Note 1: All advanced stats are based on games played through February 27 because the article was written prior to last night’s win over the Avalanche.
Note 2: As of publishing, the Flyers are about to re-sign Michal Neuvirth, who was very strong as a backup in 2015-16 but has sucked from the jump this season (injuries aside) and ranks dead-last in the NHL in save percentage. I guess going into the offseason without a veteran goalie on the roster wasn’t an option. This would seemingly make Neuvy the de facto starter for 2017-18, which will solve absolutely nothing. So long and fair well, Steve Mason.
The Flyers’ 10-game win streak from the end of November through the middle of December was a joyous time and nice little three-week run of good fortune for a team that hadn’t had much of any in the first seven weeks of the season. Still, those 10 wins were more indicative of what a hot goalie and puck luck’s fickle nature can do, rather than the sign of a team hitting its stride. Precisely none of the wins had a margin of victory over two goals, and only a few could even be considered impressive. I felt like a bit of a slide would follow once the win streak ended, though I can’t say I expected it to morph into a nosedive that has lasted nine weeks (during which time they’re 10-16-4) and rendered the season effectively over by the end of February. Hell, the Flyers would have the worst record in the East had they gone even 6-3-1 during the win streak. But now I’m just being a dick.
I thought the Flyers, who certainly overachieved in 2015-16, would be able to build on last season and take another step forward. On paper, I saw this as an improved roster (added a top-four defenseman and top-six forward) with two goalies in a contract year; it was fair to expect at least one of them to step up and shine. I convinced myself to believe this squad was capable of topping 100 points and battling for the third seed in the Metropolitan Division. Turns out I was a dumb, stupid boy (plus the Metro is having the best season for any division in recent memory). Dave Hakstol responded well to the gauntlet of his first pro season, silencing the skeptics by bursting onto the scene and showing his system and philosophies could hang in the modern NHL game. Unfortunately I see now that I severely underestimated his ability to understand and competently manage personnel. He’s so out of his depth on the issue of personnel, and recently it’s been especially excruciating to watch (which I’ve barely had interest in doing). In last night’s win over the pathetic Avalanche, Steve Mason carried the team in the final two periods for his second shutout in four games… in four weeks. If it was indeed Mason’s final game as a Flyer, it was a fitting “up yours” to the boss who did him so dirty this past month when he could’ve helped the team stay in the playoff picture. The Flyers started February on a high note, soundly beating the Canadiens 3-1 to round out a 5-4 stretch that momentarily halted the post-winning-streak 2-6-1 skid. Michal Neuvirth had a stellar first three of games of February, so Hakstol decided to ride him the whole month. Naturally, Neuvy went ice cold upon starting both legs of the back-to-back (henceforth known as just one of many Hakstol Specials that spits in the face of hard data) to kick off the Western Canada road trip. Continue Reading