Previous entries in the series
Loyal readers, before this episode of Flyers in FHM begins, I want to simply take a moment to share a bit of mindfulness with you, and to set the scene...
The April air is crisp as you sit relaxed in the Flyers themed folded armchair which you have set up in the Wells Fargo Center parking lot. As you sit, next to your car in the parking space, the smoky smell of charcoal wafts through your vicinity, carrying with it the additional scents of grilled hotdogs and hamburgers. A father and son across from you throw a football back and forth to each other, as the lot begins to fill with cars carrying eager passengers. You look down and reach for your pocket, pulling out a ticket. On the face of it, text under a familiar logo reads “Washington Capitals VS PHILADELPHIA FLYERS, Game 1, 7:00 PM”. You quickly check your watch before packing up the chair into the car trunk, as you walk with the droves of fans donned in orange.
Oh what a sight it is, playoff season!
But, before we get on with the show, the results from last episode’s poll is in, and a 2/3rds majority voted that I should leave the playoff format as is. This is fair enough, as keeping the (bad) format does preserve realism since the NHL likely won’t be changing it anytime soon.
But now, the first round starts, and for the playoffs, I’ll be going game by game with you, hopefully sharing the same excitement and anticipation for potential Flyer glory.
Round One, Game One
To kick off the series, we’ll be rolling with the same line-up that’s gotten us here so far, though I’ve adjusted the ice-time so our better players are getting more action:
As you’ll see below, we pretty much eclipsed the Capitals in every category other than power-play and penalty-kill. Additionally, Brayden Holtby comes into today burning hot, so I’m hoping we don’t run into a goalie standing on his head.
Fortunately for us however, that wasn’t to be the case!
Alex Ovechkin put Washington ahead very early in this one, but five (FIVE) unanswered goals propelled the Flyers to a 1-0 series lead. Filip Forsberg had himself quite a day with four points. Travis Sanheim scored a pair in the first and second periods to give the Flyers the lead, then Forsberg, Gostisbehere and Larkin put the finishing touches on a much needed victory at home as the Flyers make the most of their first home ice advantage since 2011.
Round One, Game Two
Back in Philadelphia again, I rolled with the same line-up as before. Hey, if it isn’t broke don’t fix it! The Capitals, however, put the scratched Ilya Kovalchuk back in the line-up. I’m shaking in my boots (sarcasm).
Though maybe perhaps I should have been a bit more scared (sarcasm again).
The Caps came out guns blazing in this one. Mind you, Carter Hart didn’t have a very good game but still the Capitals went all out attack stylistically, 80’s style.
However, it wasn’t enough to beat us at home. A third period salvo, capped off by a Morgan Frost empty net goal, sealed the win, and a 2-0 series lead.
I’m going to now make an adjustment though, as I want to avoid giving up goals against.
Round One, Game Three
On the road we go, all the way down to the nation’s capital. For this tilt, I changed our tactics to favor more defensively sound play, re-adjusted ice-time to make it more even, and altered Dylan Larkin’s role to Perimeter Shooter to overload the second line with scorers.
Fortuatnely, it worked. A Claude Giroux power-play tally was all we’d need, as additional tallies from JVR and Travis Konecny bolstered the lead. Unfortunately though, Adrian Kempe was hurt in the second period, and will be out a shoulder injury for two weeks.
Yet, none the less, we have a chance to sweep the Caps. Let’s take it.
Round One, Game Four
Unfortunately, those Capitals are very resistant, as they manage to stave off a late comeback attempt to stay alive in the series 3 games to 1:
Of all people, it was a Tom Wilson goal which saw the Caps take game four.
Round One, Game Five
This game went considerably less in our favor as we slip up at home. Though the game was tied after two periods, the Capitals scored three goals unanswered to send the series to game six.
Round One, Game Six
Now in the nation’s capital once again, can the Flyers finally knock off the Caps and move to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2012?
THE ANSWER IS YES!
Answering back from an Ovechkin power-play blast, Dylan Larkin tied the game at two in the second period, before eventually Travis Konecny would score the game winner at 11:04 of the third period. It was Konecny’s fourth goal in the series, and it was the goal that sent Washington to the golf course!
Round two here we come!
Columbus managed to upset Pittsburgh in round one, so they will be who we face next, as in the East as well, Tampa and Boston square off in what is sure to be a fun series.
Round Two, Game One
Once again, we start off at home. this time to play the Flyers’ first ever playoff series against the Blue Jackets. They were led this season by Pierre-Luc Dubois, who registered an 89 point season (yeesh). Elvis Merzlikins started in net for Columbus, with Carter Hart yet again getting the start for the Flyers.
