The Flyers reached the midpoint of their strange season Thursday slightly below expectations, but in a position to make a run at a playoff spot.
Considering that their special teams have been flawed and that they rank 29th in the 31-team league in goals allowed per game (3.46), the Flyers are fortunate to be in the playoff chase.
A trade for a veteran defenseman (Mattias Ekholm? David Savard? Alex Goligoski?) is imperative, and it would go a long way toward helping goalies Carter Hart and Brian Elliott get their struggling games in order.
And it wouldn’t hurt if the lines and pairings -- juggled throughout the season’s first half because of injuries and coronavirus infections -- showed more continuity so they could develop some chemistry.
Heading into Saturday’s game against the Islanders, the fifth-place Flyers (15-10-3) had played 28 games in the abbreviated 56-game season. The next 28 will determine if the season can be considered a success.
Vast improvement is needed in the last seven weeks to grab one of the four playoff berths in the talented East Division, and here is how the players were graded in the first half:
Head of the class
James van Riemsdyk (13 goals, 29 points in 28 games): He is on the best points-per-game pace of his career, and he has been a force on the power play and on the top line. Grade: A.
Joel Farabee (12 goals, 24 points in 27 games): His emergence was the best Flyers story of the season’s first half. Grade: A.
Sean Couturier (6 goals, 19 points in 18 games): Despite missing 10 games with a rib injury, Couturier has been the Flyers’ top all-around player. Again. Grade: A.
Claude Giroux (7 goals, 23 points in 26 games): At 33, he has not slowed down while playing both left wing and center. Grade: B-plus.
Jake Voracek (5 goals, 22 points in 25 games): He’s been solid and the Flyers will have a tough decision on whether to protect him in the Seattle expansion draft. Grade: B.
Scott Laughton (7 goals, 16 points in 25 games): A late bloomer, he has built off last season and played a strong two-way game. Grade: B.
Ivan Provorov (4 goals, 14 points in 28 games): He misses his old partner, Matt Niskanen, and is still trying to show he can be a dominating No. 1 player on a top pairing. Grade: C-plus.
Justin Braun (no goals, three points, team-best plus-10 rating): He has quietly provided steady, efficient play, but is not a good fit on a No. 1 pairing. Grade: C-plus.
Kevin Hayes (9 goals, 21 points in 28 games): His grade would be higher if he cut down some of his defensive lapses. Grade: C-plus.
Middle of road
Travis Konecny (7 goals, 18 points in 22 games): He had a great start, followed by a long scoring drought and has been searching for consistency. The Flyers hope his strong performance Thursday in a 4-3 win over the Islanders is the start of things to come. Grade: C.
Shayne Gostisbehere (5 goals, 8 points in 20 games): Finally healthy, his offense has returned, but he has had too many defensive lapses. Grade: C.
Michael Raffl (3 goals, 7 points in 23 games): His effort is always there, along with his ability to play up and down the lineup. Grade: C.
Robert Hagg (1 goal, 1 point in 21 games): Before suffering a shoulder injury Wednesday, he wasn’t flashy but provided physicality and shot blocking. Grade: C.
Brian Elliott (2,97 GAA, .897 save percentage in 14 games): After starting the season 6-1, his play has dropped off considerably. Grade: C-minus.
Travis Sanheim (1 goal, 9 points in 27 games): If the Flyers are going to get into the playoffs, they desperately need him to bounce back from a disappointing first half. Grade: D-plus.
Erik Gustafsson (1 goal, 10 points in 20 games): His signing never made sense because he’s a one-dimensional player. Like Gostisbehere, his strength is on offense. (Why, again, was Samuel Morin moved to left wing to start the year?) Grade: D-plus.
Nik Aube-Kubel (2 goals, 7 points in 26 games): He can be hard on the forecheck, but has been more inconsistent than last year, has committed some costly penalties, and has sometimes lost his focus. Grade: D-plus.
Connor Bunnaman (no goals, 1 point in 17 games): His work ethic can’t be questioned, but the Flyers should have re-signed feisty Tyler Pitlick and gotten more bang for their buck. Grade: D-plus.
Carter Hart (3.70 GAA, .880 save percentage in 19 games): He has never found his rhythm, a stunning development after his strong season and stronger playoff performance last year. Grade: D.
Phil Myers (no goals, 6 points in 20 games): His regression has been part of the reason the Flyers defense has looked out of sorts. Grade: D.
Oskar Lindblom (4 goals, 9 points in 24 games): Coming back from a grueling battle with a rare bone cancer, he did not look like himself for most of the first half. Who would have after what he endured? Patience is required, and perhaps his breakout two-goal game Thursday was the start of his comeback.
Nolan Patrick (3 goals, 6 points in 28 games): The Flyers say Patrick, who has a team-worst minus-13 rating, is healthy, but he has played with hesitation and looks slower after missing a year because of a migraine disorder. Maybe, just maybe, he will emerge in the second half.