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3 positive takeaways from the Flyers’ postseason

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It may not feel like it now, but there is reason for optimism.

Philadelphia Flyers v New York Islanders - Game Three Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images

It’s been about a week since the Philadelphia Flyers’ season ended at the hands of the New York Islanders — just writing that was enough to provoke a gag reflex.

For the next few months, there will be a lot of talk regarding the changes the Flyers need to make this offseason. And there are a decent amount of them. For one, the Flyers need to do something — anything — to fix their atrocity of a power play. They also need to evaluate whether or not veterans such as Justin Braun or Tyler Pitlick will return for the 2020-21 season.

But for now, those thoughts are all going to be put away for a minute. Because even though the Flyers didn’t end up winning the COVID Cup, they did manage to prove a whole lot of people wrong this season. And while it may not feel like it now, the Flyers showed some very encouraging signs in the playoffs. Here are a few of them.

1. Carter Hart was exceptionally good

One of the big mysteries going into the postseason was how Carter Hart would respond to the increased pressure of playoff hockey. It’s pretty safe to say now that he passed the test with flying colors.

Hart, who just turned 22 years old in August, was nothing short of sensational for the Flyers in the postseason. In fact, one could even argue that he was the best player on the team. And honestly, he probably was.

In 14 starts in the postseason, Hart finished with a .926 save percentage and 2.23 goals against average. And following the round robin tournament, Hart outplayed Carey Price, his childhood idol, to help guide the Flyers to their first postseason series victory since 2012. Hart put together back-to-back shutouts against the Canadiens, and without him, it’s very likely the series could have gone in a different direction considering the Flyers’ offensive struggles.

While Hart wasn’t nearly as good against the Islanders as he was against Montreal, the entire team had its fair share of issues in Round 2. The Flyers’ top players were struggling to find the back of the net and Mathew Barzal simply had his way with Philadelphia’s blueliners — regardless of who was on the ice. Given the scoring chances Barzal and company regularly created, it’s incredible the series even made it to seven games. But thanks to the play of Hart — albeit with a few blemishes — the Flyers went the distance with the Isles.

If this is a preview of what Hart will look like in the postseason for years to come, the Flyers will be in a very good place for a very long time.

2. Joel Farabee impressed in the playoffs as a rookie

Hart wasn’t the only youngster on the Flyers’ roster to impress in the postseason. Joel Farabee also showed encouraging potential as a 20-year-old rookie.

Granted, Farabee didn’t impress quite to the extent Hart did — that would be a near impossible ask for someone drafted just two years ago — but he did have his fair share of standout moments.

For one, Farabee scored a few big goals that helped the Flyers secure a couple big wins. His first goal of the postseason was a gorgeous one-timed blast against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the round robin tournament, eventually leading to the Flyers earning the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

His second goal came in the Flyers’ very next game — Game 1 against the Canadiens. Just seconds after Montreal opened the scoring, Farabee redirected a point shot on net and rammed his own rebound past Carey Price for the game-winning goal.

Farabee was far from a game-changing player in the postseason, as evidenced by his not-so-flattering advanced statistics (46.15 GF%, 39.11 xGF% at 5-on-5 in the playoffs). But even still, the fact that he scored a pair of huge goals in non regular-season play is a great sign moving forward.

For someone still unable to legally consume alcohol in public, Farabee could have done much, much worse.

3. The Flyers got further than many expected

At one point this season, the Flyers looked like a team ready to challenge for the Stanley Cup. They were rolling in February and the first couple weeks of March before the pandemic forced the NHL to pause the season. It appeared evident that this 2019-20 team had the potential to be something special.

Rewind a year or so, however, and it’s unlikely anyone thought the Flyers even had a chance to make the postseason.

Questionable playoff decisions aside, Alain Vigneault was arguably the best coach in the NHL this season. For the first time in years, the Flyers were playing championship-level hockey, and Vigneault was huge reason for that. Travis Konecny, despite being held scoreless in the playoffs, put together a breakout campaign that one can feasibly consider a smashing success. Kevin Hayes turned out to be a phenomenal addition to the Flyers and stepped up numerous times throughout the postseason. Phil Myers and Travis Sanheim now have 16 games of playoff hockey under their belts, as does the Flyers’ franchise netminder.

For the first time in a very long time, the Flyers appear to be building a legitimate winner. They may not have made it to the Eastern Conference Final, but they achieved what many considered unachievable at the beginning of the season.

If the Flyers continue to build off what should be considered a successful 2019-20 campaign, it may not be long before fans really have something to celebrate.