A letdown 2020-21 campaign for the Flyers wrapped up with a victory as the club beat the Devils, 4-2, Monday night in its regular-season finale at the Wells Fargo Center.
Joel Farabee (two), Sean Couturier and James van Riemsdyk provided the goals as the Flyers played a familiar game of catchup after falling behind 2-0 in the opening six minutes of the contest.
The Flyers finished the season at 25-23-8. They entered it with high expectations after falling one win shy of the Eastern Conference Final last season. This season, they were officially eliminated from postseason contention on April 29. They have not made the playoffs in consecutive seasons since the 2010-11 and 2011-12 campaigns.
Alarmingly, the Flyers ended up surrendering the most goals in the NHL this season with 197 (3.52 per game) over the shortened 56-game schedule.
"I think we've got to mature in our game," Couturier said postgame. "Some nights it's seemed like we were kind of easy to play against. In this league, it's tough to win games when you're not hard and tough to play against. Obviously we took a little step back from last year, but I think everyone can learn and hopefully next year everyone comes into camp in good shape and matures. Physically, we have a lot of young guys that are just going to get better and better, I think that's what we hope for next year. I don't know what's going to happen this offseason — there might be changes, there might not. Whatever happens, we've got to be better — that's plain and simple."
The Flyers split their eight-game regular-season series with the Devils (19-30-7), something that should bother the club's front office and coaching staff.
• General manager Chuck Fletcher has gone 1 for 2 in his offseasons overseeing the Flyers. The offseason ahead is his biggest one yet.
• Farabee's two goals gave him a team-best 20 on the season.
"He's someone you can tell that wants to be a player," van Riemsdyk said.
Farabee's huge jump from his rookie season was a bright spot in a year that did not feature many for the Flyers, who finished sixth among the realigned eight-team East Division.
"He’s only going to get better," Couturier said.
Rookie Farabee — eight goals and 21 points in 52 games
Sophomore Farabee — 20 goals and 38 points in 55 games
• In a pregame ceremony, the Flyers honored Brian Elliott for playing his 500th career game, a feat he accomplished last week.
With Elliott's family on the ice alongside him, the Flyers presented the 36-year-old netminder with a watch and commemorative goalie stick.
Elliott picked up the victory Monday night with 23 saves after allowing the pair of early goals.
After the game, Elliott, a pending unrestricted free agent, said he wants to continue his playing career. Elliott has played the past two seasons on one-year deals. The club has highly valued Elliott's positive influence on 22-year-old Carter Hart and his reliability in all circumstances, but this offseason could be goodbye.
"I plan to play," Elliott said. "I feel like I've got a lot left to give. I feel like I’m playing really good hockey and health-wise I had another really good year where I didn’t really see the training room once. It’s nice to feel that way. Whatever happens, happens. I know this league, whenever you don’t make the playoffs, there’s going to be changes throughout your lineup or staff or whatever. You just have to roll with the punches. I’d love to stay here obviously and keep searching for that Cup, but that’s kind of out of my control and I just try to let my play kind of speak for itself."
In his four-year Flyers career, Elliott has gone 65-38-14 with six shutouts. He played 30 games this season (26 starts) and went 15-9-2 with a 3.06 goals-against average.
• Prior to the game, Justin Braun drew praise from head coach Alain Vigneault for the veteran defenseman's consistency in his effort and approach.
Braun, who was a stabilizing presence to an overall shaky back end this season, suffered a fracture to his foot when he blocked a shot in the first period Monday night. He played 3:50 minutes.
"Brauner played the right way right until the end," Vigneault said postgame as he announced the diagnosis of Braun's injury. "Blocked a shot, broke his foot — that's why he's appreciated and respected by his teammates, his coaching staff and management."
• The troubling step back by the Flyers' penalty kill was one of the many puzzling factors to the Flyers' underachieving season.
Before assistant coach Mike Yeo's arrival in 2019-20, the club's PK was second worst in the NHL over the previous five seasons combined at 78.4 percent. Last season, Yeo helped it finish 11th in the league at 81.8 percent.
But this season, the PK ranked 30th at 73.1 percent. Whether it's personnel or scheme, the PK will be an objective this offseason.
• Speaking of special teams, the Flyers' power play went 1 for 4 on the night. It was inconsistent at best this season.
Van Riemsdyk netted Monday night's man advantage marker, giving him the second-most power play goals of his career at 10. The only season he had more was in 2017-18, when he scored 11 with the Maple Leafs and finished with a career-high 36 goals.
• Claude Giroux's assist on Couturier's game-tying goal in the second period was a filthy pass off his skate.
• Cam York, the club's 2019 first-round draft pick, definitely showed a glimpse of his upside during his three-game audition to finish this season. The Flyers want the 20-year-old defenseman vying for a roster spot next season in training camp.
• A massive offseason begins for the Flyers.
Fletcher will be faced with some difficult decisions. The Flyers have sizable holes but want to contend in 2021-22. With the flat cap and not much wiggle room, the trade route might be the best avenue to make a major addition. To fill an area of need — i.e. top-pair defenseman — the Flyers could subtract from an area of strength or use assets they may not want to burn (high-round picks or prospects).
And to even add a player via trade, that would require making room cap-wise. All of which could signal a pretty big move. Buckle up, it should be interesting.
The free agency period opens July 28 at noon ET.
Along with Elliott, the club has 10 other players set to hit free agency — Alex Lyon (unrestricted), Samuel Morin (group 6, unrestricted), Hart (restricted), Travis Sanheim (restricted), Nolan Patrick (restricted), Andy Andreoff (unrestricted), Nate Prosser (unrestricted), Connor Bunnaman (restricted), Carsen Twarynski (restricted) and Felix Sandstrom (restricted).
Like every other club, the Flyers will lose a player to the Seattle Kraken in the July 21 NHL expansion draft.
The Flyers have seven selections in the 2021 NHL draft, which is scheduled for July 23-24.
We'll have much more on all the above as the critical offseason commences.
• The Flyers unveiled their team award winners prior to the game, while Oskar Lindblom was voted as the club's nominee for the 2020-21 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.
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