Flyers Get Opportunity to Prove They Belong with East’s Best
The expectation has started to shift. The Flyers are no longer just a team fighting to make the playoffs. A division title could be on the line.
That is what makes the upcoming week so important for the Flyers.
During a 12-game points streak, the most difficult opponent the Flyers have faced was Vegas on Feb. 11, a 4-1 road win. Aside from that, the Flyers have mainly played teams out of the playoff picture or fighting for their playoff lives.
Now that the Flyers are comfortably in the playoff picture, it’s time to see where they stand up against tougher competition. This week will provide plenty of opportunity to prove they belong among the top teams in the conference and the league.
The timing of this isn’t perfect by any stretch. The Flyers have lost three games in a row and only picked up one point in the standings in that time. The Flyers loss to Carolina last Thursday was almost expected, one of those games where the luck runs out and the breaks just don’t go your way. After 12 games where a lot goes right and points are coming on a regular basis, it’s understandable that a letdown was due.
But the weekend in Florida was different.
The game against Tampa was literally a shootout, a back-and-forth affair with a ridiculous amount of scoring. Given the way the Lightning are built -- with tremendous speed and skill -- rallying to manage a point in the game was a moral victory. But it was also the first sign that the Flyers couldn’t keep up with tougher competition.
The Florida Panthers are still not a playoff team based on the standings, but they sure have been playing like one, especially during their most recent homestand. The Flyers were the final team to come into Sunrise on the homestand and fared as well as the rest, losing 4-1 in rather convincing fashion.
This weekend was a minor blow to the Flyers playoff hopes in the standings, but it proved bigger for morale. Suddenly, the Flyers are on a three-game losing streak with their toughest stretch of the season coming in the next week. It is gut-check time now.
For a team that has some new expectations and wants to push for the division, there is no room for a lengthy losing streak. It has to stop at three.
Of course, snapping a losing streak is easier said than done against the Pittsburgh Penguins, a team that has outclassed the Flyers this season in the previous two meetings.
From there, the Flyers can easily fall right back into another losing streak or prolong the current streak. Boston has been a red-hot team, even with injuries to Patrice Bergeron and Charlie McAvoy. The two games that follow are against Winnipeg and Vegas, two of the top teams in the West and still in the discussion for the President’s Trophy.
When the dust settles following this four-game span, where will the Flyers be?
If the Flyers can manage to prove they are competitive against these teams and pick up a couple of wins and earn a few points, the fears of a collapse should dissipate. But lose three of four or all four games and suddenly the playoff picture could change. So will expectations.
More than points in the standings, this is what will serve as the Flyers litmus test. This will determine where the Flyers stand with the best teams in both conferences.
In the heart of the Flyers 12-game streak, the playoffs and the division weren’t the only topics of discussion. The idea of winning a playoff series was in play. This is the time for the Flyers to prove themselves to the rest of the hockey world and give the fan base some reasonable expectations moving forward as well.
Kevin Durso is Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.