The Philadelphia Flyers head into the 2021 National Hockey League season as one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup. In order to live up to the hype, they’ll need to carry over the momentum from Alain Vigneault’s first season at the helm. One of the key players for the Orange and Black remains veteran center Sean Couturier, who is coming off his best season yet for the team.
Couturier took home the Selke award, given to the league’s best defensive forward in 2019-20 while also being a leader for the Flyers, who reached the second round of the NHL Playoffs. With a new season set to get underway on January 13 and a shortened regular season schedule due to COVID-19’s impact throughout the United States and Canada, Couturier praised the importance of starting strong this season.
“We need to get off to a good start, especially with a shortened season. I had gone through it the lockout year. We had a good team. We just got off to a poor start and just couldn’t make up ground in time to make the playoffs,” Couturier said on a Zoom call Monday. “I think it’s important to get off to a good start, get a good camp in and be ready for Game 1. Then go from there. Once you’re in the playoffs, anything can happen. That’s another part of our game where we’ll have to just take another step as the year goes on.”
“Every game is more important because you are playing with a new division and fighting for the same playoff spot every night basically. There’s probably more value to each game. Going through it, the lockout year, it’s important to get off to a good start because if you come out of the gates with a poor start, after 10, 15 games, there’s not many games you can catch up. At the same time, it’s going to be divisional games so every point is going to be worth almost that much more. It’s going to be fun. There’s going to be some rivalries that are going to build up.”
The Flyers will face only seven teams in the new season, with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, and Boston Bruins among the team’s 56-game schedule. Couturier helped the team go toe-to-toe with many of the league’s “big boys” last season, before grabbing the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference round robin in Toronto.
While Couturier, Claude Giroux, and Kevin Hayes headlined the experienced forward for the team, many youngsters also played vital roles last season. Carter Hart impressed in his second NHL season in goal, Philippe Myers and Ivan Provorov continued to grow as top defensemen, and Joel Farabee and Travis Konecny both delivered strong moments offensively.
Now with the team coming off a disappointing playoff exit at the hands of the New York Islanders, the goal will be to build off the experiences learned in Vigneault’s first season as head coach.
“I think anytime you can get into the playoffs, especially win a round and see what it takes to move on, it’s always a great experience,” Couturier said. “I think a lot of young guys learned from that. I think it’s important now in my tenth year and being in and out of the playoffs, it’s not something easy and doesn’t come that easy to get into the playoffs and win. You’ve just got to be ready every year and every playoffs. Every chance you get to improve and help the team, that’s what you need to do.”
The Flyers face off with the Penguins on January 13th in their season opener at Wells Fargo Center.
You can follow Larry Henry on Twitter (@lhenry019) and e-mail him at [email protected].
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