Going End to End today are NBC Sports Philadelphia's Brooke Destra, Katie Emmer and Jordan Hall.
The topic: Which development through the Flyers' first two games has surprised us most?
I do not want to get my hopes up, but from what I’ve seen over the span of the first two games this season — I’m optimistic.
One thing I’m particularly optimistic about is the penalty kill. With the addition of Mike Yeo behind the bench and Kevin Hayes on the first unit, there is a new level of aggressiveness that has not been displayed at a consistent basis for quite some time.
The Flyers have already been to the penalty box seven times (twice in the season opener against Chicago and five times against New Jersey), but have allowed only a single shorthanded goal.
It’s no secret that the special teams have been somewhat of a deadweight over the past few seasons — the last time the Flyers broke into the league’s top-10 PK percentage dates back to the 2013-14 season, when they ranked seventh at 84.8 percent.
There is still a ton of hockey left to play, but if the Flyers remain even remotely close to these numbers as the season progresses, it would instantly elevate the team’s success.
I know it’s been only two games, but it’s certainly refreshing to be this hopeful early on in the season.
What has surprised me the most through the first two games of the season has been the play of Ivan Provorov.
There were high expectations that the 22-year-old would bounce back from his lower-scoring, 26-point season in 2018-19. The expectations were higher after the Flyers signed Provorov to a six-year contract extension at the start of 2019 training camp.
I believe he’s playing up to those high expectations.
Last season, Provorov didn’t make it on the score sheet until the seventh game of the season on Oct. 18 against the Blue Jackets. This season, he already has three points.
The blueliner has been effective on what look to be improved special teams, as well.
The Flyers are 3 for 7 on the power play and 6 for 7 on the penalty kill — and Provorov has been a bright spot for both. Two of his three points have come on the power play and he has made a major impact on the penalty kill, specifically in this past Wednesday night’s home opener against the Devils, when the Flyers denied all five of New Jersey’s power play opportunities.
To top it all off, he has played well with 32-year-old Justin Braun.
Yes, this is a very small sample size, but I believe Provorov has potential to get back to a 40-plus-point season like he had in 2017-18.
One of the reasons why the Flyers were drawn to Hayes was the 6-foot-5 center’s do-it-all makeup, how he impacts the game across the board.
We heard about his ability to do a lot, but seeing his versatility truly does it justice.
He’s disruptive on the penalty kill with his size and reach. Entering this season, the Flyers had a PK percentage of 78.4 since 2014-15, second worst in the NHL. The Flyers have to be better shorthanded and Hayes has shown he can really help.
Through the first 33 games last season, the Flyers’ power play was a league-low 12.1 percent at 12 for 99. The man advantage has already scored three goals through two games this season, with Hayes netting one of them. The power play has exhibited more motion and less predictability.
Two games into his seven-year contract, we’ve been given a snapshot of what Hayes can do for the special teams units. I didn’t realize just how valuable he could be in those areas.
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