Through their eyes: a retrospective on the regular season

Recapping break up day

Hey, everybody! Did you miss us? We’ve been gone, just a little quiet, but we’re back with more content! Are you pumped? You should be.

We here at BSH do a lot of saying words at you about the Flyers, but we’re here now to change it up. Or I’m going rouge and changing it up. Either way, we’ve got something new for you. Like I said, you’ve probably spent a lot of time reading our words about the team and the season, so I thought we’d take a few moments to get some of those impressions in the players’ own words. The Flyers conducted their exit interviews on Wednesday, and they had a lot to say! And we’ll be recapping some of the bigger points.

To start, let’s take a look back at the regular season.

The discrepancy between the team’s play on the road and at home was one that came up with force during the playoffs (more on that later!), but it’s one that plagued them throughout the regular season. So what was the problem? Shayne Gostisbehere answers:

I don’t know. We just put a lot of pressure on ourselves going home. We love to play in front of our fans, and being at home with our families, you get in your car and go to the rink.  I don’t really know what it is, but when we have a better road record than home record, there’s something there, but I think for us a team it’s just putting too much pressure on ourselves at home and trying to impress a little to much. I think going forward it’s something we could address as a team.

So where they could buckle down and stick to their gameplan on the road, home ice and the pressure of putting on a good show proved something of a hinderance. That’s not a secret—we spent a whole season watching them pressing, trying to generate offense when it wasn’t coming easily—but the shoring up seems to be something they’re working towards. With consistency being one of their bigger needs, they’re on top of it (we hope).

But an across-the-board issue came on special teams—that’s right, you guessed it, it’s the penalty kill. Oscillating between average to just plain bad for the whole of the season, it’s one of the bigger question marks remaining. Personnel changes at the end of the season helped give them a nudge in the right direction (Matt Read, hello), but they still weren’t lighting the world on fire. The system continued to falter. And one of the reasons, Radko Gudas notes, was communication:

Some details, I think. Sometimes the guys didn’t talk enough, I would say, with each other on the ice. Who’s taking what lane and who’s got what key. I think it’s more the guys on the ice that weren’t really communicating with each other, but as the close as the end of the season, the penalty kill got better a little bit.

Okay. How do we feel about that answer? Not exactly what we were hoping for? Sure. It doesn’t account for the ways that the system they were playing continually led to lapses in coverage, for which they were burned, but it’s not nothing. Would things have gone differently if the penalty killers had communicated while they let a forward get the inside on them in front of the net? I mean, maybe. But there may still be a little more there.

But maybe we should move away from the doom and gloom for a bit, here. The regular season wasn’t a complete mess, and we got some very nice things out of it. Towards the top of that list? The pairing of Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere. That was fun, right? Here’s Ghost talking about that pairing:

I think Provy and I as a pair in general we really fed off each other in different ways. I’m the more offensive guy and he’s a thousand of years better than me defensively.  I think we used that to our advantage and I think it really showed as a pair. Provy’s very good defensively, but I think offensively he took another step this year. I think he tied for the league in goals as a defenseman, that’s huge, for a guy who’s not labeled as offensive. I think he’s probably one of the best if not the best two-way defenseman in the NHL. If I get to play with him I’m gonna elevate the level of my game I think it was a good partnership in realizing that we could both get up the ice, but also we could both play defense really well and I think he helped me years with my defensive side of my game just watching him and him helping me along the way.

So not only was this pairing just a real treat to watch, as a surface read, it also served as an effective developmental tool. Players who came into the season viewed as nearly stylistic opposites learned from each other, building on their respective games, and became better for it. We may not necessarily expect to see them paired together in the future, but we saw it working while they were. Our two best defensemen made bigger steps forward still, and figure to only keep improving with more time to apply all this. And that’s pretty exciting.

And then, to pan back and widen the scope, the Big Question. Was this season a success? Let’s check in with Dave Hakstol.

I think the end result of the regular season is a good result, our number one goal is to be a playoff team. How we got there, I think you gotta take a close look at it. Evaluate the good and bad, the end result that’s a good result. I think we took a route with a lot of bumps along the way and I think that’s one thing we’re looking at it where we want to be a little bit more consistent. You get tired of the questions about not winning in 10 games there. That’s a reality. There’s a little bit too much inconsistency to our regular season and we put ourselves at a big risk. Especially with that stretch and one or two other. In terms of the regular season, I love the way our guys fought. To be able to battle back out of an early hole. Then the stretch we had to put together at the end of the year to make the push to get in. That showed an awful lot of the character of our team and the consistency of our team. We have to spread that out over the 82 games to be a bit more consistent, that’ll be a goal as we go into next year. Playoffs, I think we have to recognize the failures of our playoffs, we have to find a way to learn from it. There’s a lot of lessons in there, the fact that we went to six games, for me that covers up a lot of things we didn’t do well, we weren’t good enough. We’ll take the failures out of the playoff series and those are some things that are gonna spur us on to be a lot better.

So, then, success becomes about expectations. You wanted the team to sneak into the playoffs after not making them last year? Well, you got it! Don’t look at anything else! They did the single, solitary thing you asked for.

But what lies beneath is what we touched on before this point--the holes in the lineup, in their game, that we saw exploited through the regular season and beyond. The process wasn’t always good, and even if it got them just to where they wanted, that doesn’t make it any less fraught. This was a thread running through the bulk of the interviews across those two days—they did some good work, they did some growing, but they still have some work to do.