able to count on Gostisbehere for health or performance reasons. Sanheim has posted seven goals and nine assists for 16 points while averaging a career-best 20:09 of ice time per night.
That extra ice time hasn’t directly translated to a more productive Sanheim, though. His Corsi-For relative (1.19%) doesn’t jump out given the fact that he’s enjoyed far easier matchups that the difficult ones taken on by the Ivan Provorov and Niskanen pair. With Gostisbehere not playing particularly well, the Flyers could use Sanheim to anchor a second pair that drives plays and doesn’t get outscored at 5-on-5.
They could also use some of Sanheim’s offensive flair to help out on the power play, where he’s added just two helpers despite soaking up some extra time with Ghost on the shelf. The coaching staff also has to get him out there in those situations, but Sanheim can help himself by making his opportunities count.
It’s not often you see the Flyers’ captain not atop the team scoring leaderboard, but that’s been the case for most of the season as Travis Konecny and Sean Couturier have enjoyed great years while Jakub Voracek is slightly ahead.
Giroux has 35 points in 50 games (13 goals, 22 assists) but has some serious work to do to hit the 20-goal mark for a seventh time with the club. He’s on-pace for his worst offensive season in three years, watching his shooting percentage slump to a near career-worst 8.8% and his power play production drop once again (13 points after 23 a year ago and 36 the year before).
The dip in power play production has coincided with some questionable coaching moves, but the results are the results and the Flyers have come to expect more from No. 28. Though the days of Giroux being a point-per game player were probably too good to be true even a year ago when he went for 85 points in 82 games, the Flyers need Giroux to work his magic to figure out the power play in the second half.
If Giroux can figure out a way to squeeze more life out of the Flyers’ power play, it could give them just enough offense they need in order to make up the small gap in the standings in the final 32 games.
Data and statistics courtesy of hockeyreference.com and naturalstattrick.com