In the first month of the season, the Flyers survived a grueling four-game West Coast trip to begin the year, enjoyed a rousing 8-2 win over the Capitals in the home opener and have had some wild finishes, especially in a bizarre 6-5 loss in Nashville.
In what was hardly a dull October, here’s the Metro’s review of the good, the bad and the ugly from the team’s first dozen games.
The first line
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Flyers coach Dave Hakstol gets major kudos for this idea. He persuaded captain Claude Giroux to swallow some pride and move to left wing from his natural center position, and then put Sean Couturier, who is known more as a shutdown defensive player, at center. The rejiggered top line, which included Jake Voracek on the right side, has made Hakstol look like a genius. Giroux is averaging more than a point per game for the first time in three years, Voracek leads the club with 16 points and is second in the NHL in assists and Couturier is the biggest surprise with nine goals, which ties him for fourth in the league.
While they finished ranked seventh on the power play last season, the Flyers were dreadful at even strength. They averaged just 1.5 goals per game and only three other teams scored fewer goals at 5-on-5 than them last season. Now, they’re averaging 2.5 goals a game at even strength – and have remained in the 10 on the man-advantage.
The kids have game
The Flyers started the season with five rookies, which was the most since 1992-93 when Eric Lindros made his debut. Although Sam Morin never played in a game before being sent back to the Phantoms, the remaining four have endured expected growing pains but have been impressive. Defenseman Robert Hagg has been their best and most consistent first-year player, while Nolan Patrick, the No. 2 overall pick in last year’s draft, was excelling before missing the last three games with a head injury.
Although his record is 5-2, the goalie’s stats tell a different story. Signed to a two-year, $5M free agent deal this summer, Elliott owns an .884 save percentage, which ranks – gulp – 42nd in the league. He seems to fight the puck most games and has struggled to find a rhythm. Meanwhile, Michal Neuvirth is 1-3 but has a .925 save percentage, which is tied for 12th in the league.
Over the course of an 82-game schedule, every team is bound to turn in a few clunkers. The Flyers fell victim twice, at home no less, during a 6-2 loss to Anaheim last Tuesday and then closed out the month with a 4-3 overtime loss to the previously winless Coyotes.