While we’ve only seen seven games that didn’t count and one that did, it’s probably not too early to make some observations on these new-look Flyers.
One thing that jumps right out at you is the way this year’s team seems to take accountability for its play, be it good or bad.
Case in point: After Travis Konecny’s spectacular pyrotechnics display in Friday night’s 4-3 season-opening win over Chicago in Prague, the first thing out of his mouth was no matter how well he performs offensively, he’s determined to play the game “the right way[wf1].’’
If someone that gifted at scoring goals is willing to say the correct things about responsible two-way hockey, don’t you think the rest of the young guys are going to pick up on that?
Another idea to ponder: New coach Alain Vigneault seems to go against a so-called reputation as being a bit inflexible. Here we are in early October, nearly after a month after the start of training camp and he’s still willing to experiment with line combinations and defense pairings.
The players apparently don’t mind that. For instance, defenseman Ivan Provorov was paired with Justin Braun in what amounted to a new tandem against the Blackhawks. And yet Provorov stated he didn’t mind working with a new partner. After all, he indicated, aren’t we all qualified NHL defensemen? No big deal.
Vigneault brings an impressive resume to the Flyers, carrying a bit of swagger we haven’t seen since the days of Peter Laviolette, who already had his name on the Stanley Cup before he arrived in Philadelphia.
Don’t think for a minute the players haven’t picked up on that air of confidence. For the past few weeks, all they’ve talked about is how quick and yet demanding the practices are. Haven’t heard that kind of talk in a while.
As for special teams, it really is too premature to make an evaluation but early signs indicate the Flyers are headed in the right direction, at least on the penalty kill.
Assistant coach Mike Yeo has his kill units playing a bit more aggressively than the Flyers have in the past. It might take a while for the Flyers to get accustomed to this style, but it should pay off in the long run.
As for the power play, not enough can be said about the importance of the efficiency of this unit.
Assistant coach Michel Therrien, possibly taking a cue from Vigneault’s “let’s get things moving’’ approach, is putting a lot of emphasis on puck movement and misdirection.
Let’s face it: Any power play with Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, Sean Couturier, James van Riemsdyk and Shayne Gostisbehere on it should not be finishing 21st in the NHL like it did last year.
A lot of the credit for this new overall team attitude goes to general manager Chuck Fletcher, who brought in Kevin Hayes, Braun and Matt Niskanen during the offseason.
Don’t forget rookies Connor Bunnaman and Carsen Twarynski, who beat out much bigger names such as Joel Farabee, Morgan Frost, Mikhail Vorobyev and German Rubtsov for roster spots.
Adding to this, by the way, is the fact Vigneault has been willing to go against what some said was a bias for not trusting young players. If that were the case, then why were the two freshmen getting double-digit minutes playing time in the Chicago game?
All this will be put to the test in rather short-order fashion: After a home game against the Devils on Wednesday, the Flyers go back on the road for a tough three-game trip to Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton before returning for equally difficult home games against Dallas and Vegas.
So while there is cause for cautious optimism, the Flyers know all about slow starts and how they end up forcing themselves to chase postseason play.
Maybe the good feeling of this revamped outfit can carry through the fall months for a change. For the Flyers, it certainly would be a welcome reversal of fortune.