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You don’t need me to tell you that the game of hockey has changed.
It’s obvious. It’s all about speed. It’s all about showcasing skill. There’s no more fighting. There’s not as much non-fighting physicality either.
The game moves at a greater pace than it used to and when it moves so quickly, more mistakes are bound to happen, and the the teams that make the fewest mistakes and take advantage of the most mistakes of their opponents are going to win.
Yes, there is more to hockey than that, but if you need your description stripped down to the equivalent of a two-plus-two equation, that’s it, for better or for worse.
And yet, here are the Flyers doing something a little bit differently to try to win games – and it’s working.
Entering play Tuesday, there were 55 players in the NHL who had at least 20 goals. None of them were Flyers. Travis Konecny eventually joined that group, which has now swelled to 58 players, when he scored a tip-in goal for his 20th of the season in the Flyers 5-1 win over Columbus, but the point is, for a game that relies so heavily on speed and skill as much as hockey does, the Flyers aren’t especially fast, nor do they showcase their skill by generating a lot of shots or chances. The Flyers are smack dab in the middle of the pack in average shots on goal in a game with 31.5, ranking 14th in the NHL.
Top half, yes. But barely.
Instead, because the Flyers don’t have any stand out superstars who are chasing scoring titles, they play a system where they are relying on everyone to score – and are the seventh-highest scoring team in the NHL, which may be a little bit surprising, because they don’t come off as a high-scoring team, especially since their power play has been nothing better than mediocre all season (20.1 percent, No. 16 in the NHL).
But, what is making the Flyers formula so successful is something taken out of the “old school” play book:
They frustrate the hell out of the opposition with stingy team defense.