Flyers Need to Keep Pre-Break Momentum as Second Half Starts
The Flyers get to return to the ice on Friday afternoon for their first practice in over a week and first time on the ice as a team since Sunday afternoon’s win over the Buffalo Sabres.
As winners in four of their last five games going into the break, including quality victories over the Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Islanders and St. Louis Blues, the Flyers are riding a wave of momentum that has propelled them back into the playoff picture. And the break hasn’t affected that.
The Flyers get back to work with a 4 p.m. Friday practice ahead of their Saturday night meeting with the New Jersey Devils with very little change to the standings. A number of teams in the Metropolitan Division all had the same week off, including the Devils, Islanders, Rangers and Penguins.
Carolina has played two games during the Flyers bye week, including a 3-1 win over Washington on Thursday that finally vaulted them two points ahead of the Flyers in the standings and holding the final playoff spot in the East at the moment. Carolina will play one more game on Friday before the Flyers next take the ice, and have a game Sunday before their bye week, which will give the Flyers two games in hand on Carolina entering next week.
So why all this talk about playoffs? After all, the Flyers have been an inconsistent team with more ups and downs than a roller coaster. But even after all of it, through 42 games, the Flyers have a 50.7 percent chance to make the playoffs as of Friday morning according to Sports Club Stats.
A 50-50 chance is about as unpredictable as it gets, but it was about five weeks ago that the Flyers suffered their 10th straight loss on Dec. 2 to the Boston Bruins. Their chances of making the playoffs after that day’s games was 9.4 percent. The Flyers record since that day is 11-4-1.
So the Flyers have very much resurrected their season so to speak. And with so many games against the Metropolitan Division, the Flyers really control their own destiny.
It doesn’t have to be pretty, the results just have to be there.
Luckily for the Flyers, they don’t have to approach the schedule like a marathon just yet. There are going to be 40 games over the next three months, but the team has just seven games before the All-Star Break at the end of the month. There isn’t one game out of the seven that can be overlooked -- two against New Jersey and games against the Rangers, Toronto, Washington, Detroit and Tampa Bay.
The Flyers would need to replicate their December and early January record, wins in 11 of the last 15, that helped them get back into the playoff picture. And if they can actually be a part of the playoff picture by the All-Star break, then even better, because it just puts the task ahead.
This is not to say that the Flyers are a playoff team that has just been underperforming and they are showing their true colors now. This could all disappear quickly with another losing streak.
But what the Flyers have here is an opportunity to be the team they said they were. Ron Hextall said it during the climax of the losing streak. Claude Giroux said it. Dave Hakstol said it. Across the board, the Flyers put their money down and went all-in on being a playoff team, and said the very word at a time when energy and excitement surrounding the team was at an all-time low in the 2017-18 season.
But now, there’s a little bit of hope, at least from the recent results. And if the Flyers want to keep things moving, they can’t let the momentum of the past five weeks disappear with their bye-week break behind them.
Kevin Durso is Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.