Flyers show they are counting on the six lowest forwards

More often than not, the Philadelphia Flyers fade after the first period. Then, they are catastrophic in the second. Finally, they try to become the heart children of the third, fighting from behind.

When the first six forwards can’t find the back of the net, it’s up to the bottom six to bring the energy to the front failure. Physicality is a great agent for changing momentum.

Compare 2019-2020 to 2020-2021 in terms of the depth of the list. While those seasons were drastically different due to the lineup format, the role-playing priority over the last six correlated with the team’s success. These roles require more than seasoned leadership. Prospects respond to Mike Yeo, forging some decent chemistry with the acquired fourth liners. Think of this season as an active primer before the whole new coat of paint.

Responsible, well-balanced in-depth attackers help ease the pressure from defensive pairs. On paper, the Flyers’ defense is recoverable. Health plays a critical role, but they are better than last year. Granted, that’s no praise, but this range is better than what they’ve shown.

There has to be a wise mix of deep, high-energy players, contributing prospects, and reliable playmakers.

Flyers’ Bottom Six

The last six contributors are better than in 2019-2020:

Scott Laughton and Derick Brassard are back with the squad ahead of their road game against the Anaheim Ducks. These two offer flexibility to approach the second row, making them attackers in the middle of the six. Nate Thompson is a 4C who returned when Alain Vigneault was the head coach.

Unsurprisingly, van Riemsdyk leads the team in power play goals. Last year he led the team in the overall points standings. Frost provides a spark on the ice. It shows glimpses of itself in 2019-2020.

Cates and Willman, recalled from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in addition to Frost, contribute. The two scored the Flyers’ only goals in a shootout loss to the Montreal Canadiens.

MacEwen and Brown fit the mold that Philadelphia must be. They are relentless. They are often the most energetic skaters on the ice. Winning puck battles and challenging opponents with a stubborn forward check is what they do. They belong to this organization because of their brand of restlessness; their style of play.

Defensive help

During the point streak, the play of the last six forwards has bailed out the defense a few times. Keith Yandle did not live up to expectations. Nick Seeler and Kevin Connauton are bandages, a product of Ryan Ellis and Samuel Morin being unavailable due to injury. Zack MacEwen and Patrick Brown most often act as extra help.

Courtesy: Hockey Reference

Max Willman, Jackson Cates and MacEwen were stable against the Los Angeles Kings. Joel Farabee and Claude Giroux played a relative role, where the two had several points evenings. Almost everywhere else, lagging behind, including half the defensive unit.

In 2019-2020, the Philadelphia Flyers were strong defensively. The last six served as more luxury to support special teams. Now the defense is not that stable. It doesn’t necessarily mean the lineup is worse. Team turnover and injuries shift the strength of the defending unit to the bottom six.

The context changed the strategy in Philadelphia.

(Photo credit: Alex McIntyre)



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