With a 2-1 win over the Washington Capitals today, the Philadelphia Flyers move to 23-16-8. Philly now has three wins in a row, and eight wins in their last 10. But there’s one thing they don’t have — recognition.
The new year has marked a turnaround for many teams around the league. The Calgary Flames kicked off the new year with six-straight wins, and also collected a win on New Year’s Eve. The Colorado Avalanche turned two-straight wins at the end of 2017 into what’s now a nine-game win streak. The Boston Bruins were hot before 2018, having not lost in regulation since Dec. 14. And even though the Flyers don’t have a flashy win streak to match these teams, Philadelphia is 7-2-0 in the month of January.
Even before stumbling into 2018, this Philadelphia team proved it was ready to turn a corner after winning six games in a row in the beginning of December. Now, Philly has their mojo back and is sitting in the top wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
In just 47 games, each of these forwards is averaging at least a point-per-game. Right-winger Jakub Voracek is averaging nearly an assist-per-game, and at 45 assists, Voracek has the same amount of assists as star forward Vladimir Tarasenko has points. Centerman Claude Giroux is only three points away from his point total last season and has also carded over 40 assists along with Voracek — just what’s expected from these two veterans.
Who’s the beneficiary of all of these assists? Left-winger Sean Couturier. The eighth-overall pick of the 2011 draft, Couturier was largely underwhelming during his first six seasons in the league. The youngster never tallied more than 15 goals and never reached 40 points. Now, at a seasoned 25-years-old, Couturier’s hitting his stride. Just over halfway through the season, Couturier has already posted career highs in goals (26) and points (47). The former first-round draft pick sits tied for fourth in the league in goals behind only Anders Lee (27), Nikita Kucherov (27) and Alex Ovechkin (29).
While the brilliance of Philly’s top forwards has shouldered the load for the offense, the defense has given this team wings. That’s because of a special duo of young talent that’s been overlooked by the rest of the league.
Couturier has been the catalyst on offense, but it’s fellow first-rounder Ivan Provorov that’s done it for the defense. Drafted seventh overall in 2015, Provorov is leading all Flyers skaters in ice time and blocked shots. The young Russian is second on the team in hits and defensive point shares. He’s been the anchor for this blue-line unit.
Positioned on the top pairing opposite Provorov is the spark plug for this blue-line unit. The yin to Provorov’s yang — Shayne Gostisbehere. Gostisbehere, with his puck-moving ability and menacing shot, does more than just log solid defensive minutes. The 24-year-old defenseman leads Flyers d-men in points and point shares, and is second behind Provorov in ice time. Gostisbehere is also third on the team in shots. The rest of the defense has played its part, as Philly has allowed seven goals below the league average and 68 shots below average.
The biggest concern for this Philadelphia team is scoring depth. The Flyers have just 11 double-digit point scorers — less than the Arizona Coyotes and Detroit Red Wings, which are two of the three lowest scoring teams in the league.
Even if their scoring depth continues to be a weak point, there’s no reason to expect that their top forwards are going to slow down, and they have one of the most solid defensive lineups in the East. Don’t be surprised when this team continues its success through January and into the playoffs — even though no one’s talking about them.