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Carchidi Column: Flyers Have Taken Important Step vs. Lightweights



Sam Ersson, Garnet Hathaway, Philadelphia Flyers
Sam Ersson (left), being congratulated by Garnet Hathaway, is trying to steer the Flyers into the playoffs for the first time in four years. Photo: AP.

Earlier in the week, Philadelphia Flyers coach John Tortorella, perhaps using psychology on his team, said Wednesday’s matchup in Chicago against the lowly Blackhawks “scares the bleep out of me.”

His worries were unfounded.

The Flyers showed their maturity in their workmanlike 3-1 victory against the league’s worst team.

Maturity is not taking a night off against an NHL bottom feeder.

Maturity is compiling a 15-6-4 record in their last 25 road games.

For the Flyers, this was classic trap game — situated between the over-hyped outdoor matchup in New Jersey and Saturday’s afternoon’s contest against the powerful New York Rangers.

But instead of playing flat, the Flyers controlled the game. After some early defensive breakdowns that led to too many odd-man rushes, they dominated the Blackhawks with their speed and hustle. They had a 33-22 shots advantage and beat the Hawks to the puck all night.

“We played a smart game,” said hard-nosed winger Garnet Hathaway, who had a goal and eight hits.

New development

This was just the type of game the Flyers would have lost in recent years. You know it. I know it. The players who have been here through the playoff-less seasons know it.

Now the Flyers play with speed, play with poise, play with confidence built by their 30-20-7 record.

Now they are 16-9-4 against teams not in a playoff spot, a .621 winning percentage.

In other words, they are taking care of business against the league’s lightweights. (By the way, they are 14-11-3 against teams in playoff positions, and have a tough challenge against one of those opponents, Peter Laviolette’s Rangers, on Saturday.)

Key down the stretch

Perhaps the best aspect of the Flyers’ latest win was Sam Ersson’s outstanding play.

If the Flyers are going to make the playoffs for the first time in four years, Ersson needs to lead the way.

The rookie did that against the Blackhawks.

It was an important performance for the 24-year-old goalie. With the spotlight on him in the outdoor game, he played poorly in the 6-3 loss to the Devils.

He was much more composed in the nationally televised win over Connor Bedard and the Blackhawks. Chicago had just 22 shots, but many of them  were high-quality attempts. Ersson answered the challenge.

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The challenge will be even greater Saturday against the Rangers, starting a potentially murderous stretch in which 13 of the Orange and Black’s next 17 games are against teams currently in playoff spots.

If the Philadelphia Flyers are still in a playoff position at that point, they should start printing playoff tickets for the first time in four (painful) years.


Because they finish the season by playing eight of nine games against teams currently out of playoff spots.

These Flyers don’t take games for granted. Tortorella has them outworking opponents and, quite simply, beating  teams they should beat.

That’s an important mentality to have and will one day serve the Flyers well when they become legitimate Stanley Cup contenders.

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.” Carchidi can be reached at

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