5 surprising storylines for why Flyers' 2018-19 season fell well short

5 surprising storylines for why Flyers' 2018-19 season fell well short

The Flyers' 2018-19 season did not go as planned.

Even if you didn't predict a 105-point, 49-win season like USA TODAY Sports, did anyone foresee all the dramatic change and just 82 points, the franchise's fewest in a full season since 2006-07, when the team put up a dreadful 56?

Probably not.

"I think we've got everything to be successful," Ivan Provorov said Sunday. "We've got a great group of guys, great players that are hungry to get better.

"We're all disappointed in how it turned out, not making the playoffs and not playing the way we wanted as a team."

Let's look at five things that surprisingly didn't go the Flyers' way:

1. Power outage

The Flyers' power play ranked 15th in the NHL last season at 20.7 percent.

Add James van Riemsdyk to the picture, a guy with 40 man-advantage goals over the previous five seasons, and it seemed like the power play was going to be the team's biggest strength, maybe sneaking into the top 10 of the league.

Instead, the power play was one of the Flyers' downfalls.

It finished at 17.1 percent, tied for 22nd. When the Flyers were really struggling, the power play was 9 for 93 (9.7 percent) from Oct. 13 to Jan. 2, a 35-game stretch in which the team went 13-17-5.

The Flyers tried different looks, even turning to a five-forward unit in January. Over the final 32 games of the season, the Flyers' man advantage was fifth best in the NHL at 24.1 percent. The team can only hope that's a positive sign heading into 2019-20.

2. Can't find Ghost

Shayne Gostisbehere was coming off a career year in which he scored 65 points (13 goals, 52 assists), the fourth most among NHL defensemen, at 24 years old.

He looked primed for a big-time 2018-19.

It didn't happen.

Gostisbehere took a step back with 37 points and a minus-20 rating. Last season, he was a terror for the opposition on the power play, leading all NHL blueliners with 33 man-advantage points. This season, he had just 14 power-play points. 

"Definitely the toughest season I've been through personally in my four years," Gostisbehere said.

Did opponents adjust to his game?

You've got to do different things. Just like quarterbacks, you do the same thing, teams are going to pick up on it. I still have certain moves I do every game, they still work, but for me, it's a mental thing. When a guy's coming at me, I'm like, 'Oh, will he fall for my fake, probably not.' You've got to have the confidence to just do it and go with it. That's a huge part of my game — deception, fakes and my movement with the puck. For me, it's instilling that confidence in myself and going out there and doing it every night.

3. An identical Patrick

After coming on strong toward the end of his rookie season and finally having a full summer of training, Nolan Patrick was in line for a hefty jump as the 2017 No. 2 overall pick.

Patrick, though, was streaky and inconsistent, finishing 2018-19 with the same number of goals (13) and just one more assist (18). When he's going all out, he looks like one of the best forwards on the ice. He's only 20 years old and has been a player of gradual growth.

Next season, the Flyers will certainly need more from him.

"It's really tough, 82 games is a lot, especially in this league," Patrick said of the full-season grind. "It's demanding on your body and your mind.

"There is another gear I can get to."

4. Home not-so-sweet home

Playing at the Wells Fargo Center is almost becoming a pressure-cooker for the Flyers.

The team had a 19-18-4 record in Philly, giving the Flyers their fewest home wins over a full season since the dubious 2006-07 campaign.

The beauty of Flyers fans is that they thoroughly care. So when the team doesn't perform, they'll voice their frustration, which is good. But the Flyers need to get past that.

"This team hasn't won in 43 years and they want to see our team have success and to give effort every single time on the ice," Jakub Voracek said. "They want to win. I want to win. Pressure at home is higher at home than on the road. I think it's for every home team because they always want to see something extra, and you can't blame them."

5. That's a lot of goalies

The Flyers played eight goalies, an NHL record.

The situation heading into 2018-19 didn't look great with Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth given the health issues for both netminders.

"I think both of those guys being healthy ready to go at the start of the year, it's probably a different season for this team and I probably wouldn't be standing here talking to you," Flyers interim head coach Scott Gordon said after the season finale.

Teams don't make the playoffs with that type of instability in net.

