With the All-Star break on, the Flyers are off for a while. It’s time to take stock and reevaluate how this team is and where the team will be going moving forward. The trade deadline is a few weeks away and it is possible that some of the current cast may be moving on.
Regardless of what happens, the team still has the rest of the season to play out. The playoffs are unlikely but are not out of reach. The team can still make them if they can put it all together.
But part of reaching the playoffs will include stronger play from some of its players. More consistent play all around is needed. But for the Flyers to be successful, more is going to be demanded from everyone.
However, these six Flyers have to perform better in the second half of the season. This is not to say that they haven’t played well thus far. It just means that some of them may need to be more consistent OR they need to kick it up a notch. And I want to make that point very clear again. It’s not that these players are playing bad. These guys, in particular, need to be stronger for this team to be more successful in the months ahead.
He is having a sensational year. He has set career highs in goals (8) and points (21). He’s also scored goals in each of the last two games the Flyers have recently played. So why is he on this list?
He has spent time, since mid-December on the Flyers’ top two lines. He is playing well. He is a good physical forward who is being groomed to be a top center. However, he struggles in the faceoff circle, clocking in at 39.4%. Likewise, he was never a major scoring threat and can be streaky. Since Jan 1, he has scored four goals and three assists in 14 games. He also has had a scoreless streak in five straight.
Cates is showing a lot of potential. It’s one of the reasons that you saw him rise in the lineup from a bottom-line player into the top six. His eagerness to learn how to be and play better is impressing Coach Tortorella. He has a lot of heart and he puts it all out there on the ice. And he can still improve. He can still improve his game. That’s why he’s getting more time on the ice. He can quickly become a leader in the locker room and on the ice. Not bad for a second-year player.
The more he plays, the better he is getting. The better he is in the faceoff circle, the more opportunities he can create to help feed the puck to his linemates, Travis Konecny and Joel Farabee. The more he can grow, the better his linemates can be too. And speaking of Farabee…
Overall, he is one of the best young talents this team has. He is only 22 and on the verge of greatness. Or, he is on the verge of being the next Matt Read. Now, I liked Read and all, but he peaked in his rookie year and slowly took steps back every year.
I know that Farabee is still recovering from his neck injury to some extent. Maybe he is too afraid to battle in the corners and chase after the puck. I don’t know. But his performance has slackened this season.
We all know the potential he has. We’ve seen it before. The problem is, he is a very streaky player and struggles with consistency. The frustrating thing is that we know he can be better. He is currently in a seven-game scoring drought. Before that, he scored in 7 of 11 games. And before that was a six-game scoreless streak.
He is on a line with Cates and Konecny. He should be finding lots of opportunities And as his play elevates, so will Cates. And in turn, they will help TK bust out into a major star. That is, of course, unless he is swapped to another line to find chemistry with someone else. But once he breaks out and becomes the player we all believe he can become, this team will become a scoring nightmare for other teams to handle.
Kevin Hayes is the Flyers’ lone All-Star this season. He is second on the team with 25 goals and 45 points and leads with 30 assists. He has the highest point total he has ever had as a Flyer and is just eight goals away from tying his high of 23 with Philly with two more to go as his career high. So why is he here?
Coach John Tortorella wanted to challenge him to be better. We’ve seen some of that so far. Since he was benched, he has scored six goals and has done a lot to lower his +/- rating from a -15 earlier to a -9.
But he still has work to do. He can be a very streaky scorer, as are many of the Flyers. And it seems, lately, as Hayes goes, the rest of the team follows. When he has a big night, the team wins big. This is why Torts benched him a few times this year and has been pushing him. Hayes may never be this team’s best player, but he can be a sparkplug to get things going.
Now, there are lots of rumors about his tradeability right now. At the same time, he is a consummate professional. If he is traded or has demanded a trade, it will happen. Until that time, Hayes will play his best. But if he finds another gear to kick it into, this team will be all the better for it.
I know it is weird to have him on this team as he has only been up for a month or so. He has played well. So why is he here?
It’s because we know he can do more. He needs to be cut loose. He has just one assist in the last few games and just two in the last 11. He has a great field of vision and can move the puck better than any defender since Shayne Gostisbehere, but without the hiccups in play.
He’s young and learning. He’s still kind of raw. But as he gets better, the play on the back end of the ice will improve. That will help Hart out immensely. And as York gains confidence, he will play stronger and be a little more daring. And if he can be more daring, he may be able to create a whole lot more scoring chances for the forwards; especially on the anemic power play.
He’s a star in progress. That’s why he has to get better. It’s not because he’s doing anything wrong. It’s because once he breaks out, he’ll never look back.
Tony DeAngelo is definitely an enigma. He is one of the best playmakers on this team. He leads the Flyers with 12 power-play assists and is tied with Hayes for 15 power-play points. He is the best offensive defender the team has. But he also can be a defensive liability at times. He is the worst on the team with a +/- rating of -16.
Some of it isn’t always him. Some of it can be who he is paired up with at times. However, he is also second on the team in giveaways (42…Ivan Provorov leads with 46). It is those mental mistakes that have found him placed on the bench at times.
Much like Hayes, when he has a big night, the Flyers seem to put it all together and play like dynamite. However, when he is off, it seems like they are playing with dynamite.
DeAngelo has a great set of skills. I almost wonder if he’d make a better forward than blueliner. Regardless, he needs to cut down on creating turnovers that put the team in a bad spot. That would help Hart and the rest of the goalies out tremendously. It would cut the goals given up by the Flyers as well as possibly creating more scoring chances for them. Just keep your head up and watch where you are passing. Make sure they are wearing orange and black.
Again, it’s not that he’s been bad, but he needs to be more consistent. He started off this year on fire and was in the top five of every major goalie category. During the 10-game losing streak, he kept them in most of the games. He’s made some incredible saves and truly looks like the goalie the Flyers have been waiting for.
After he was sidelined with an injury around Christmas, he hasn’t seemed the same. Something appears off. Like many goalies, he has the ability to let in really weak goals. And to be fair, the defense has left him high and dry many times.
Hart’s first shutout of the season against the Winnipeg Jets was a good sign. If he is completely healthy, he can move forward and build on this success. And his success means that the Flyers, also, are succeeding.
But if the Flyers are going anywhere this season, he has to be more consistent. Everyone is entitled to a bad night. Athletes are not perfect. They will make mistakes. At the same time, Hart is not a young prospect anymore. He is a veteran at this point. Consistency is the key to a goalie’s success. There have been many goalies in this league that can be good one year and bad the next (Petr Mrazek anyone?). I’d hate to see Hart fall into that category. I think he can truly become one of the NHL’s elite goalies and now is his time to shine.
There is more that could be said about almost everyone. I’d like to see Patrick Brown, Morgan Frost, and Wade Allison score more. I would like to see Travis Sanheim become more of a shutdown defender. But out of everyone on this roster, I feel that these six players could make the most direct impact on how this team plays. If these six players can elevate their game, they will bring the team along with them. And that’s why they need to play better in the second half of the season.