With a four game winning streak, only 10 points back from the Boston Bruins for the final playoff spot, and with 31 games remaining in the 2014-2015 NHL regular season, can the Flyers actually dig themselves out of a massive hole and make the push?
During the first annual Claude Giroux Foundation Event, CSN’s Neil Hartman asked if this is a playoff team. Giroux thinks so.
There’s no doubt. There’s no doubt that we’re a playoff team and we’re going to prove it in the future but right now it’s a little tough that we have a record we have. But at the same time we have a lot of character in our room and guys don’t quit.
This is the second consecutive season the Flyers captain made a statement this bold. Last season, after a dismal 1-7-0 start and the firing of head coach Peter Laviolette just three games in, he said the team would make the playoffs.
So should we buy into it again?
To make good on this statement, the Flyers will have to leap two teams, one of which is the red hot Boston Bruins. The Bruins have won eight of their last 10 games and are finally playing like a contender. The other is the Florida Panthers, who last night beat the first place New York Islanders 4-2.
The Flyers have been playing better of late. In the latest winning streak—which began with an overtime thriller over the rival Pittsburgh Penguins in the last game before All-Star weekend—it appears that the team has found itself a little bit. However, consistency has been a problem all season. Giroux, along with Wayne Simmonds and fellow All-Star and NHL point leader Jakub Voracek have been the only legitimate scorers. These forwards have helped the Flyers find success with their power play, scoring 23.4 percent of the time, good for 4th best in the NHL.
This season has been a difficult one for players like Matt Read, who has struggled to score three goals after scoring a solid 22 in 2013-2014. The signing of Vincent Lecavalier last offseason doesn’t look any better this season, as the 34-year-old veteran was scratched for a few games and has only managed to muster up seven goals.
The blue line has been an Achilles heel. The defensemen often miss assignments in their zone and give up odd man rushes up the ice. If they can limit the turnovers and clear the front of the net, they will relieve some of the pressure of the opponent’s forecheck. On a positive note, Nick Schultz and Michael Del Zotto have stepped their game up recently.
Steve Mason’s return from injury last week will be key moving forward. In the 1-0 victory over the Maple Leafs, Mason recorded stopped 30 shots for his second shutout this season, 25th of his career. He has quietly had a solid season. His 2.32 GAA and .924 save% are 6th best in the NHL.
A lot of things have to go the Flyers way. While they are not totally in control of their playoff fate, they can help their situation by winning their fifth in a row when they take on the Islanders at home tomorrow night.