PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Four games in six days, four wins. The Philadelphia Flyers ended their busiest month of the season by tying a franchise record, beating the Montreal Canadiens, 4-3, in overtime on Saturday to secure 24 points in the month of November — a feat they’ve accomplished three times before.
It could have been so much better. It could have been a franchise-record setting month. Instead, they’ll settle with this: 10-2-4 in November. Not bad.
Let’s take a look at a few takeaways from the week that was.
1. The Flyers are … good?
The Flyers are sitting pretty in third place of the Metropolitan Division on Dec. 2 — one point behind the New York Islanders, who are in Detroit on Monday night. Worst case scenario come Tuesday morning? Third place in the Metro, three points out of second.
That’s a far cry from last season, a far cry from what has become normal in South Philly over the past half-decade. Twenty-seven games into the regular season, the Flyers are 15-7-5 with 35 points and a plus-seven goal differential. They’re among the top teams in the Eastern Conference.
The Flyers are actually good.
It is important to note, though, the last time the Flyers had a 24-point November, they missed the playoffs — 1990-91. But, their 35 points as the calendar flips to December are the most since the 1995-96 season, when they had 36 points.
The coaching trio of Alain Vigneault, Michel Therrien and Mike Yeo has this club back on the map. Vigneault is the head coach, and he’ll get a lot of the credit, but Therrien and Yeo deserve a sizable portion of it too. There is a lot to like about this team.
Ivan Provorov… UNREAL. pic.twitter.com/4muTy4MgqS
— NHL (@NHL) December 1, 2019
The Flyers’ penalty kill ranks third in the NHL at 85.7%, and it’s especially been great of late. The Orange and Black have allowed six power-play goals against in their last 60 times shorthanded — that’s a 90% success rate since Oct. 21, which is tops in the league.
The power play sits just outside of the top 10 at 19.8%. That’s an improvement from last season when it finished at 17.1%.
They’re the best faceoff team in the league, winning 53.9% of their draws — which means they have the puck first more, and puck possession is a key to success.
We can crunch all the numbers. They all are vast improvements. There’s still a lot of hockey to be played. There is still more this team can give.
And that’s a good thing. This team hasn’t reached its ceiling yet. At the 27-game mark, though, it’s safe to say this team is good. Embrace it.
2. Times have changed in net
Need more evidence times have changed? The team that cycled through an NHL record eight goaltenders, the team that is notoriously known as Goaltender Graveyard has strong goaltending. While the Flyers’ .908 save percentage sits just outside the top 10, it’s more than respectable.
The tandem of Carter Hart and Brian Elliott has outperformed expectations and has, so far, given the Flyers what they’ve been searching for years.
With four games last week, Hart and Elliott split duties and they both were fantastic — Hart against the Vancouver Canucks and Detroit Red Wings, Elliott against the Columbus Blue Jackets and Canadiens.
It appears the Flyers wiped the lowly Red Wings cleanly with a 6-1 win, but that doesn’t tell the story. The Flyers were not at their best on Black Friday, and for nearly 40 minutes, Hart had to keep them in the game. He ended up with 32 saves in a 6-1 win. It was no cakewalk.
On Monday, Hart allowed one goal on 17 shots. The Flyers played staunch in front of him against a tough Canucks team, and Hart really only faced one true test late and he made the save.
For Hart, it’s been the type of season you’d expect from a 21-year-old — lots of ups, lots of downs. But mostly, it’s been full of ups. He’s 8-5-3 with a 2.44 goals-against average and .906 save percentage. In November, Hart was 6-2-2 with a .927 save percentage.
On the other hand, Elliott has been everything the Flyers could have hoped for and more. He’s healthy and he’s making a huge difference. Elliott has been as steady as they come and like Hart, he’s winning the Flyers games. A good example would be Saturday’s win in Montreal.
The Canadiens scored 19 seconds into the contest and yet, Elliott was a major reason the Flyers left with two points. The Flyers were gassed by the third period, and Elliott held off the Habs. He stopped 39 of 42 shots in Montreal.
Twenty-seven games into the season and it’s safe to say, the Flyers’ backbone is their goaltending.
3. Just what the doctor ordered
Since being placed on a line with Sean Couturier, Jakub Voracek has seven points (two goals, five assists) in seven games. If you think it’s a coincidence that Voracek has seemingly found his game playing with Couturier, think again.
After posting a two-point game Monday against Vancouver, Voracek sang high praise for Couturier.
“He’s helping everyone. He’s always in the right positions — him and Oskar [Lindblom],” Voracek told reporters. “If I don’t play with a swagger, I think that’s what was missing. I’ve got the swagger back and kind of that f— you attitude that I need to have to be successful.”
Couturier has developed into the Flyers’ best player, and anyone who plays with him benefits greatly from it. Voracek has been the subject of several messages from Vigneault. He’s finally putting it together, perhaps thanks to Couturier.
It makes you wonder if Vigneault would consider sending the struggling James van Riemsdyk — who has one goal in his past 12 games — to see Dr. Couturier soon.