As Deadline Day Approaches, Flyers Make Another Statement
Just as they did on Tuesday, the Flyers came out on Saturday afternoon against the Winnipeg Jets and got off to a fast start in the opening 10 minutes. They survived the last half of the opening period and the majority of the second period, entering the third with a 3-1 lead.
The Jets cut the lead down to one before the Flyers hit another gear, restored the two-goal lead and completed a 4-2 win. Once again, it was a game where the Flyers weren’t at their best for a significant portion of the game, but earned the two points nonetheless. This is becoming a regular statement for the Flyers.
In years past, it was a statement of needing to be better and finding a way to lose. Now the Flyers are, in their eyes, still looking for the consistency in their play that will make them a true contender, and they are doing it while evolving into a contender in front of the eyes of everyone else.
With a little but of scoreboard watching going on, the Flyers finished off their win as the Penguins lost to the Sabres. Moments after the game was over, the Devils finished off a win over the Capitals. The top two teams in the Metropolitan Division were now two points closer as the Flyers closed the gap to just three points with 20 games to go on their schedule.
It is a statement that couldn’t come at a better time. The trade deadline is on Monday and with the Flyers next game on Tuesday, they will either try to address a team need at the deadline or remain quiet and roll forward with the same group for the rest of the season. And that’s the statement being made. The Flyers don’t feel like anything needs to really change from a personnel standpoint. This team is making noise on its own.
“I like the way we look right now,” Tyler Pitlick said. “We’re going good, everyone’s playing well. I think we can still take another step in our consistency. We’ve gotten away with a few. I think we need to play the right way every game, but in the end, I like the way we’re trending and I think we’re in a good spot.”
It’s certainly a spot that was unimaginable a few weeks ago. The Flyers were clinging to the bottom of the playoff race. Now they are right in the thick of the division race, not just the playoff race.
That said, reality is that one winning streak could have you soaring in the division and one losing streak can knock you from the picture completely. The Flyers are now 8-3-0 in the month of February with two games to go and haven’t lost back-to-back games since their 1-4-1 road trip following the holiday break, which sure feels like a distant memory now.
What has been really impressive in the last few wins has been the contributions up and down the lineup. The Flyers got two goals from Scott Laughton and another from Pitlick. Sean Couturier also scored in the win, but the top line had several other chances that they weren’t able to bury. In years past, this would have been the Flyers Achilles heel, a lack of scoring from the rest of the lineup and a reliance on the top line to produce and finish chances. This season, there hasn’t been that need.
“I think we have some good depth this year compared to the past,” Couturier said. “Different guys are stepping up in different moments. That is what you want. When you make a playoff run or go deep, usually the depth players, role player guys have big impacts on games, and we need everyone every night. That is the kind of team we are.”
“You need that going down the stretch,” Pitlick said. “We’re in the last 20 now and we’re going to need scoring from all four. We’re going to need all four lines playing the right way, playing hard. It’s going to take everyone.”
What the Flyers have shown consistently this month is that they are a resilient bunch. They can hang around in a game with anybody in the league. They are now showing they can be competitive in the standings too. Prior to the start of this week, the Flyers were fifth in the division and trailed the division-leading Capitals by eight points. Three wins and six points later, the Flyers now belong in the discussion among the top teams in the Metro.
For that to be a true reality, they will need to sustain it over the weeks ahead. But make no mistake about it, the Flyers have solidified their place in this race.