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Overreacting to early trends

Cam Atkinson scores a goal during Flyers’ training camp. Acquired from a trade with Columbus, Atkinson has scored four goals in his first four games with his new team. Photo/Mark Zimmaro

It’s still incredibly early, and it’s much too soon to overreact as the Flyers completed the first small stretch of their 2021-22 schedule before heading out on their first road trip of the season.

After four home games, the Flyers are a perfectly fine 2-1-1, which included a sloppy opening-night shootout loss to the Vancouver Canucks, a trouncing of the expansion Seattle Kraken and a split with two powerful Atlantic Division teams in the Boston Bruins and the Florida Panthers.

Philly fans can’t really complain, as their team is on a 102-point pace in the early sample, their offense is among the highest scoring in the league, and prized goaltender Carter Hart is carrying a .914 save percentage despite a clumsy game against the Canucks.

Add to the fact that the Flyers have been missing at least one of their top-four defensemen (either Ryan Ellis or Rasmus Ristolainen) for three of the four games and continue to be without second-line center Kevin Hayes, who has yet to make his season debut.

Overall, it’s a solid start to the season, so they can’t let the next stage trip them up.

The Flyers will head west to play the high-flying Edmonton Oilers, a rematch with the Canucks and a meeting with the upstart Calgary Flames, before returning from Canada to face the lowly Arizona Coyotes at home.

Another five points isn’t too much to ask. It’s what will be needed to stay afloat in the very competitive Metropolitan Division. And it won’t be easy. The Oilers will also be rested by Wednesday’s meeting, as neither team will have played in four days. The Flyers will head farther west to face a somewhat-rested Canucks team the following night. Saturday’s tilt will see the Flames return from a five-game East Coast road trip, which included four stops at Metropolitan Division cities. The Coyotes’ stop in Philly will be their fifth game on a six-game road trip.

There’s an opportunity to climb the standings here if the Flyers can salvage something out of the Oilers-Canucks back-to-back and take care of business against a couple of travel-tired teams in the Flames and Coyotes.

It’s not quite time to overreact to the standings, but let’s completely overreact to some other early trends.

Rocket Cam

The Flyers traded longtime Flyer Jakub Voracek to Columbus in the offseason and received Cam Atkinson in return. The Flyers were getting a guy who likes to shoot the puck and has proven he can be a top scorer in the past with a 41-goal season under his belt. After four games, he’s on pace to double it, averaging a goal a game. There’s no chance Atkinson scores 82 this year but the Flyers are getting good early returns on the trade. The Blue Jackets are doing just fine with the trade, too, as Voracek had five assists in his first five games.

Dix-Neuf

Flyers General Manager Chuck Fletcher’s pickup of free agent Quebec native Derick Brassard was an afterthought through most of preseason. Brassard has been plugged into the second line center hole while Hayes recovers from surgery and produced five points in his first four games. He needs just four more points to match Nolan Patrick’s output last season (nine points in 52 games).

Patrick had one goal in his first four games for the Vegas Golden Knights. Incidentally, Brassard is also now wearing Patrick’s No. 19 jersey.

3G Network

Claude Giroux’s three goals in his first four games mark his fastest start since the 2011-12 season, when he potted goals in his first three games that year. Giroux finished that year with  28 goals during a 93-point season. Last year, it took Giroux 18 games to score his third goal of the season, and his slowest start came in 2013-14 when it took him 22 games to get his third tally. Sometimes a slow starter, Giroux is off to a great start in a contract year.

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