The Flyers’ forgettable 2018-19 season was known as the Year of Eight Goalies. Injuries and ineffectiveness caused the Flyers to set a dubious NHL record by using eight goaltenders.
This season, it’s the Year of the Rookies. Eleven Flyers rookies have gotten into games and some, more than others, have helped steer them in the right direction. Winger Joel Farabee and defenseman Phil Myers fall into that category.
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— Sam Carchidi
At the All-Star break, the Flyers are 27-17-6 and one point out of an Eastern Conference wild-card spot, but they are actually in decent position because the travel portion of their schedule lightens substantially compared to their first 50 games, and they have only two games (at Dallas and at Nashville) out of the Eastern time zone.
They will make a playoff push with at least two rookies getting substantial playing time: Myers and Farabee. Winger Nic Aube-Kubel, a rookie who has played in 17 of the last 18 games, could also receive considerable action.
Other rookies who have played this season in the Allentown-to-Philly shuttle: Misha Vorobyev, Morgan Frost, German Rubtsov, Samuel Morin, Mark Friedman, David Kase, Carsen Twarynski, and Connor Bunnaman.
Who has been the Flyers’ top rookie performer?
Myers gets the nod here, though Farabee is coming on strong.
Myers is tied with Minnesota’s Carson Soucy for the best plus-minus (plus-16) among all NHL rookies, and he has contributed 14 points (three goals, 11 assists) in 32 games. Myers is averaging 16 minutes, 45 seconds of ice time.
Yes, Myers has had some puck-management issues, but that will improve with experience. Defensemen generally take more time to develop, and the 6-foot-5, 210-pound Myers just turned 23 on Saturday.
Farabee is only 19, and he is getting better with each game. During a recent three-week stretch, he was on the fourth line, but he is more effective in a top-9 role.
After being sent to the Phantoms for one game because the Flyers needed cap space, Farabee was recalled from the AHL team, and he has points in his last three contests (two goals, assists). He was promoted to a line with Sean Couturier and Jake Voracek on Tuesday and was outstanding in a 3-0 win over Pittsburgh,
Farabee has 15 points (five goals, 10 assists), one fewer than highly touted Rangers rookie Kaapo Kakko, and two fewer than New Jersey’s Jack Hughes, selected No. 1 overall in last June’s draft. The speedy Farabee has displayed a high hockey IQ, has played a gritty, 200-foot game, and has rarely been out of position.
The Flyers have never had a rookie of the year. Shayne Gostisbehere, Ron Hextall, and Bill Barber each finished second for the award. Gostisbehere was beaten out by Artemi Panarin in 2016, Hextall lost to Luc Robitaille in 1987, and Barber was edged by Steve Vickers in 1973.
This year’s top Calder Trophy candidates for rookie of the year: Colorado defenseman Cale Makar (37 points, plus-7), Chicago forward Dominik Kubalik (21 goals, 32 points), Buffalo forward Victor Olofsson (16 goals, 35 points), Washington goalie Ilya Samsonov (15 wins, 2.06 GAA, .927 save percentage), and Vancouver defenseman Quinn Hughes (34 points, minus-8).
The Flyers won’t have a Calder winner this season, but Myers and Farabee have helped them in their fight for a playoff berth — and they will continue to help them over the last 32 games and in many future years.
The Flyers did not fare well the last time they returned from an extended break, and if that happens again this time, their playoff push will be an uphill struggle the rest of the way.
The Flyers, you’ll recall, went 1-4-1 after their holiday break. They will return to action Friday in Pittsburgh with nine days between games. They are one point out of a playoff spot, and need to play with urgency in their final 32 games if they hope to reach the playoffs.
The Flyers’ first two games out of their latest break: Back-to-back contests in Pittsburgh on Friday and Saturday against visiting Colorado. Both those teams are Stanley Cup contenders.
So the NHL gives the Flyers nine straight days without a game, then makes them play on back-to-back nights with a plane flight in between.
Dear NHL schedule makers: You. Are. A. Joke.
Thursday: Flyers return to practice in Voorhees at 2 p.m.
Friday: Flyers at Pittsburgh, 7 p.m. (NBCSP)
Saturday: Colorado at Flyers, 7 p.m. (NBCSP+)
Monday. Flyers at Detroit, 7:30 p.m. (NBCSP+)
Thursday, Feb. 6: New Jersey at Flyers, 7 p.m. (NBCSP)
Monday, Feb. 24: Trade deadline, 3 p.m.
Question: How does AV (Alain Vigneault) get the team to not play down to their opponents? — @pelecookie on Twitter
Answer: I guess this question was prompted by the Flyers’ 4-1 loss to struggling Montreal, after impressive wins over elite teams such as Washington, Boston, and St. Louis.
I understand your frustration over that listless loss, but actually the Flyers, unlike in recent seasons, have done a good job of not playing “down” to their opponents. They are 13-5-1 in games against teams that are out of a playoff spot. Basically, they’ve done that with better starts (for the most part) and not taking as many periods off.