The Philadelphia Flyers finished last season with 98 points, in third place in the Metropolitan Division, and lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Following an offseason that consisted of adding an offensive weapon and buoyed by a strong returning cast, they are primed for an entertaining campaign in 2018-19.
As the regular season kicks off on Thursday in Las Vegas against the defending Western Conference champion Golden Knights, here are 10 burning questions, storylines, and trends to watch, and predictions.
1. Who’s new?
Forward James van Riemsdyk, defenseman Christian Folin, goalie Calvin Pickard.
2. Who’s gone?
Forwards Valtteri Filppula and Matt Read, defenseman Brandon Manning, goalie Petr Mrazek.
3. Team strength
The Flyers were 12th in the league last year with 247 goals. With the addition of van Riemsdyk (36 goals last season) via free agency coupled with the anticipated increase in production from young players, the Flyers should have no problem putting the puck in the net.
4. Team weakness
It is easy to go with goaltending, given the team’s unstable situation, but the greater concern lies with the penalty kill. The Flyers ranked 29th out of 31 teams last year in this category and did nothing in the offseason to address the unit.
5. So, what is the deal with the goaltending?
Well, it’s not ideal. Injuries have left the position in a state of uncertainty. Starter Brian Elliott, working back from hip surgery in the spring, looks close to 100 percent. As to who will serve, as his backup is anyone’s guess? Look for Alex Lyon to lock up the job – once he returns from an injury at the end of the month.
6. Player most likely to have a breakout year
Last year it was Sean Couturier, who set career highs in goals (31), assists (45) and plus/minus (34). This year, all eyes are on Nolan Patrick. The 2017 second overall pick had 13 goals and 17 assists last year, but he had an impressive 21 points in the final 33 games.
Patrick, who will play center with Jakub Voracek and van Riemsdyk on the second line, should pick up where he left off and crack 20 goals and 30 assists.
7. Player most likely to take a step back
Claude Giroux finished second in the league in scoring last year with a career-high 102 points. Don’t expect a repeat performance. However, he should still provide a point per game and top out in the mid-80 range.
8. What you should be excited about?
Sit back and enjoy watching the bevy of young players develop. Thanks to shrewd scouting, the Flyers have some of the most exciting players’ age 25 or under in the NHL, which includes Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Robert Hagg, Travis Konecny, Oscar Lindblom, Mikhail Vorobyov, and Patrick.
9. Will fans warm to Gritty?
Ah, the burning question about the team’s new mascot. He looks like a freakish monster, but, he’s Philly’s freakish monster and the faithful will slowly defend him and come around to love the googly-eyed orange beast.
10. Will they print playoff tickets?
The Flyers have the firepower up front, an improving back line, and a good mix of veterans and young players. As long as Elliott holds up in net or someone else comes to the rescue (Carter Hart?) should he fail, the Flyers will qualify for the postseason and win a round.