Every year before the season starts, hockey fans and media like to make predictions. It is nothing personal and it is all meant to be fun. Of course, predicting which teams will play in the Stanley Cup playoffs is the most common prediction made.
However, hockey folks also like to predict who will be in the lottery sweepstakes by the end of the year. On paper, it looked like the Philadelphia Flyers were going to be one of those teams.
They had the seventh overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft and looked poised to add another top-five pick. Macklin Celebrini playing for them felt very realistic.
Now, as December is coming to an end, it is clear that people who felt that way were wrong. The Flyers are far from a joke. They are one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference right now.
The Philadelphia Flyers are proving to be more than a "hot team".
Look no further than their big win over the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday night. Vancouver is outstanding and the Flyers came at them. It ended up being a 4-1 victory at Rogers Arena.
So what is it that makes them so surprisingly good? Well, it starts and ends with the head coach. John Tortorella has done a tremendous job with guys.
He has been around the league and done a lot of great things. What he’s doing this year with the Flyers will have him in the coach of the year conversation. The players have bought into his systems and philosophies.
This Flyers team was injected with tons of youth. Guys like Owen Tippet and Bobby Orr Brink are there making an impact on a nightly basis. The Flyers have more youth on the way too which is scary to think about.
Getting Cam Atkinson and Sean Couturier back this season has been huge as well. Both of them missed the entire 2022-23 seasons due to injury. It was almost like they traded for them but they didn't have to give anything up.
In the case of Couturier, he was one of the best two-way centers before his injury. Now, the Flyers are starting to see him return to form. Top players on opposing teams always have a tougher time when they have to be on the same ice as him.
The Flyers have also just been getting really good goaltending. Both Carter Hart and Samuel Ersson have nine wins. Hart has a .914 save percentage and a 2.57 goals-against average. Ersson has a 2.50 goals against to go with a .902 save percentage. That will do.
If they keep this up, and there is no reason to think they won't, they aren't slowing down any time soon. This is a good team and should be in the playoffs by the end of the year.