If you saw this stretch of excellence coming from the Philadelphia Flyers, raise your hand.
Didn’t think so.
The Flyers, who all season have been without their top-line center (Sean Couturier), their MVP from last year (Cam Atkinson), and their best all-around defenseman (Ryan Ellis), are the NHL’s hottest team.
They have won seven of their last eight games and have climbed to within six points of a playoff spot.
What in the name of John Tortorella is going on here?
And the Flyers aren’t just beating lightweights. Four of their wins on their current surge are against Los Angeles, Buffalo, and Washington (twice).
“We’ve played some really good hockey here — some of the best hockey we’ve played in the last two seasons during this stretch,” goalie Carter Hart said after making 39 saves in the Philadelphia Flyers’ 3-1 win Saturday night in Washington. “Guys are starting to really buy in.”
That’s a credit to Tortorella, a credit to the veterans for keeping the Flyers on course after an ugly November, a credit to the young players who have stepped up their games.
The continuity with the lines has played a huge role in the recent success. You can see the chemistry built by each line, even the fourth unit of Nick Deslauriers, Patrick Brown, and Zack MacEwen. The fourth line isn’t scoring like the suddenly sizzling top three units, but it is contributing mightily with its physicality.
“Guys are playing hard; they’re playing hard in front of the net and blocking shots,” Hart said, complimenting Ivan Provorov and Scott Laughton for key blocks in Saturday’s win. The Flyers had 25 blocked shots in the game.
“That’s just been the difference here, the hardness that we bring on a nightly basis to play against — and we’re starting to get more (good) results,” Hart said.
After sweeping a home-and-home series against a Capitals team that had been soaring, the Flyers’ next challenge is Monday afternoon in Boston. The Bruins are (gulp) 33-5-4 overall and 20-1-3 (double gulp) on their home ice.
Yet, James van Riemsdyk said it would be a “fun” game for the Flyers (18-18-7), who are at hockey .500 for the first time in two months.
Yep, this is a confident team right now, folks.
If the Flyers upset the Bruins, the fun would really begin because their two games after Monday are against lightweights Anaheim and Chicago.
Hey, even if they don’t qualify — and, make no mistake, the Flyers are a long shot — they have been fun to watch, something you couldn’t say about the previous two seasons.
This Flyers’ turnaround is downright stunning. After their 10-game losing streak earlier in November, having the worst NHL record — and getting the best lottery odds to draft generational center Connor Bedard — seemed more realistic than having a playoff shot.
Stay tuned. Maybe this wacky season will get even wackier.
Fans have different views
Some fans are thoroughly enjoying the Flyers’ unexpected success. While some believe the wins will hurt them in the long run.
Here are some comments from the former:
Sam, like what is going on here???
I was there Wed night…cannot believe how good they are playing.
— Ed Weck (@ed_weck) January 15, 2023
We may not make it far, but we will be in the playoffs. Save this tweet!
— FlyersCaptain® (@flyerscaptain) January 15, 2023
Some fans, however, can’t stand the success:
Yup. This will just hurt them in the long run. They'll just finish 6 points out of a playoff spot and then draft a guy who will be competing for the 4C job in 2028.
— Haley Koprivsek (@hkoprivsek) January 15, 2023