Flyers miss playoffs due to defense, special teams

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The Philadelphia Flyers failed to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs after reaching the Eastern Conference Second Round last season.

Philadelphia (22-21-7) was eliminated from contention when it lost 5-3 at the New Jersey Devils on Thursday. The Flyers can finish no higher than fifth in the eight-team MassMutual East Division. The top four teams qualify for the playoffs.

Since qualifying for the postseason five straight times from 2008-12, Phildelphia has alternated reaching and missing the playoffs in nine straight seasons.

Here is a look at what happened in the 2020-21 season for the Flyers and why things could be better next season:

 

The Skinny

Potential unrestricted free agents: Samuel Morin, D; Brian Elliott, G; Alex Lyon, G
Potential restricted free agents: Nolan Patrick, F; Carsen Twarynski, F; Travis Sanheim, D; Carter Hart, G
Potential 2021 Draft picks: 7

 

What went wrong

Defensive-zone problems: The Flyers struggled all season in their own zone, from finding chemistry with defense pairs to missed coverages, forwards not helping defensemen on the backcheck and exiting the zone. The defensive issues exacerbated goaltending struggles that saw Philadelphia allow an NHL-high 3.56 goals against per game. 

Special teams: Their 72.9 percent success rate on the penalty kill was the second-worst in the NHL (Devils, 69.9 percent), and a significant drop-off from last season, when the Flyers were 11th in the NHL at 81.8 percent. Philadelphia allowed at least three power-play goals in a game four times, second-most in the NHL after the Nashville Predators (five times). The power play is 20th at 19.6 percent but allowed five shorthanded goals, tied with six teams for third-most in the NHL.

March mayhem: They were fourth in the East when February ended, three points behind the first-place Washington Capitals and two points ahead of the fifth-place Pittsburgh Penguins. But in 17 games over 30 days in March, the Flyers went 6-10-1, allowed 4.41 goals per game and ended the month fifth in the division, three points behind the fourth-place Boston Bruins.

 

Reasons for optimism

Carter Hart: He struggled this season, including an .877 save percentage that ranks last among the 29 goalies to play at least 25 games this season. He last played on April 15 and it out for the rest of the season because of a sprained MCL in his left knee. But the 22-year-old is the third-youngest goalie in the NHL to play at least five games this season, and his .915 save percentage the previous two seasons was tied for 13th among goalies to play at least 70 games. Hart’s upside remains very promising.

Video: PHI@BUF: Hart robs Okposo on odd-man rush in 2nd

Rejuvenated Lindblom: Oskar Lindblom has recovered from his fight against bone cancer but has struggled to return to his pre-diagnosis level of play on a consistent basis. The forward has scored 13 points (eight goals, five assists) in 44 games, including a two-goal game against the New York Islanders on March 18. However, Lindblom and the Flyers are confident that with a regular offseason training program and a less-compacted schedule next season, the 24-year-old can return to the player he was prior to his December 2019 diagnosis, when he scored 11 goals in 30 games to begin last season.

Talented young core returning: Though there certainly will be changes during the offseason, the Flyers have a solid base of players 24 and younger to build around, including Hart, forwards Lindblom, Travis Konecny, 24; Wade Allison, 23; Joel Farabee, 21; and Morgan Frost, 21; and defensemen Ivan Provorov, 24; Philippe Myers, 24; and Egor Zamula, 21; plus defensemen prospect Cameron York, 20; and forward prospects Zayde Wisdom, 18; and Tyson Foerster, 19.

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