Claude Giroux kept his promise.
The Philadelphia Flyers rebounded from a disastrous start to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs, finishing third in the Metropolitan Division.
Things certainly looked bleak in October and November for Philadelphia, who were 4-10-1 through their first 15 games. Captain Claude Giroux was also held goalless during that stretch.
The Flyers were able to battle back and finish at a respectable 42-30-10.
So what were the keys for Philadelphia’s successful postseason push?
1. The resurgence of Claude Giroux. There is no question that a team has a better chance of winning when their star player plays well. Giroux was red hot from mid-November through May, and it resulted in Flyers wins.
After a rocky and disappointing start, Giroux finished third in the NHL in scoring (86 points), and fourth in assists with 58. These are superstar numbers.
Despite the raw talent being there, Giroux’s Olympic team snub fueled the fire behind his strong play. Many people felt he deserved to be part of Team Canada, obviously Canada succeeded regardless, but he proved this season to be one of the world’s elite players.
2. Strong play from other forwards.
Jakub Voracek again showed he is a strong linemate to Giroux by finishing second on the team in scoring with a career best 62 points. He also posted career highs in goals and assists while suiting up for all 82 of the Flyers regular season games.
Wayne Simmonds had a breakout year for Philadelphia. He too played in all 82 games, and posted career highs in goals and assists while eclipsing the 50 point mark for the first time in his young career. He also finished third in the NHL with 15 powerplay goals.
The Flyers also claimed the right to being the only team with at least seven 20 goal scorers. Giroux, Voracek, Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, Matt Read, Vincent Lecavalier and Scott Hartnell all hit that mark. This versatility makes it difficult to form a defensive game-plan against them.
3. The penalty kill.
The Flyers finished the year will a top 10 penalty kill, killing off just below 85% of opposing team powerplays.
To be honest, the reason could be singled down to just Sean Couturier.
Couturier led all NHL forwards with penalty kill time during the season, logging over 281 minutes. Philadelphia also led the NHL in penalty minutes with 1,180 of them on 430 total penalties (second best in the NHL).
This made Couturier’s performance all the more impressive.
He is likely to be a finalist for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s top defensive forward. His name will be alongside NHL stars like Patrice Bergeron, Jonathan Toews and Ryan Getzlaf.
Bergeron will probably win, but Couturier should see the trophy awarded to him sometime in the future.
4. Steve Mason.
Now known as “Stonewall”, Mason has redefined his career after disappointing Columbus Blue Jacket fans for years.
The former Calder Memorial Trophy winner came to the Flyers at the end of last season, and was thought to be a possible future in net.
Since the start of the season, Mason was a bright light in a sometimes dark atmosphere that surrounded the Flyers. His consistently strong play frequently held onto victories that Philadelphia nearly lost.
He finished the year with a 33-18-7 record, .917 save percentage, 2.50 goals against average and 4 shutouts.
He was also able to ink a three-year deal with the Flyers. Mason shows some elite tools at times, and if he finds a way to put them all together, he has potential to be a top NHL goaltender.
At 25-years-old, he still has plenty of time to grow.
Mason, however, has reportedly suffered from whiplash like symptoms and will miss game one of the first round series against the New York Rangers.
The Flyers view the playoffs as a clean slate to work with. The embarrassment of the early season will still be in the back of their minds, but it’s a chance to show that it was a fluke and prove themselves to the NHL.
The series against New York will be no easy task, and hard fought between both teams, but it appears the Flyers’ heads are in the right place entering the postseason.
Here is a one reporter’s take on the Flyers postseason chances: