Just as we all predicted, the Flyers are cruising along at 3-0 to start their season.
And as surprising as the overall results may be—particularly last night’s win picked up over the Tampa Bay Lightning—there has been a lot to like from the team in these first three games. They seem to have overcome their scoring woes from the preseason, and have scored at least three goals in each of these three games. Carter Hart is settling in (more on that later). They look more settled in to their defensive zone structure, aren’t playing so fast and loose with that structure under pressure. They’re checking well, bringing more consistent energy, and perhaps biggest of all, have broken out of the pattern of making the absolute most catastrophic turnover at the worst possible time.
They’ve come back from deficits in each of these games, and their perseverance has been remarkable. The team has talked about it too—this is new, they’re not getting down on themselves when things start to go a little sideways, they’re just keeping their heads down and continuing to work.
But, that said, we made the point after their win over the Devils in the season opener that we don’t know if we’d call that win completely convincing, and that remains true as we look at this third win. The Flyers got buried by possession again—they put up an adjusted 41.32 CF% and 38 xGF% at 5-on-5, figures that have been more or less consistent for them in each of their games. They’re getting a combination of solid to stellar goaltending, individual resilience, as well a bit of up to help them keep coming back time and again, but eventually the suspect process is going to catch up with them, and the results will come back down to reflect that. It might not be today, or next week, but eventually it’s going to happen.
Now, you certainly will not find us complaining about wins, or the fact that the Flyers have seemingly removed the massive gaffes that they would fall victim to last season from their game, but we can also recognize that there doesn’t really feel like there’s a permanence to what’s happening here. As we love to say around here: regression eventually comes for us all.
We’ll keep on riding these good vibes until then—at the very least, this is fun, after all—but we won’t be blindsided when they do eventually come back down to earth.
Bits and bobs
Carter Hart is back
After missing the whole of the preseason, the first two games of the regular season were a bit of an adventure for Hart, as we saw him starting off looking a bit shaky and then needing about a period to get settled into those first two games, but if we’re looking for good news, it’s that he was locked in right out of the gates last night. And that’s great, because he needed to be.
As we mentioned earlier, the Lightning were throwing a lot at the Flyers, particularly early as the team worked through some tentativeness and struggled mightily on their breakouts, and was the reason things didn't get really out of hand for them. All told, he stopped 36 of the 38 shots he faced—including all 13 of the high danger shots—for a stellar .947 save percentage.
In short: Hart is back to keeping things locked down well enough to keep his team in the game while the skaters sort themselves out, and that’s about as welcome of a sight as we can think of.
We’re not at the point of the season when we want to get too wrapped up in fussing over the time on ice charts, but there’s one detail from last night’s that we want to key in on for a moment. Nic Deslauriers played a total of 6:13 last night, and only about three of those minutes of playing time came between the second and third periods. Which is to say: for as much as folks talk about fights like his being something that gives teams a boost to improve their play, but when it came down to it, however much that fight did for them, the Flyers decided that Deslauriers was basically unplayable as they were picking up steam and making their comeback in this game. And that more or less lines up with what Tortorella talked about back in his chat with Bill and Steph:
I think being a team hard to play against is a team that plays hard on the wall, protects pucks, make sure the puck is out in a certain situation in the neutral zone so you don’t get another offensive play at you, in your offensive zone. Blocking shots, finishing your checks, sticking up for one another, taking care of the blue paint, being in their blue paint, and not let anybody near your goalie and your blue paint. I can go on for 10 minutes about little things that happen. But none of it’s fighting.
And while they’re not exactly flush with players to shuffle in and out of the lineup, it’s worth keeping an eye on, and we’re left to wonder if his spot in a more healthy lineup is as locked in as we might have thought.
More movement coming?
Speaking of potential movement in the lineup, the Flyers are right back at it tonight against Florida, and that seems a ripe opportunity to see a bit of shuffling. Hart was great, as we said, and Tortotella didn’t seemed to fussed about hypothetically playing a goalie in both games in a back-to-back, but Hart was pretty busy last night, and giving him the night off as a result and giving Felix Sandstrom a look doesn’t seem out of the question.
Last night also saw Olle Lycksell come out of the lineup in favor of getting Zack MacEwen his season debut, and while MacEwen was fine—just fine—he didn’t offer the team a ton in the way of offensive burst when they needed to find a way to get themselves on the board, and that is something you should get a bit more of with Lycksell. So do we see those two flip flopping again? Could Lycksell come back in in his place, or even Deslauriers’s?
It feels a little early, too, to be asking a lot of big questions about roster and rest management, but here we are, all the same. We’ll see soon how this shakes out.
All stats via Natural Stat Trick.