With thirteen games remaining on the schedule, and five points out of the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, the Philadelphia Flyers are going to have to dig real deep if they want to play at least 86 games this season. Wednesday night was a great start as the Flyers defeated the defending Stanley Cup Champion, Pittsburgh Penguins. The Flyers’ shut the Pens out by a score of 4-0 – a real statement game.
Of the remaining thirteen games for the Flyers, ten are against fellow Metropolitan Division squads, including: three against New Jersey; two against Carolina and Columbus; and one more against Pittsburgh and the New York Rangers and Islanders. While it’s safe to say that the Pens, Rangers, and Blue Jackets are secured for postseason action, the Islanders are battling for that last remaining spot in the East. And even though the Hurricanes will likely miss the playoffs, they have clearly not given up on the season, having won 8-4 on Monday and taking a point in an OT loss against the Isles on Tuesday in a home-and-home series.
If there is ever a time for Claude Giroux to get hot, and remain that way, the Flyers’ Captain certainly picked the right time. Giroux is now riding a five-game point streak, earning two goals and three assists over the stretch. He has been largely criticized all season for his lack of production. His name has even shown up in the rumor mill prior to the trade deadline. But right now, Giroux is taking every opportunity at redemption that he can. Giroux is now second on the squad in points with 50.
Jakub Voracek leads the Flyers With 54 points. Voracek, unlike Giroux, is riding a three-game pointless streak. Right now is certainly not the time for the Flyers’ most productive member to go cold.
The “Wayne Train” continues to roll down the line. Flyers’ forward Wayne Simmonds is on pace for another terrific season in terms of point production. He is currently third on the squad with 47 points, and first in goals scored with 29.
Despite being scratched several times this season, Shayne Gostisbehere is still finding ways to be productive, despite a misleading Sophomore Slump. “Ghost” has six goals and 25 assists in 63 games. He’s going to have to channel his past self from his days at Union College to help the team make the playoffs and go for a run.
Trade deadline acquisition Valtteri Filppula has so far struggled to get going. Traded for Mark Streit and picks, Filppula has but one goal and one assist in seven games for the Flyers. While his playoff experience is invaluable (he has made the playoffs every year since playing in the NHL for the Red Wings and Lightning), such experience is pointless if the Flyers fail to settle in the last wild card spot. On the bright side, he has already passed his last seasons’ points totals, and his faceoff percentage in the last seven games with the Flyers is the best it has been since the 2013 shortened season (53.85% in the last seven games).
The Flyers have scored the fourth-most power play goals in the league (49) but have also had the most opportunities (241). The power play currently ranks 11th in the NHL. The squad posted six goals on the man-advantage in the last ten games. Having the most opportunities on the man-advantage is reflective of the Flyers’ relentless style of play, which includes an immense battle level for pucks and a determination to get to the net. While 11th is better than average, cashing in on opportunities more often would help put the Flyers over the edge.
Contrasted with the power play, the Flyers’ penalty kill has been an abysmal 79.7%, ranking 23rd in the league. The silver lining to this cloud is that the Flyers are slightly above average in terms of discipline, ranking 18th in total penalty kill situations.
Between the pipes, Steve Mason has posted a 5-4-1 record in the last ten games. But don’t let that mediocre record fool you. In that span, Mason posted a 1.99 goals against average and a save percentage of .931. All three of his shutouts so far this season have also occurred during the latest ten-game span. Bottom line: Mason must continue to be rock solid in the crease.
All in all, time is running out on the Flyers’ chances of making the playoffs. But, they cannot be counted out just yet. With a little puck luck, they will get a chance at a rematch with the Washington Capitals or a first round Battle of Pennsylvania against the Pens. Besides, Wednesday night, the Flyers’ proved that they could beat the defending Stanley Cup Champions. As they say, just get to the playoffs, and anything can happen.