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Rising up the ranks

The Flyers have surged up the Metro standings and here's why...

by Bill Meltzer @billmeltzer

The Flyers woke up on Sunday morning one point out of first place in the Metropolitan Division. Philadelphia has gone 5-0-1 in its last six games; a 3-0-1 western road trip and a 2-0-0 start to the current five-game homestand.

What have been the keys to the team's recent surge after its 4-7-0 start to the season? Here are four of the most important reasons. 


The Flyers have scored first in each of the last six games after giving up the game's first goal in 10 of the first 11 matches. On a league-wide basis in this decade, teams that score first win greater than 70 percent of time. 

Digging a little deeper, the Flyers struggled mightily to score in 1st periods over most of the first 11 games. In the last six games, the first-period bottom line period broke down as follows: the Flyers led Anaheim, 1-0, at the first intermission, led Los Angeles 1-0, led San Jose 2-1, led Arizona 2-0 in Glendale, led Arizona 2-1 in Philadelphia, and led Chicago 1-0.

In total, that's a plus-seven goal differential (9-2) over the last six games. Plain and simple, playing from ahead rather than chasing a comeback makes the remainder of the game much more manageable. 

Related point: In five of the last six games, the Flyers have not trailed at any point of regulation. Only the 5-4 overtime time win in the rematch against Arizona required the Flyers to stage a comeback.



The last six games haven't been spotless. There have still been stretches of games where the Flyers got outplayed -- including some of the aforementioned first periods where the team nevertheless took leads to intermission. The penalty kill subsequently yielded goals in five of the first six games.

In four of the last six games, however, the Flyers starting goaltenders have had strong performances that included numerous "momentum saves" at junctures where the rest of the game could have gone quite differently had the opponent scored. 

Cal Pickard had a solid start in Glendale on the front end of the home-and-home set. However, the real standout has been Brian Elliott. 

Dating back even to the Flyers' loss in Boston, Elliott has been in his best groove since December of last year. He stopped 20 of 22 shots in Boston (the Bruins' final goal was an empty netter), 21 of 23 in Anaheim, 23 of 25 in Los Angeles, all 16 he faced in relief of Pickard in the comeback win against Arizona and was razor sharp in recording a 33-save shutout of Chicago on Saturday.



Different scoring heroes on different nights: That's what it takes on the offensive side of the puck to put streaks together in today's NHL. It's hard to sustain success when only one line has to carry virtually the entire load.

One of the most pleasant developments during the western road trip was the strong play of the Flyers second line of Oskar Lindblom, Nolan Patrick and Jakub Voracek. Patrick and Lindblom have each posted at least one point in five of the last six games. 

In the meantime, the Flyers top line trio of Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and, Travis Konecny (to a somewhat lesser extent), has found its groove. They had multi-goal performances in Glendale and at home against Chicago.

With the last line change at home, Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol frequently matched the Couturier line plus the defense pair of Ivan Provorov and Robert Hägg head-to-head with Patrick Kane's line centered by Artem Anisimov. The youthful line with Patrick and Lindblom saw duties against veteran Chicago captain Jonathan Toews' line. It paid off, as the Couturier line had a dominant all-around afternoon and the other matchup was largely a stalemate.

There have been others chipping in as well. By his own admission, Scott Laughton did not have a great individual performance on the road trip but he returned home to key the Flyers comeback win over Arizona with an excellent all-around game that included two goals. Jordan Weal and Dale Weise have each scored a goal apiece during the current run, and Shayne Gostisbehere scored a power play goal in Glendale and the overtime winner in the rematch in Philly. 



At some point, Andrew MacDonald will get back in the Flyers' lineup. However, Christian Folin has been playing solid hockey during the current stretch and the Flyers have been rolling the same three defense pairings game after game.

Currently, Provorov and Gostisbehere remain on separate pairings. Provorov is with Hägg, Gostisbehere with Folin. In the meantime, the work of Radko Gudas together with Travis Sanheim has been a positive for most of the early season, and the two have been a pairing for most of the season to date.

At some point there were be another reconfiguration. For now though, the Flyers aren't going to tinker with the personnel arrangement.

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