December seems to be a good month for the Philadelphia Flyers and things seem to be heading in a good direction.
There is no doubt that seeing the Philadelphia Flyers record as they enter their holiday break is a welcome sight. Their Monday night 4-3 comeback win over the St. Louis Blues seems to be an early Christmas gift for the team. Looking from this year to last year even boasts a big change. Under Craig Berube last year, the Flyers went 14-14-6 for 34 points. This season, under head coach Dave Hakstol, 15-12-7 with 37 points. The team is only a few points out of the Eastern Conference wildcard race and that gives fans and players something to be excited about.
That excitement is turning into something special and it’s a different feeling around the Flyers organization.
The beginning of the Flyers success seems to have started in the end of November. Their overtime win over the Nashville Predators on November 27th seems to a lit a flame underneath the team. They’ve gone 8-2-2 since then and go into their holiday break on a high note. They’ve tallied up 18 points in the last 12 games played. They’re only two points behind the New Jersey Devils for the fourth place spot in the Metropolitan Division. Things look good but many ask the big question: what changed?
Several factors influence the team’s success. One is a newfound sense of confidence. The team has come back multiple times from goal deficits and won either in regulation or overtime. Those kinds of wins are a huge boost to players’ and the team’s confidence. According to Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia, Hakstol has said that it’s his players taking more responsibility that is also helping their confidence. “Most importantly, there’s an effort in that shift to go out and do things the right way. That’s probably the biggest thing I sense. Guys know the way we want to play and they go out and do that together.”
Clearly one can’t mention the Flyers’ success without mentioning their best rookie defensemen: Shayne Gostisbehere. Every since Gostisbehere was called up from the Flyers’ AHL team, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, on November 14th against the Carolina Hurricanes. Gostisbehere was called up after Mark Streit suffered a lower-body injury. Since Gostisbehere has arrived, the Flyers have gone 10-4-4. He has 14 points to his name in the last 18 games and three overtime goals. Jakub Voracek told the Philadelphia Inquirer that “He is a great offensive defensemen. He’s playing very well. I don’t know how many games he’s been playing with us but he’s definitely helped us.” Gostisbehere is going to find out his fate once Streit comes back from the injured reserved list but he’s been instrumental in helping the team find their groove.
The Flyers don’t just have Gostisbehere to thank for their continued success. Hakstol is finally seeing his players connect with his style of coaching. Penalty kills are productive and working at a high percentage. The team’s two-man forecheck is finally clicking and that is music to Hakstol’s ears. Voracek, who was struggling with scoring, is on a line with Sean Couturier and Wayne Simmonds. This seems to have clicked so well and have 12 points in their four game together.
Goaltending is a final piece in the Flyers’ success puzzle. Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth have been healthy and setting records. Neuvirth has only allowed 2.06 goals per game and has a save percentage of .937, good statistics for the team’s number two in the net. Mason, after struggling with personal issues in the beginning of the season, has two wins in the last three games he started. Add all of these things together and you have a Flyers team that is finally finding its groove. After the holiday break is over, expect big things to come out of the men in orange and black.