The Flyers will visit the Oilers for the first time in over two calendar years when the two teams hook up tomorrow night. The Flyers are in a tough division with the Islanders, the Hurricanes, the Penguins and the Rangers. What kind of game will they bring to Rogers Place? I’ve enlisted Kelly from SB Nation’s sibling site over at Broad Street Hockey to help us to fill in some blanks.
Let’s get at it.
Copper and Blue: The Flyers play in what I believe to be the toughest division in the NHL right now. Models aren’t very kind to the Flyers this season, but Philadelphia is a respectable 2-1-1 after dropping a weekend game to the Panthers. Are the Flyers better, worse, or right where you’d expect them to be early on?
Kelly @ Broad Street Hockey: Honestly, they look better than I expected. With the injuries to Kevin Hayes, Ristoalainen, and Ryan Ellis to start the season off I was bracing myself for some bumpiness to start, but we haven’t seen much of it. After preseason we were kind of looking around wondering where the goals would come from but the second line of Derick Brassard, Cam Atkinson, and Joel Farabee has been incredible to watch. Claude Giroux looks like a man possessed, just as dialed in as he did during his 100+ point season. The PK was a big concern last season and that looks better. And Carter Hart quickly put any questions about his ability to bounce back to rest. So yeah, even though they’re just 2-2, things seem good.
C&B This past offseason, the Flyers paid a tidy sum for the services of Rasmus Ristolainen. Do Flyers’ faithful like this trade? Is Ristolainen a good add for the club? Why or why not?
BSH: The fan base is split on this. There’s a faction excited about the idea of a big, tough, “mean” player that would throw a bunch of hits and fight a bunch of guys and be hard to play against. The other side of the fan base looks at his 8 years in Buffalo, where he was objectively bad, consistently, and thinks Chuck Fletcher lost his mind. He’s only played two games, so jury is definitely still out. In his first game back he made a couple of mistakes that lead directly to goals against, which stinks. But he wasn’t a complete disaster. I’m definitely one of the fans that thinks this trade was terrible, but I want nothing more than for Risto to make me look really dumb. We’ll see what happens!
C&B: Joel Farabee has had a hot start for the Flyers (3-3-6 in 4 GP). Now in his third full season, what can we expect from him?
BSH: It’s looking like we can expect full-on star from this kid. The chemistry between him and Cam Atkinson is incredible, they are SO FUN to watch. And right now they’re playing with Derick Brassard; one can only assume they’ll just get even better once Kevin Hayes is back. Based on what we’ve seen in the first four games, it’s going to be a big year for Young Beezy.
C&B: Tell us about a prospect who may break through for the Flyers this year.
BSH: The logical answer here is Morgan Frost. He’s been the guy closest to cracking the lineup for a couple of years now, but had a couple of unfortunate injuries that kept him sidelined for nearly the entirety of last season. He’s with the Phantoms right now, theoretically getting his game back, but it’s going to be tough for him to get a spot on the big team unless there is an injury that takes out a center. If a defenseman on the Flyers go down, it’s plausible that Cam York or Egor Zamula could see a call up. Both of them looked great in camp, just not great enough to push one of the top-6 vets out of a spot.
C&B: Carter Hart burst onto the scene for the Flyers back in 2018-19 and had a decent year in 2019-20, but he fell to earth last season with a disappointing .877 SV%. Is he going to regain his form this year?
BSH: Without question. In fact, he already has. After a little bit of a shaky first game against the Canucks, he has looked like his old, steady, reliable, very good self.
C&B: Finally, what has to happen for the Flyers to make the playoffs in 2021-22?
BSH: They just need to play to their true talent level. This is a good team. Last year everything that could go wrong for the Flyers did; that wasn’t an accurate picture of who these players are. With the changes Chuck made this summer the team is even better and there is no reason (barring injuries, of course. Please, no injuries!) why this team can’t at the very least find themselves comfortably in a wild card spot. But top three in the division isn’t out of reach if you ask me.
Thanks go to Kelly for taking time out to answer our questions.