Plenty of reasons why Flyers are off to unusual fast start

Claude Giroux

VOORHEES – You say the Flyers are off to their fastest start since the 2011-12 season – hey, what’s the world coming to?

It’s been that long since Philly got out of the gate this quickly. A 10-5-2 mark has the Flyers angling for the top part of the Metropolitan Division standings.

Over the past few years, the Flyers have followed the same pattern: Struggle in October, November and even December, then try to turn things around and push for a playoff spot.

Two years ago it worked.

Last season it didn’t, causing the Flyers to make two coaching changes.

Now, with experienced coach Alain Vigneault at the helm, the Flyers are playing a much more disciplined brand of hockey – typified by that recent three-game sweep of Atlantic Division powerhouses Montreal, Toronto and Boston.

Captain Claude Giroux has been through all the early season struggles and can point out what makes this season different, at least after 17 games.

“We’re playing as a team,’’ he said. “We’re really responsible. We follow the structure of the team, we don’t try to do our own thing.

“We have everybody playing well. Every game there are different guys stepping up. That’s what you need.’’

Structure is vital in today’s NHL. Veer off the path and other teams pounce on mistakes.

“When I say structure, everybody is buying in,’’ Giroux said. “Everybody is playing the same way. It’s a lot easier for everybody to do their job.’’

Sean Couturier likes what he sees so far. He’s a star but he knows that in this system, even stars are going to hear about it if they don’t play the right way.’’

“We’re sticking together and sticking to the structure,’’ he said. “I think there’s maybe a little more accountability. Guys, whether you’re a veteran, a young guy. . .I think AV (Vigneault) knows what he wants from this players.

“When you’re getting away from playing the right way, he’ll let you know, no matter who you are. That’s one big thing, I guess.

Vigneault agrees that a certain amount of trust has already been built between the coach and players.

It starts with individual preparation.

“What we’re trying to do here is tell our players what they need to do on the ice, what they need to do as far as team preparation,’’ he said.

“But the individual preparation to go out on the ice and compete and execute, that’s their responsibility. We made it real clear to them that they have to be sure that they find their zone, that they can go out on the ice, compete, execute and obviously I think a lot of them have put in some extra time here to make sure they do those two things.’’

James van Riemsdyk has only been back with the Flyers for two years but he says the quick start can be attributed to a number of things.

“Last year we would make too many high-risk plays,’’ JVR said. “Instead of just managing the game. So I think we’ve done a good job of that this year.

“We keep an eye on the clock and the score of the game and the appropriate play based off of that. We haven’t had to chase as many leads down (from slow game starts). When you’re tied or have the lead, it’s a lot easier to make the percentage play.’’

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About Wayne Fish 2348 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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