Absent a poor showing in Boston a week ago, not many outside the East division have reason to be upset about a Flyer-less schedule this season. Entering this year, there was plenty of reason for optimism that this group, a well-built combination of productive youth and still-effective vets, could follow up on a strong ’19-20 campaign. It might still be early, but for the teams with another six to seven meetings with Philly, that’s the problem, isn’t it?
Because the Flyers aren’t built to succeed solely against their divisional peers, they’re looking at a much larger definition of success. The time just might be now for the orange and black and that’s sure to mean some headaches like Tuesday for the ones that will know them best this year.
The Devils pinged off iron seemingly all night. It was a frustrating one in that way. They surrendered the game’s first two goals on the power play–a pair of James van Riemsdyk tip-in’s. Michael McLeod’s long-awaited first in the NHL injected life and helped the Devils even the score ahead of the third. But the Flyers of ’20-21, who look almost entirely the same as the 41-win (in 69 games) squad from a season ago, managed to put their stamp on the game in regulation. Nolan Patrick, who missed all of last season suffering from a migraine disorder, netted the go-aheader 7:03 into the third before the Flyers cruised to a 5-3 win.
With the first taste of Philly a rather sour one, the Devils will get back at it on Thursday–and six more times after that. And if the Flyers are as good as they appear capable of, that reality will hit the Eastern division rather potently.
Part of it is the nucleus of sub-26 year-old production: Patrick (22), Travis Konecny (23), Joel Farabee (20) and slick-skating, sharp-shooting defensemen, Ivan Provorov (24) and Travis Sanheim (24). But there’s also the well-seasoned company, doing their part to be a part of the formula.
“Part of the reason why I signed here was wanting to get a chance to play on a team that has a chance to win,” van Riemsdyk said following a two-goal effort. “You saw all the guys who that were in place and established that were here but also all these younger guys that were up-and-coming.
“You hoped that some of that starts to work out too and that you can be a piece of the puzzle. That’s ultimately why I chose to sign here.”
The second overall ’07 pick, just behind Patrick Kane, played three seasons in Philly before another six in Toronto. New Jersey was among the bidders on the NJ product during his free agency in 2018, before he returned to the Flyers. His scoring regressed a bit last season, but through seven games this season he’s managed five goals.
“I’m just trying to be consistent from game-to-game, practice-to-practice. Obviously we have a lot of good players to play with so that makes it fun.”
Outranking JvR in draft class seniority by a year and games played by more than 100, Claude Giroux, who passed Bobby Clarke for most games played as captain of the Flyers (611), was on the 2010 seven-seed Flyers that went six games with the Blackhawks in the Cup Final before bowing out in overtime. That was then and this is now. And now might be pretty darn good.
“Since I’ve been captain it’s not a secret we haven’t gone far,” Giroux said. “We’re looking for the future and the team that we have right now, we have a lot of depth. We believe in each other. It’s very exciting to be able to build something with these guys we have right now.”
The building blocks over the last few seasons have been put in place and now might be the closest it’s been to taking the next step.