Flyers

Why it's clear Flyers are not the Stanley Cup contender some thought they were

Flyers

The Flyers' 2019-20 season ended with a thump — a 4-0 Game 7 loss last Saturday that wasn’t nearly as close as even the final score indicated.

The series went the distance, but it wasn’t exactly a neck-and-neck race to the finish. The Flyers were outworked, out-hustled, out-everythinged by an Islanders team that looked as though it was destined to steamroll its way to bigger and better things.

Fast-forward two days, and the Islanders team that controlled the vast majority of its series against the Flyers was summarily dismantled by the Tampa Bay Lightning, 8-2. The team that dominated the Flyers for long stretches of its seven-game series looked as though it was skating in sand against the Lightning. 

Maybe you could lend some credence to the fact that Tampa had the benefit of five extra days’ rest before Game 1. Or perhaps the Lightning are getting hot at the right time. 

But after watching that game, it seems clear that the Flyers aren’t nearly the Stanley Cup contender we thought they were, after watching them sweep the round robin a month ago. Maybe they’re not even close right now.

You could make the argument that if it wasn’t for the play of Carter Hart, the Flyers may not have made it past the Montreal Canadiens in their first-round postseason series.

The Islanders series shined a bright light on what the Flyers have, and, more importantly, what they don’t have to this point.

 

What they have is a star — maybe a superstar — in the making in Hart. The 22-year-old was by far the best performer on the team, and he needed to be for the Flyers to beat the Islanders even once, let alone three times. He has what Flyers goalies have lacked for decades: the ability to steal a game. The ability to tell his team, “Hop on my back, fellas. Just get me one or two goals, I’ll carry you tonight.” That is immeasurable when assembling a hockey team that wants to make a deep playoff run.

What they don’t have? Consistent, dangerous playoff scoring depth. Time was that captain Claude Giroux was a guaranteed point-per-game postseason dynamo. Against the Islanders, he had a single goal and three assists. Travis Konecny set career highs in the regular season and led the Flyers with 24 goals. In the seven games against the Islanders: no goals. And Jakub Voracek, who led the team in assists in the regular season, managed just a single helper in the series.

Along those same lines, the power play looked like the players on the ice had just met in the parking lot at times against the Islanders. Thirteen opportunities, zero goals. In a series in which the 5-on-5 play was as tilted as it was, a team like the Flyers has to be able to take advantage when it's a man up on the ice. It didn’t happen.

This Flyers team has some key young pieces, and this was their first time in the conference semifinals for a handful of them. They will get better in their next opportunity. The veterans, like Giroux, Voracek and James van Riemsdyk, leave the playoff bubble wondering how many opportunities they have left in their careers.

They should watch the remainder of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, to see what they’re missing. Right now, it looks like quite a bit.