The fortunate thing for the Flyers is that it allowed Carter Hart to blossom.

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If Alain Vigneault can't work his magic with Flyers' roster, pressure mounts for Chuck Fletcher

If Alain Vigneault can't work his magic with Flyers' roster, pressure mounts for Chuck Fletcher

Chuck Fletcher was brought in because things weren't going well enough and quickly enough for the Flyers.

The predicament he inherited required eventual change.

After all, sitting alongside team president Paul Holmgren back in November, Comcast Spectacor chairman and CEO Dave Scott said the Flyers were eyeing a general manager with a "bias for action," among other qualities.

With time and evaluation, Fletcher has begun providing the desired action.

A new head coach is on board, bringing extensive experience and outside perspective, while two new assistants with strong pedigrees have been hired.

But perhaps the most influential part in shifting the Flyers' course has remained mostly intact: the roster. That could drastically change this upcoming offseason with free agency and potential trades. However, Fletcher, facing his first offseason as the Flyers' GM, doesn't see an exodus needed with the current roster — or at least not yet.

"The Flyers are a great opportunity. You guys are in this market, for me coming in from the outside, I know when Paul Holmgren approached me about being the general manager of the Flyers, I'm like, 'Wow.' This is a premium job in the National Hockey League and we're set up where we should have an opportunity to get better quickly," Fletcher said April 18. "I know we need more good players, but we have a lot of good players. It's not like you have to gut this thing — we have cap space, we have picks. We have really good staff, really good staff. On the scouting and management side, I've added one person, I haven't subtracted anything. There's a good group here and we have the ability to get better quickly if we all do our job."

Therein lies a poignant and undeniable pressure on Fletcher in Year 1 with the Flyers under Alain Vigneault's watch.

Aside from Wayne Simmonds, who became an inevitable piece to move given the circumstances, the Flyers' core has survived. So, too, has the overall makeup of the roster.

Fletcher, Vigneault and the Flyers believe this team can win with a refined system and different guidance. They don't exactly see a team that has missed the playoffs every other season since 2012-13, a stretch consisting of three first-round exits.

Will Fletcher add this summer? Of course — the ability to do so is one of the reasons why Vigneault found the Flyers as an attractive destination. When Fletcher was hiring Vigneault, the two established a list of areas in which the Flyers can improve.

"We're looking at some options and if we can put the right things in place," Vigneault said at his introduction, "it's going to be a lot of fun."

Significant subtraction was not featured on the list.

"There's some solid youth with a lot of upside here that is coming into its own," Vigneault said. "There's great goaltending, being one of those youth pieces. There's a solid core group that, in my mind, needs the right direction. And you've got the combination, also, of some solid veteran players that have been in the league a few years, that can still contribute at a high level in this league. … After discussing it with a lot of people that I respect their opinion in the NHL, I feel that the Flyers are a very good team that with the proper direction, proper mindset, proper culture and people working together, will be a very good team in the near future."

That's why Year 1 will be so telling.

Vigneault is a coach with a tremendous track record of winning during his first season on the job. He did so at three separate stops (see story). Michel Therrien has 38 postseason victories under his belt as a head coach and took a team to the Stanley Cup Final. Mike Yeo owns three playoff series victories as a head coach and has a ring as an assistant.

If this group can't produce the results with the Flyers' roster, Fletcher will have to take a longer, much more serious look at the players in place and make his hardest decisions yet.

At that point, it may be the only action left.

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule, live stream: More drama ahead for Sharks-Blues Western Conference Final?

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule, live stream: More drama ahead for Sharks-Blues Western Conference Final?

There has been a ton of drama only three games into the Western Conference Final between the Sharks and Blues.

Game 3 was won by the Sharks, 5-4, in overtime, but not without controversy. San Jose may have gotten away with a hand pass on the game-winning goal.

The series will shift one way or the other Friday night with Game 4.

Below is the schedule for Day 37 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. You can watch the entire playoffs on the networks of NBC. 

San Jose Sharks at St. Louis Blues (SJS 2-1)
Game 4, Western Conference Final
8 p.m. ET | TV: NBCSN | Live stream here