Though Adrian Kempe is close to returning, he wasn’t fit enough to play in this game, so the line-up from game six makes a comeback unchanged.
And it turned out that I made a good choice! This tilt was quite the defensive affair, with shots coming at a premium. However, a goal from Captain Claude was all we’d need to take a 1-0 series lead. Matt Niskanen let loose a drive from the point that Merzlikins stopped but Giroux was right on the doorstep to pounce on the rebound.
*In DJ Khaled voice* Another one.
Round Two, Game Two
At home again, Adrian Kempe was ready to return to the line-up, taking his 3RW spot. I was nervous before the start of this one, since I didn’t want to disrupt the rhythm that we had going so far, but Kempe gives us a good shift on the third line, so in he goes! All this being said, Carter Hart has been nothing short of amazing so far, so let’s hope he continues to shine.
And, that was not what was needed. The series is now evened at 1-1, and my word, Elvis stood on his head in this game. Also, from those hit totals, it appears Columbus are trying to take the physical route to intimidate the Flyers. As much as I want to perhaps match them, we are not a particularly hit-heavy team, and I fear hitting would throw players out of position in my system, so I’m going to stay put, for now...
Round Two, Game Three
Now, the series shifts to Columbus. Truthfully, the Blue Jackets have been nothing short of sensational at home in FHM so far, so I’m nervous.
However, a resounding victory followed. Elvis certainly left the building, as we fired 43 shots on his net.
This game featured what I can only describe as the Sean Couturier (for Selke) masterclass. Just take a look below:
His two goals in the third period killed off the Blue Jackets, and gives us a 2-1 lead in the series!
Round Two, Game Four
As for the Flyers, this is a game I’d like to have back. A shorthanded goal in the first period kind of set the tone for how this game went, with the Flyers being outmuscled physically. I think next game I will instruct the players to go in harder on checks.
Round Two, Game Five
Back in Philadelphia, with the series tied at two, the more physical style that Bill Barber would love paid off:
Goals from Kempe, van Riemsdyk, and Couturier proved enough to stop a late Columbus surge, and now, we sit just one victory away from a conference final!
Round Two, Game Six
And yet, it wasn’t meant to be tonight.
I will say though that Columbus won this game against the general run of play. The Flyers owned the shot and possession battle, but were simply unable to beat Merzlikins as he yet again stood on his head to deny the Flyers.
So, we head into a crucial game seven.
Round Two, Game Seven
There was a tense atmosphere around the Wells Fargo Center as the deciding game was to be played on a warm May evening.
Columbus jumped out to a three goal lead early on, only to make it 4-2 heading into the third. A very early goal from Ivan Provorov unfortunately proved too little, as Columbus held on to take the series 4-3.
As you can see from the shot totals, we yet again dominated play, but Columbus proved to be clinical with their chances.
I am quite disappointed with the result of this, especially given how well we played earlier in the series, but I can only be so upset, as we made it out of the first round for the first time in years. Young players such as Carter Hart gained key experience, and I know we will be back stronger than ever next season. Coming from personal experience, it’s rare to win the cup in the first year of play anyway, so I’m optimistic to see where we can go next year!
In the end, the Bruins (ew) won the cup, as they narrowly inched past Calgary in the final.
In the end, I think there are some key lessons I can take from this year’s playoffs.
- We are a lot deeper than most teams, but we lack that killer finish at times. For that, I’m going to be on the market for a truly elite talent at center or wing. I may make some trades to clear up salary for this (I’ll be manually increasing the cap to a number in line with projections. This piece from Second City projects a fairly significant increase between 84 and 88.2 million dollars, so I’ll split the difference and go with an $85.5 million dollar cap ceiling).
- Though our defense is quite deep as well, I think a solidly defensive or two way defensive stud is needed to sure up the back line. I think I’m more likely to address this by trade than in free agency however, as in the past, Thomas Chabot has proven to be excellent in future saves.
- In goal, however, we are just perfect. Carter Hart has proven to be a real workhorse #1 goaltender, so just a decent backup is needed, or I could even call up an AHL goalie to backup.
- I’m considering trading futures for an instant impact draftee, and that’s likely to be Alexis Lafreniere. Though, it all depends on who gets the #1 overall pick. If it is in division, I likely won’t trade a ton of assets to a rival.
- I’ll also have to consider the Seattle expansion, since I don’t want to lose a talented roster piece that way.
Anyways, that concludes today’s episode.
Next time, I’ll be conducting the draft, re-signing players, and going through free agency!
Your continued support of this series is much appreciated, and thank you for your feedback!
Please do leave me with trade ideas in the comments!