Flyers' roller-coaster ride had more ups than downs

Season11
Captain Claude Giroux, who could become the third different player in franchise history to win the MVP award, led the Flyers’ surge after their awful start.

A look at the Flyers’ season heading into their first-round playoff opener Wednesday in Pittsburgh:

The roller-coaster ride

Down: The Flyers lost 10 straight (0-5-5) from Nov. 11 to Dec. 2.

Up: They became the fifth team in NHL history to win six in a row immediately after a 10-game skid. And they later had a 10-0-2 run in February.

Poll

Can the Flyers win a championship as underdogs as the Eagles did?

Down: They lost seven of eight games in early March.

Up: They finished the season by collecting points in 10 of their last 11 games (7-1-3), enabling them to clinch a playoff spot with a 5-0 win over the Rangers in their regular-season finale.

Bizarre developments

Last season, the Flyers became the first team in NHL history to miss the playoffs during a year in which they had a 10-game winning streak.

This year, they became the fourth team in history to reach the playoffs during a season in which they lost at least 10 in a row.

The MVP candidate

Claude Giroux, who was moved from center to left wing before the season, set career highs in points (102), goals (34) and assists (68) and stamped himself as one of the top candidates for the Hart Trophy, given the the league’s MVP.

Giroux had a part in 41 percent of the Flyers’ goals. That’s the highest percentage of all the MVP candidates whose teams made the playoffs.

Eric Lindros was the last Flyer to win the Hart Trophy, capturing it in 1994-95.

Bobby Clarke won it three times – 1972-73, 1974-75, and 1975-76.

 

 

Penalty killing woes

The Flyers finished 29th in the NHL with a success rate of just 75.8 percent.

It marked the fourth straight season the PK has floundered. The Flyers’ penalty kill was tied for 19th in 2016-17 (79.8 percent), tied for 20th in 2015-16 (80.5 percent), and 27th in 2014-15 (77.1 percent).

The offensive defensemen

Ivan Provorov finished tied for the NHL lead for defensemen by scoring 17 goals — 11 more than he tallied in his rookie season.

Shayne Gostisbehere finished fourth among NHL defensemen with 65 points.

Flyers defensemen scored 50 goals, their highest total since 1992-93.

The offensive defensive specialist

Sean Couturier, long regarded as one of the NHL’s best defensive forwards, turned offensive. The 25-year-old center erupted for 31 goals and 76 points. His previous career highs: 15 goals and 39 points.

Couturier finished tied for third in the league with a plus-34 rating.

Rookies shine

Several Flyers rookies made an impact, headed by Nolan Patrick (13 goals), goalie Alex Lyon (4-2-1 record), and defenseman Robert Hagg, who led the league in hits for a good portion of the season.

Patrick, left winger Oskar Lindblom, and defenseman Travis Sanheim are rookies who expected to be in the lineup for Wednesday’s first-round playoff opener in Pittsburgh.

Goalie carousel

Because of injuries to Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth, the Flyers spent most of the last two months without their top two goalies. Petr Mrazek and Lyon got most of the starts during that time.

After Elliott was injured on Feb. 10 (and Neuvirth a short time later), the Flyers went an admirable 15-7-5 the rest of the way.

 

 

Konecny blossoms

Second-year right winger Travis Konecny looked like a future star after he was shifted to a line with Couturier and Giroux midway through the season. Konecny had 20 goals in his 41 games with Giroux and Couturier. He had four goals in 40 games on other lines.

Struggling season

Winger Jordan Weal was perhaps the Flyers’ biggest disappointment.

After scoring eight goals in the final 19 games in 2016-17, Weal managed just eight goals in 69 games this season.

Weal is not expected to play in Game 1 of the playoffs, but coach Dave Hakstol hinted he may get a chance to be a factor in the series. In the regular season against Pittsburgh, Weal had four points. No Flyer had more.

Farewell, Broad Street Bullies

This was the first time since 1970-71 that the Flyers went a full season without having a player receive over 100 penalty minutes. They were shorthanded just 223 times, the league’s third-fewest total.

Low Point

Hakstol, the Flyers’ third-year coach, was not exactly the area’s most popular sports figure on Nov. 28.

During the Flyers’ 3-1 home loss to San Jose that night, fans chanted “Fire Hakstol” during several stops in play.

“They can chant whatever they want. We’re in this together,” Giroux said at the time. “….It’s not on him; it’s on everybody.”

Hakstol kept his job and rewarded general manager Ron Hextall for his faith in him.

From Dec. 4 until the end of the season, the Flyers went 34-15-7, the fifth-most points in the NHL over that span.

High point

When Mrazek registered a 1-0 shootout win in Montreal on Feb. 26, the Flyers climbed (briefly) into first place in the Metropolitan Division. It was a remarkable climb because they were last in the eight-team Metro in early December.

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