As NHL teams are eliminated from Stanley Cup contention, theScore NHL freelance writer Katie Brown looks back at the highs and lows of their seasons, along with the biggest questions ahead of 2018-19. The 21st edition focuses on the Philadelphia Flyers.
Claude Giroux’s regular season. Giroux's first regular-season hat trick in the Flyers’ last game of the season helped them clinch a playoff spot. It was a fitting end to a sensational individual campaign that yielded a career-high 102 points and saw Giroux lead the NHL with 68 assists.
Sean Couturier. A Selke Trophy finalist, Couturier proved just how indispensable he is to the Flyers by playing in all 82 games and posting career highs in points (76) and goals (31). He even played through a torn MCL in Game 6 of the first round of the playoffs, scored a hat trick, and had five points before Philadelphia was eliminated in the 8-5 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Big steps for young players. In their second years, defenseman Ivan Provorov logged big minutes and career-highs in goals (17) and points (41) while Travis Konecny played on the top line at times and nearly doubled his production from his rookie year, scoring 24 goals and 47 points. Rookie center Nolan Patrick had a slow start because of bilateral hip surgeries and another injury early in the season but scored most of his 13 goals and 30 points in the back half of the campaign.
Playoff goaltending. The Flyers used three goaltenders in their first-round series with the rival Penguins. Brian Elliott was rushed back from core muscle surgery and ended up with a 1-3 record, a 4.75 goals-against average, and a .856 save percentage. Backup Michal Neuvirth (1-1, 4.40 GAA, .847 SV%) wasn't any better, while Petr Mrazek relieved Elliott in Game 1 and posted a .857 save percentage.
Power play. There was talk about how the Flyers’ penalty kill would fare against the Penguins’ NHL-best power play, but one of their downfalls ended up being on their own power play: It was 2-for-21, which is about 9.5 percent, during the series. A missed opportunity in Game 6 on a four-on-three that could have tied the game looms large in hindsight.
Couldn’t win at home. Outscored 18-6 at home during their first-round series with the Penguins, the Flyers failed to win even one of their three playoff games on home ice, just the second time in 20 years that has happened.
Who’s coming back? After the Flyers’ season ended, Hextall said most, if not all, of the team’s unrestricted free agents would not be brought back - a list that includes Valtteri Filppula, Matt Read, Brandon Manning, and Johnny Oduya. This is not a surprise for a few players. Read spent much of the year in the AHL, while Oduya was claimed off waivers to be a depth defenseman. The writing was on the wall for Manning, and his departure will make room for a younger blueliner to take the next step. There’s a chance Filppula could come back if the Flyers are unable to find something better in free agency or if a younger center is ready to move up.
How will they improve this summer? Some of the Flyers’ success next season will depend on young players like Travis Sanheim, Robert Hagg, Oskar Lindblom, Patrick, and Konecny continuing to improve. There’s also the 14th and 19th overall picks in the 2018 NHL Draft. Hextall could additionally make trades this summer, a possibility he hasn’t ruled out. There would likely be a veteran player traded, or Hextall could try to move up in the draft.
Who’s the goalie? It’s a question that’s seemingly plagued the Flyers year after year as far back as anyone can remember. Hextall has said he is fine with using Neuvirth and Elliott next season as long as they are healthy. Whether both can stay fit is another matter entirely and Hextall didn’t rule out looking into other options during the offseason.
(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)