Flyers Best Chance at a Run is Now
The Flyers started their current eight-game winning streak on January 14 and carried it through to the bye week and the All-Star break. At the time, it had reached three games.
It was at this time that Flyers captain Claude Giroux, serving as the lone representative for the Flyers at the All-Star Game, said that the team was going to go on a run.
“I do believe that we’re going to make a push for it,” Giroux said on NHL Network at the All-Star break. “The most important thing would be to go game-by-game. Go one game at a time and see where it takes you.”
To make that push, it was now or never.
When the Flyers returned from the All-Star break, they had a path to some wins in front of them. They had the Rangers and Oilers on the schedule, but in a week that featured four games. It was going to be a trying schedule.
The Flyers withstood Winnipeg on their way to a win out of the break. They held off the Rangers with Anthony Stolarz finishing off a shutout. They rallied to defeat a tough Bruins team. They rallied again to beat the Oilers on a day when they had their moments that lacked execution.
On Monday, they kept it going with a hard-fought 2-1 win over the Canucks, their eighth straight win.
They enter game play on Thursday seven points back of the final wildcard spot. On Jan. 9, following their eighth straight loss, they were 14 points out of the final playoff spot with 36 points.
The next game on the schedule is against the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday. The Kings have the lowest point total in the Western Conference and third-lowest total in the NHL, but have also won their past two games.
Saturday, the Flyers host the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks have lost five straight games, and have an 2-13-4 record since Dec. 18, their last 19 games.
After a back-to-back against Pittsburgh and Minnesota that will prove to be a test, the Flyers get three days off before a weekend home-and-home against Detroit. The Red Wings have the third-lowest point total in the Eastern Conference.
Having won eight straight games already, the next six offer the Flyers a solid chance to continue to carve into the deficit for the final wildcard spot.
For one, the schedule remains favorable for the Flyers with the Kings and Ducks coming up later this week, Detroit on the schedule twice and teams like Pittsburgh and Minnesota that have shown inconsistency of their own during the season.
The Flyers have also finally started to get the quality of play in net that dictates these results. Carter Hart is obviously a big reason for the Flyers turnaround, but even Stolarz raised his game for a shutout in his only appearance on the winning streak. The team has also changed the style of play in front of the goalies. There is more selling out, more willingness to block shots, make the simple play and do what is best for the team.
Another factor in all of this is the trade deadline. A winning streak could certainly change the course of action for the Flyers, especially as the gap in the standings decreases. That said, the likelihood that the Flyers actually complete the comeback and make the playoffs remains unlikely. But with two and half weeks still left until the trade deadline, the next nine games on the schedule allow time to see where things go. Of course, that part of the schedule includes a meeting with the NHL’s top team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, as well as matchups against the Montreal Canadiens and the Stadium Series game against Pittsburgh.
Where the Flyers sit in the race as that happens can make all the difference. It makes it even more important for the Flyers to take advantage of the schedule now if a run is going to happen.
It may not change what Chuck Fletcher has planned, but it could dictate some things moving forward. Regardless of the underlying roster decisions that need to be made over the next two weeks, the Flyers have made a lot of noise on this winning streak, and if they want to make a legitimate run, now is the time.
Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN and Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.