A year ago, 2017 was looking promising for the Flyers. They had a 10-game winning streak early in the season and were right in the middle of the playoff hunt in the Metropolitan Division. Back-to-back playoff appearances were in their mind.
The season ended with the Flyers on the outside looking in. This season, they suffered their longest losing streak of the decade. It has been a roller-coaster year for the Orange and Black that has finally reached its end. 2018 is upon us. While it is in the middle of the hockey season, it comes with new life, new hope, and new opportunity. The Flyers have playoff hopes, but they need to improve in 2018. Here are four New Year’s Resolutions for the Orange and Black.
Win at Wells Fargo
Over the last four years, the Flyers have found success at home. They have finished with 51, 53, 54, and 55 points. While the playoffs have fluctuated year to year, the success at home has stayed consistent. This year, success at the Wells Fargo Center has eluded the team, for they are only 8-7-4.
The years the Flyers made the playoffs were when they had 51 and 54 points at home. The difference for them was their success on the road, where they finished around .500 during the playoff years and well under .500 when they missed the postseason. With 22 games left at home, the Flyers will look to go somewhere around 14-4-4 to reach that low-50s mark. That type of production at home with .500 play on the road will lead to another Flyers playoff berth.
When the fans are into it, the Wells Fargo Center is the best atmosphere in hockey. Flyers need to take advantage of those surroundings in 2018.
Play With Consistency
Consistency has been a word used to describe the Flyers all season long…or rather the lack thereof. Fans thought some consistency was growing when Dave Hakstol shuffled up the lines in western Canada, but that play did not hold. For the Flyers to have a better year in 2018, they need to play consistently throughout the year.
Within each individual game, the Flyers need to make the open play, win the battles on the board, and make good decisions for a full 60 minutes. In their loss to the Panthers on Thursday, Dec. 28, they played well for about 10 minutes toward the end of the game. Against the Lightning, they played well in every period and came away with the win against the best team in hockey.
The performance on display in their final game of 2017 needs to be the norm in 2018. Individual talent needs to be ready every game with players playing to their strengths, and the Flyers will be a better team for it.
Improve on the Penalty Kill
When the opponent goes on a power play they score. Of course, it is not every time, but it feels that way for Flyers fans, who have watched their 29th-ranked penalty kill give up goal after goal this season. For a team that has done an excellent job at even strength of being the offensive threat to score, they have been dismal when down a man. The Flyers have allowed the 10th-fewest goals this season at 106, but 25 have them come with a man down and three with two men serving a minor.
At even strength, the Flyers have allowed 56 goals while scoring 65 of their own. They win when it is 5-on-5. They have too many weapons for teams to stop. To be a playoff team, they will have to be able to stop the other team’s power play.
The NHL is calling more penalties this year with the enforcement on slashing. A 20th-ranked penalty kill by the end of the season will be a resolution fulfilled for Philadelphia.
Play as the Aggressor
It’s no secret that the team that scores first usually wins. The Flyers need to use that to their advantage and play as the aggressor. This goes hand in hand with playing with consistency. Everybody has off days, but hustle and aggression can be shown every game. The Flyers need to hit opponents early and hit them often. They need to win the 50/50 battles on the boards and win the races to loose pucks.
They should pressure defensemen more to try and force more takeaways, where they currently rank 29th among the 31 NHL teams. Playing with energy and aggression will fuel the team and its fans. Consistent energetic and aggressive play will yield consistent effort and positive results for the team.
And wins. Wins will bring out the best of the Philadelphia fans, and who doesn’t love a rocking Wells Fargo Center full of excited Flyers fans?
Of course, playing as the aggressor does not mean recklessly. While the penalty kill needs to improve, the team does not want to commit penalties caused by playing recklessly instead of aggressively. Play hard but continue to play smart.
The Flyers are last in the Metropolitan, but only four points out of the wild card. 2018 is here. It’s time for the Flyers to make their move.