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Carchidi Column: Flyers Are Worth Changing Your Sleeping Habits

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Joel Farabee, Philadelphia Flyers
Winger Joel Farabee, shown in a file photo, and the Philadelphia Flyers continued their strong play Thursday night in Vancouver. Photo: AP.

Philadelphia Flyers coach John Tortorella says it’s too early — WAY too early — to start thinking about the playoffs.

Playoffs?!?!

Give him another month before it evens enters his mind, he said the other day when asked if playing in a playoff race would be a good experience for his younger players.

Well, these four games on a current Western swing may not have the same intensity as the ones in February, March and beyond, but they will be a good measuring stick for a team that has played far beyond expectations.

It started on the right foot (skate?) Thursday in Vancouver.

While many of you were probably sleeping, the Flyers kept rolling, defeating the sizzling Canucks, 4-1, in a game that ended at 12:37 a.m., Philly time.

The “New Era of Orange” — that’s what the Philadelphia Flyers are calling it — is gaining momentum. And if they continue to play this way, you may want to stay up late to watch the other late games on this trip.

The young kids — Joel Farabee, Bobby Brink, Owen Tippett, Tyson Foerster, Egor Zamula, Cam York and goalie Sam Ersson — played important roles as the Flyers lifted their record to a stunning 19-11-4. Zamula, Sean Walker and Farabee scored within a 2:06 span late in the second period to give Philadelphia a 3-0 lead.

Of note: Zamula was put on the second power-play unit, and his power-play goal opened the scoring. He scored on a point drive as Farabee (two points) and Cam Atkinson set screens in front.

“He’s been more consistent with his play,” Tortorella said before the game. “He seems more confident and he may start getting some power-play time.”

After the game, Tortorella said Zamula, who has had power-play success on the junior level, “has offensive skills and has good vision. We haven’t done a good enough job of (having) someone quarterbacking our power play. We’re trying Z. He scored a big goal and we’ll see where it goes.”

Magic touch

Like most of Tortorella’s moves this season, this one worked perfectly. Maybe the lanky Russian defenseman can spark a league-worst power play that was in a 1-for-23 funk before the game.

Thursday’s win came against a team tied for the most points in the NHL, a team that had points in its previous nine games. It made the Philadelphia Flyers 2-0 against the Canucks, who are 23-10-3 and the league’s most surprising team.

The Flyers are the league’s second-biggest surprise. They have points in eight straight road games, and they have climbed back into second place in the Metropolitan Division.

Oh, and they have limited the explosive Canucks in their two meetings this season. Carter Hart blanked Vancouver, 2-0, on Oct. 17. On Thursday, Ersson and Hart combined to stop 26 of 27 shots.

“That’s the beauty of having two really good goalies,” Farabee said.

The Canucks have made amazing strides after collecting just 83 points a year ago. They have the NHL’s No. 1 offense and the No. 2 defense, benefiting from five blue-line additions. They were No. 4 offensively last year, but just No. 22 (3.28) on defense.

Eye-opening defense

The Flyers have also improved dramatically on defense, where they are eighth in the NHL (2.71 goals allowed per game) after finishing 20th (3.19) last season. Philadelphia is basically allowing a half goal per game less than last year.

They have done it with a terrific penalty kill — which added its eighth shorthanded goal Thursday, thanks to Garrett Hathaway — and a revamped defense. The D has been led by Travis Sanheim and a group that includes castaways like Nick Seeler and Walker. They have also received high-quality goaltending from both Ersson and Hart.

Ersson stopped 18 of 19 shots Thursday before being removed because of dehydration, per the Flyers. He was replaced early in the third period by Hart, who was also excellent.

The only negative: Travis Konecny, who leads the team in goals (16) and points (28), left early in the third period. Tortorella said he was battling the flu but that “he’ll be fine.”

The Flyers play in Seattle on Friday against Dave Hakstol’s Kraken. Philly has been the NHL’s best team over the last seven-plus weeks, compiling a 14-4-3 record over that span and maybe, just maybe, enticing their once-disillusioned fan base to stay up late and watch them continue to confound the rest of the NHL.

Sam Carchidi writes a weekly column for Philly Hockey Now. He and Jeff Hare are working on a TV series on the Flyers’ glory days, tentatively called Bullies: A Love Story. Carchidi can be reached at samcarchidi55@gmail.com.

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