Flyers

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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Subpar start leads to Flyers loss vs. Lightning but doesn't hurt spot in NHL playoff race

Subpar start leads to Flyers loss vs. Lightning but doesn't hurt spot in NHL playoff race

BOX SCORE

The Flyers didn't bring their A-game to a game they needed it.

There would be no giant killing Saturday as the Flyers lost to the Lightning, 5-3, at Amalie Arena.

Goals from Ivan Provorov, James van Riemsdyk and Claude Giroux weren't enough for the Flyers (32-20-7), who are 6-3-2 against the Bruins, Lightning, Capitals, Penguins and Blues, the league's top five clubs.

Tampa Bay is the only one the Flyers haven't beaten. They'll get a final crack at the Lightning on March 12 in the same building.

The Lightning (39-15-5) have won 10 straight games.

• This really wasn't a bad loss for the Flyers.

They were at the end of a road trip and playing the NHL's hottest team. Tampa Bay is 22-2-1 over its last 25 games and hasn't lost at home since Dec. 19.

The Flyers entered Saturday with a 66.9 percent chance to make the playoffs, according to Hockey-Reference.com, and still hold an Eastern Conference wild-card spot (see standings).

Alain Vigneault's team just needs to recharge and be ready for a big home-and-home set against the Blue Jackets next week.

• Things got chippy in the second period. Travis Konecny was right in the middle of it all.

Steven Stamkos appeared to trip Giroux before a faceoff. Giroux didn't even look to be that mad about it.

During the final 6:09 of the middle frame, 22 penalty minutes were accrued.

• Brayden Point (10-game point streak) is good at hockey.

• Carter Hart, who was coming off his first road victory since Nov. 10, allowed four goals on 23 shots.

The 21-year-old wasn't the problem.

The first goal was a fluky one by Alex Killorn. On the second, Provorov was sloppy with the puck in the defensive zone and Tampa Bay capitalized to take a 2-0 lead into first intermission.

In the middle stanza, the Lightning beat Hart on a 3-on-2 to grab a commanding 3-0 advantage. Tampa Bay improved to 33-4-3 when it scores three or more goals.

Not only are the Lightning really good, but the Flyers also didn't play their typical forechecking, possession-based game until it was too late.

• Outside of the van Riemsdyk's third-period goal, Lightning netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy was strong with 30 saves, 15 of which came in the final stanza. 

Vasilevskiy improved to 18-0-1 with a 1.83 goals-against average and .940 save percentage over his last 19 starts.

• Provorov was far from his best against Tampa Bay but he did score the Flyers' first goal to trim the Lightning's lead to 3-1 in the second period. He also had an assist.

The 23-year-old has grown into a power play quarterback this season. He leads all NHL defensemen with seven man advantage goals after scoring only two over his first three NHL seasons.

• Travis Sanheim played 19:43 minutes Saturday after missing almost the entire third period of Thursday's 6-2 win over the Panthers because of a lower-body issue.

• The Flyers are off Sunday, practice at 11:30 a.m. Monday in Voorhees, New Jersey and host the Blue Jackets Tuesday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

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Flyers, Lightning have 4 p.m. start on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Flyers, Lightning have 4 p.m. start on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Saturday's game should be a good one.

The Flyers and Lightning are two of the hottest teams in the NHL. Since Jan. 8, the Flyers have the league's most goals (52) and only one team has more points (21) — the Lightning (27).

Tampa Bay is also on a nine-game winning streak and 21-2-1 over its last 24 games.

The big showdown comes a little earlier than usual. Puck drop will be shortly after 4 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Philadelphia, with Flyers Pregame Live set for 3:30 p.m. ET.

The matchup finishes off a three-game road trip for the Flyers, who then play four of their next five games at the Wells Fargo Center.

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