The Flyers weren’t actually going to win against the Capitals, despite a two-game run that made the first-round NHL Stanley Cup Playoff series interesting. Yet, despite the loss and the early exit in the postseason, the future is bright for the Flyers. This is a team Philly fans can be proud of, and one that should be back in the playoffs for years to come.
Simply put, the Flyers ran into a buzzsaw, as they faced the NHL’s best team all season in Washington. It was amazing after the bracelet-throwing debacle that was Game 3 to see the Flyers muster up enough to win Game 4 at home, then absolutely steal Game 5 in Washington on the back of netminder Michael Neuvirth.
The 6-1 drubbing in Game 3 led to an easy decision for coach Dave Hakstol, replacing Steve Mason with Neuvirth, who saved 102 of the 104 shots he faced in three games in which he started during the series. The only problem for the Flyers…they couldn’t score for him, netting just six goals in the six games.
But this series was house money, especially against the Caps. No matter what the players say, the Flyers had a fantastic run just to make the playoffs, and the youth movement with the organization paid off with a trip to the postseason most fans probably thought wasn’t going to happen.
The Flyers won seven of their last 11 games in the regular season—one of which was an overtime loss—to qualify for the playoffs, and by nature of squeaking in to the postseason tournament, the Flyers rightly faced the team with the second-most goals scored and the second-best goals against. That they managed to take them to six games is something to celebrate.
Hakstol’s calm demeanor did the Flyers great favor, especially after what could have been a disastrous outing in the wake of Game 3’s embarrassing ending. Forget the bracelets, the team flat gave up in that third period, and many thought the series was over at that point, but Hakstol and team leaders like Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds rallied the team back to end the season on a high note.
Okay, perhaps those two were a bad example to use. Despite leading the Flyers to the playoffs, Giroux and Simmonds were a combined minus-3 in the series, with neither scoring a goal and the duo tallying just three assists. Add in Brayden Schenn and Jakub Voracek and the top four scorers for the Flyers had a combined one goal in the series.
And yet, it’s that bright future we can think about, not the lack of scoring in this one series against a top defense.
The Flyers had just four players over the age of 30 lace up their skates in this series. Both Mason and Neuvirth are 27 years old, as is Simmonds, Ryan White and Michael Raffl. Giroux, the team’s captain and most seasoned veteran on offense, is just 28 years old, while Voracek is 26.
And then there’s this: Radko Gudas and Brandon Manning are 25. Schenn is 24. Sean Couturier, who was injured for most of this series, is 23. Shayne Gostisbehere, clearly the new fan favorite in town, is just 22, as is Nick Cousins, who played nearly 20 percent of his time on the ice this season in the six-game playoff series. Scott Laughton, who played 71 games in the regular season and three in the playoffs before leaving to injury, is just 21. And there’s more youth coming.
Sure, the Flyers need more depth, and some players on defense are getting up in age—Nick Schultz is 33, which feels like a toddler compared to 38-year old Mark Streit—but for a team nobody expected much from in a city nobody has expected anything from for some time, the Flyers became something of a bright spot this season.
Now comes the hard part, as making the playoffs should be easy. Winning in them never is.