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The Flyers Are Very Much Alive, Winning 3 In A Row Leading Into Their Bye Week

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After getting their dicks kicked in by the Penguins to start the new year, the Flyers have won 3 straight games in regulation. They beat the Islanders 6-4 in Brooklyn on Thursday night. Then they had back-to-back afternoon home games this weekend where they beat the Blues 6-3 on Saturday, and then turned around to beat the Sabres 4-1 yesterday. Now they head into their bye week and don’t play again until Saturday night in New Jersey. 42 games down, 40 to go, and here’s where this team sits at the bye.

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Only 1 point back and 2-games in hand on the Penguins. Tied with the Hurricanes with just one more game, and tied with the Islanders with a game in hand.  Granted, they’re still in 7th place in the Metro division…

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But that just goes to show what an absolute joke the Atlantic Division is. All 8 teams in the Metro would be, at the very least, 4th place in the Atlantic. Incredible. The Flyers are right there in the playoff hunt even after that disastrous 10-game losing skid earlier in the season. Part of the reason why the they’ve been able to bounce back the way they have is thanks to their top guys all having starts to the season which put them on pace to having the best year of their careers. You’ve got Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek both top 10 in points so far…

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Giroux had 1 point after this graphic was shown during the broadcast yesterday so he now has 52 points. Voracek had 2 points after the graphic was shown so he now has 51. That’s 2 Flyers with over 50 points in the first half of the season. 2 Flyers that plenty of fans had written off before the season. Giroux only had 58 points in all of last season. To be fair, that was a far-from-healthy Claude Giroux. That was Claude Giroux at 70% at best. He had surgery in the offseason before last year. Clearly he didn’t heal up fully during last season. But now that we’re over a year removed? Claude has 38 assists in 42 games and is playing at a level that we haven’t seen from him since before the lockout.

Now obviously Sean Couturier’s breakout season so far has a huge impact on Giroux’s production. Sean Couturier set a career high for goals in a season back on December 20th when he scored his 16th goal of the year. Every goal after that is going to be a career high. And after just 42 games this year, Coots has 23.

It’s pretty clear that getting bumped up to the top line and playing alongside of Giroux has spiked his production this year. But I like to think the biggest factor in his success is that luscious hockey hair. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it a thousand more times. Sean Couturier is always better with long hair. It’s scientifically proven at this point. He’s had 6 points over these last 3 games and now he’s sitting at 42 points in 42 games this year. More goals than John Tavares, Tyler Seguin, Auston Matthews, Phil Kessel, Nathan MacKinnon, Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane, the list goes on and on. The only players he doesn’t have more goals than are Ovechkin, Kucherov, and Anders Lee. His transformation into an elite level scorer and legitimate #1 center has been so rewarding to watch this year for Flyers fans who haven’t given up on the kid yet. And you can tell that he’s only getting better as his confidence continues to grow.

Keep in mind he just turned 25 in December.

Now I mentioned earlier that Claude Giroux has 38 assists on the year so far. There’s only one player in the league right now who has more than 38 assists, and would anybody care to take a guess as to who that is? If you guessed Jake Voracek with 43 apples, then you would be correct.

Now what’s great about Voracek is he’s been able to produce all season no matter what role he’s in. Whether he’s on the top line with Claude and Coots. Whether he’s carrying a 2nd line by himself. Whether it’s on the powerplay. Doesn’t matter. Jake Voracek is picking up points pretty much every night he steps on the ice. Which is huge for shutting everybody in Philadelphia up about overpaying the guy back in the summer of 2015. Voracek put up 81 points in the 2014-15 season. The Flyers awarded him after that with an 8-year, $66 million contract. Since then, he’s put up 55 points and 61 points. Neither of those are necessarily “bad” years but when you’re paying a guy $8 million per year, I guess you’re looking for him to keep up with that 80-point pace. Through 42 games this year, he has 51 so you do the math on that one.

There are 3 Flyers forwards who needed to have big years this year on a team level if the Flyers are going to have any success, and also on a personal level as many fans have been questioning this core. Those forwards are Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, and Sean Couturier. As of January 8, 2018, all 3 of them are on pace to having the best year of their career. Not too shabby.

Another Flyer who was in need of a bounce back year was Shayne Gostisbehere. Like Giroux, he had surgery in the 2016 offseason and was never fully healthy during last season. Over a full year removed from surgery and Ghost is back to being one of the biggest game changers in the league.

Now the offensive production is great. That’s what Shayne Gostisbehere is known for and it’s how he impacts the game the most. He’s currently one of the best offensive forwards in the league.

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That’s great company to be in right now and it’s exactly where Flyers fans hope to see Ghost remain for the rest of his career in Philly. Hopefully he can just jump past Klingberg eventually. But it’s also what Shayne Gostisbehere has been doing defensively lately that has me the most excited, mostly his work in the neutral zone. The kid is just able to read the play so well, and he has the skill set to jump up and make plays on the puck in the neutral zone. Not every play he tries to make works out and not every play ends up with a rush going the other way. But for the most part, he’s at least able to break up a lot of rushes and makes it a pain in the ass for opposing teams to gain the zone with the puck. He’s also been more than fine in the defensive zone lately. He’s not making ridiculous plays in his own zone on a nightly basis but he’s also not making any ridiculous mistakes either. Plus he’s been so smart with the puck on his stick leading the breakout lately. He’s playing the exact brand of hockey that the Flyers need from him right now. Which is great to see considering he was getting healthy scratched last season.

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The other guys on the Flyers blueline have been playing well lately, too. Especially Ivan Provorov who has kicked up his offensive game into another gear. But we’ll talk more about those guys later in the week. I’ll try to touch on pretty much every aspect of the Flyers over the course of this bye week. Today I really just wanted to focus on the guys who have been blowing the doors off of their bounce back seasons. All 4 of these guys would probably categorize last year as a disappointment both for themselves and for the team. So far this year, the fate of the team is still up in the air but as far as personal production goes, all 4 of these guys can be happy with the way they started the season.

The Flyers now have 5 players who are on pace to finish the year anywhere between 50-100 points. These 4 players and Wayne Simmonds. Now there’s a pretty significant drop off after that and you can argue all you want about the Flyers being “top heavy”. But when you have 5 players score over 50 points on the year and 2 guys finishing anywhere in the top 10, you’ll find yourself in a pretty good position at the end of the year. And what we’re seeing is these guys raising the game of everybody else on the team lately, as well. Travis Konecny is getting himself going, Nolan Patrick is finally looking like he’s ready to breakout, Jordan Weal is producing, Laughton has had a great week. The rest of the cast is catching up to the leaders and unless there’s another 10-game losing streak waiting around the corner, I really like this team’s chances of getting themselves into the playoffs.

(I still don’t trust the goalies or the coach worth dick. But I’m just choosing to forget about them right now).

@BarstoolJordie