2018-19 Metropolitan Division preview: Philadelphia Flyers

J.J. Regan
NBC Sports Washington

The Capitals have won the Metropolitan Division three straight years. Can they defend their title? Here's a preview of each team in the division for the 2018-19 season.

Today's team: Philadelphia Flyers

2017-18 Results: 42-26-14, 98 points, third in the division. Lost in six games to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the playoffs.

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Notable acquisitions: F James van Riemsdyk, D Christian Folin

Notable departures: F Valtteri Filppula, D Brandon Manning, G Petr Mrazek

When they will play the Caps: Jan. 8 in Washington, March 6 in Philadelphia, March 14 in Philadelphia, March 24 in Washington

Offseason recap: The Flyers made a real free agent splash with one of the more notable additions of the offseason in van Riemsdyk. He may not be a franchise-changing player like John Tavares, but with 36 goals last season he is a significant pickup.

Signing Folin was not as heralded a move, but as a right-handed defenseman, he fills a hole the Flyers so desperately needed. Philadelphia had only one right-shot defenseman, Radko Gudas, suit up for them in the playoffs last season. Folin's addition to the blue line was sorely needed. Do not underestimate the impact that can have.

Biggest strength: Offense

The move to wing for Claude Giroux reignited his career last season as he shattered career highs with 34 goals, 68 assists and a total of 102 points. With him holding the left on the top line, van Riemsdyk will likely open the season on the second line alongside Nolan Patrick.

The No. 2 overall pick in 2017, Patrick's 30-point rookie campaign was largely unheralded. But this was the first healthy offseason for Patrick in several years. With the addition of van Riemsdyk plus Jakub Voracek on the same line, the Flyers suddenly boast a very formidable top-six.

Biggest weakness: Goalie

Philadelphia had three different goalies play in the playoffs and not one of them managed a save percentage higher than .858. Despite being outscored 28-15 by the Penguins in six games, general manager Ron Hextall evidently concluded that he needed to boost the offense. As a result, Philadelphia signed van Riemsdyk and now is poised to enter the season with a goalie tandem of Michal Neuvirth and Brian Elliott.

The playoffs are just a snapshot, so perhaps we shouldn't judge Neuvirth (.847 save percentage, 4.40 GAA in three games played) or Elliott (.856 save percentage, 4.74 GAA in four games played) too harshly. Having said that, Neuvirth has not proven himself to be durable enough to handle a starting role. Elliott, meanwhile, managed only a .909 save percentage in 43 games last season.

2018-19 season outlook: The situation in net in Philadelphia may not be as dire as it is for a team like the New York Islanders, but the floor is low enough that it could derail the entire season. Let's not forget, while the Flyers finished third in the Metropolitan Division last season, they were only one point ahead of both wild card teams and two points ahead of the Florida Panthers who were the last team eliminated. This was essentially a fringe playoff team so it is not crazy to believe the goaltending could swing them in either direction up or down the standings.

The offense absolutely got better and Folin may prove to be a much more savvy move than it looks to be on paper. The goaltending, however, will continue to hold the Flyers back from being true contenders.

2018-19 season prediction: The Flyers will make the playoffs as a wild card team and lose in the first or second round.

Other Metropolitan Division previews:

Carolina Hurricanes
Columbus Blue Jackets
New Jersey Devils
New York Islanders
New York Rangers



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