The Flyers locker room was somber and quiet, as expected, on Sunday after the team was eliminated by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
However, each of the half-dozen or so players, as well as the head coach, who were paraded in front of a giant throng of reporters, used the same brush to paint a picture of the overall direction of the organization: They all felt the future is bright.
It’s hard to argue with them.
The Flyers finished with 10 more points than last year, qualified for the playoffs after a one-year hiatus, watched veterans enjoy career years, and received major contributions from first- and second-year players. The Flyers feel they have laid the foundation for success in the years to come.
Before we move on to the offseason and next year, though, let’s take one last quick look back at the highs and lows during the 2017-2018 campaign.
Although they were bounced in six games by the two-time defending champs, the experience the young guys gained and the lessons learned will be invaluable in future playoff series.
The breakout season
Sean Couturier emerged from the shadows of the third line to prove he can center the first line and is one of the team leaders. He set career-highs in goals (31), points (76), and plus-minus (plus-34) and is a finalist for the Selke Trophy, handed out to the league’s best defensive forward. He also scored the game-winning goal in Game 5 and had a hat trick in Game 6 against the Penguins despite playing with a torn MCL.
Travis Konecny, in his second season, finished with 24 goals and showed 30-goal potential after netting 11 as a rookie.
The MVP season
After four-straight years of declining statistics, Claude Giroux had 102 points and should receive serious MVP consideration. The captain also gets credit for keeping the team together during a 10-game losing streak (see below) early in the season.
The rookie season
It was a year of the kids as the Flyers dressed seven rookies. Of the class, Nolan Patrick and Travis Sanheim look like future stars while Robert Hagg projects as top-four defenseman.
The goalie carousel
Due to injuries and inconsistent play, coach Dave Hakstol was forced to use four different goalies during the regular season and three in the postseason. One year – we promise – the position won’t be the team’s Achilles heel.
The losing streak
The Flyers endured a 10-game winless streak (0-5-5) that covered November and December. Late in the skid during a home game, the crowd repeatedly chanted, “Fire Hakstol” and the team held a closed-door meeting.
The special teams
The power play was ranked a pedestrian 15th in the league and completely disappeared in the playoffs. The penalty kill, ranked 29th, was even worse and continuously was exposed against Pittsburgh.