photo courtesy of Dave Sandford/Getty Images
All in all, the Flyers were average in the faceoff circle last year. That doesn’t sound terrible, so why the need for major improvement? The thing to note is the Flyers’ centers were awful when it counted: defensive zones draws while shorthanded, offensive zone draws on the powerplay, key moments late in games, etc. Faceoffs are one of those little things in the game that often go unmentioned and underappreciated but have a huge impact on the ice. Keep an eye on this throughout the season.
I know, I know, I know. We’re the Broad Street Bullies. Orange and Black is synonymous with black and blue in the NHL, and for good reason. The Flyers are as physically demanding an opponent as any team can face. I don’t want to change that—not one bit. Philly has a reputation for taking unnecessary penalties, often for retaliation or overly-physical play. That being said, I think last year was actually a vast improvement in this category already. The team play tough as always, but—for the most part—managed to avoid taking bad penalties late in games. I hope to see this trend of discipline continue, along with the same rough-and-tumble, old time hockey that the Bullies are known for.
Look, it’s not as general as it sounds. Yes, defense wins games and even a Caps-loving puck bunny could tell you that. There’s one monumental thing I’m looking for from the Flyers’ blueline: minimize the number of quality shots by their opponents. If Bouch-Leight-Rovsky faces 30 shots a game, that doesn’t bother me as long as those shots are coming from the perimeter. Philly’s defensemen have to completely shut down the slot and force opponents to work around the point and the side boards. Furthermore, this is not just Chris Pronger’s job; defense is the responsibility of all five guys in front of the goalie. Centers have to be able to pivot in the slot to prevent east-to-west coast passing, and the wingers are responsible for nullifying active defensemen from getting into scoring position. The Flyers don’t have any Vezina Trophy candidates in net, but if they’re able to see all of the shots coming their way, they will stop them.