This season has been one long roller coaster ride. The Flyers have provided us with tons of heartbreak, but this team has also showed their ability to compete against the best, and reaching the playoffs may not be such a pipe-dream. Despite what we thought this team was going to be coming into the season, the Flyers have played well against good teams and managed to stay close to the pack.
“We have to make at least 10 points out of this homestand.” – Jake Voracek
After their blowout loss to the Oilers, the 2 points against the Blue Jackets were extremely critical. Following a win over Columbus, the Flyers would have one of their most important games to date. Tampa Bay was on a 9 game winning streak heading into Monday nights contest against the Flyers. Besides giving up the first goal, the Flyers dominated most of the game. With 40 shots on net, the Flyers kept up the pressure as the game continued to unfold. Shayne Gostisbehere was absolutely phenomenal. Ghost netted two goals, becoming the all-time leader in goals by a Flyers rookie defenseman. Beating a solid playoff team like Tampa Bay proves that this team has what it takes to make a playoff run.
With a record of 31-23-11, the Flyers find themselves trailing the Red Wings by 2 points for the final wildcard playoff spot. Their 5-1 homestead gave the Flyers 10 points, just enough to stay in the wildcard conversation. With the win over Tampa Bay, the Flyers chances of making it into the playoffs increased to 40.6%.
In the final 17 games of the season, the Flyers will face the Penguins three times and the Red Wings twice. They’ll try to drag the Penguins out of a playoff spot while hoping that the Red Wings go on a late season slump.
Inconsistency has been an issue for the Flyers for years now. With the emergence of a dominant first line of Simmonds, Giroux and Schenn and increased secondary scoring, the Flyers are starting to put the pieces together. Hakstol has also finally found a 3rd line that he trusts to play over the VandeVelde, Bellemare, White line giving us a solidified bottom 6. When Voracek returns there will be some line shuffling, but we’ll worry about that when we get there.
Goaltending is not a huge issue right now, lets not make a contoversey. Mason is the starter and Neuvrith is the backup. It’s a good problem for Hakstol to have; choosing between two goaltenders with top of the league stats. With a shutout against his former team and an impressive outing against the Lightning, Mason will be getting the starting job regularly
This upcoming schedule will also test Dave Hakstol. We’ve seen his system develop quickly and how effective it’s been. Despite some questionable choices from the first year coach, players like Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn, and Shayne Gostisbehere have thrived in the new system, even Sam Gagner has had a bit of a resurgence since being paired with competent linemates. It’s a miracle that the Flyers have even come this far. In the middle of a transition year, with a load of bad contracts, the Flyers weren’t expected to do this well.
It’s the little things that matter. Like Mark Streit’s injury, which forced Ghost into the lineup, which then forced the Lecavalier/Schenn trade.