They’ve traveled a lot, but they still have a long way to go.
After a somewhat successful stretch of hockey that followed a 10-game winless streak, the Philadelphia Flyers still find themselves looking up in the standings with another chunk of the season behind them.
The Flyers finish up their four-game West Coast road swing in Anaheim on Tuesday to close the book on another long trip. Not even halfway through the season, the Flyers have now paid their annual visits to the three Western Canada teams, the three California cities, both stops in the desert and their first-ever appearance in Seattle. They’ve also spent a night in Dallas, meaning only six Western Conference road dates remain. A late March date with Colorado represents the only game slated for 9 p.m. or later and the Flyers will travel outside the Eastern Time Zone just twice more this season, which is great for those of us with young ones who have trouble staying up till 1 a.m.
And while the Flyers have actually fared well playing the West with an 8-4-2 record before the game with Anaheim, it’s the Eastern Conference games that will be amplified in importance.
Looking at those pesky standings, the Flyers’ seven-game point streak inched them back to “Hockey .500” at 13-13-6. But it did little to better their chances at the playoffs since none of those wins came against teams they were hoping to track down in front of them. A 6-1 win over New Jersey did help keep the Devils below them in the standings, though.
We shouldn’t say any win is an empty-calorie victory at this point, but the Flyers’ victories during that stretch came against three Western Conference teams, as well as the Devils and Senators, who are both below them in the Eastern standings. The concerning part was, despite going 5-1-2 since the 10-game disaster, the Flyers haven’t exactly looked great in most of those games, having 40 more shots fired on their net than they returned to their opponents during those eight games.
Wins in Vegas and Seattle were secured despite getting outshot 44-25 and 36-22, respectively. The Flyers somehow managed a point against San Jose despite getting outshot 46-25.
Eleven out of a possible 16 points were a good start at getting back on track, but the season still appears to be off the rails both in watching the team perform and predicting where they will finish this season.
Through Sunday, the Flyers were still tied for 10th in points percentage in the East with the Detroit Red Wings. The bigger problem is seven Eastern teams are distancing themselves from the pack. After the weekend, the Flyers were nine points back of the seventh-place Pittsburgh Penguins, who also held a game in hand. It’s quickly appearing like the Flyers are in a six-way race for the eighth and final spot, and need to make up serious ground.
Boston is considered the frontrunner and would, at a glance, appear catchable, as they are just two points ahead of Philadelphia. However, the Bruins have four games in hand. The Flyers are also battling Detroit, Columbus, New Jersey and the New York Islanders, who are suddenly getting hot and making a move after starting the season with 13 consecutive road games while their new stadium was being completed.
The good news is, the Flyers have a ton of games remaining against all of those teams, except New Jersey. The bad news is, they’ll have to win most of them.
The Bruins are currently at a 99-point pace. Even to get to the 97-point mark, the Flyers will have to go 31-16-3 in their final 50 games, which is a 107-point pace. There are only eight teams in the NHL this year that have played at that type of pace so far this season.
So it boils down to if you think the Flyers are a top-tier team, then some magic still might be ahead. If you think they are a middle-of-the-pack team, as they’ve been for the last decade, you probably know how this is going to end. You’ve seen it before.
Let’s Make Up
Now that NHL participation at the Olympics is officially off the table, the league may decide to make up games during the originally scheduled Olympic break from Feb. 7-22. The Flyers have lost three games so far and two of them were home dates against the Islanders and Penguins.
The Wells Fargo Center is a busy place in February but it’s not completely booked. According to its website, the Flyers arena has no events scheduled on six separate dates during that stretch. It’s also fathomable that they could squeeze in a hockey game on weekend afternoons with enough time to change over to a music concert at night. The staff at the Wells Fargo are miracle workers so the Flyers should have plenty of options. ••