69 games into the season, the next 13 games will be important for a potential Philadelphia Flyers playoff run. The team currently holds the third spot in the Metropolitan division. At 81 points, the Flyers sit just three points back of the first place Pittsburgh Penguins. They are only one point behind the second place Washington Capitals.
A team that went on a 10-game losing streak during November and early December, the Flyers have had an impressive climb in the standings since. This would not be the first time the team has lost 10 straight and then reached the playoffs. The 2007-08 team would lose 10 in a row and make it to the Eastern Conference Final.
While a trip to the ECF may not be in the cards this season, the Flyers have positioned themselves well with 13 games to go. Despite breaking a five-game losing streak recently, the team has gone 5-4-1 during their last 10 games. They have been able to stay among the top teams in the division during this time.
They cannot afford another lengthy losing streak, however. The New Jersey Devils sit three points behind the Flyers, while the Columbus Blue Jackets are four points back. The Florida Panthers are also another team to keep an eye on as they sit just on the outside of the playoff picture with 75 points.
Stretch Run Important For Potential Flyers Playoff Run
There have been many reasons that the Flyers have been able to rebound from their lengthy losing streak. The team can look towards some of their top forwards as a big reason. Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier have not missed a beat since being placed on the same line during the preseason. They will be part of the biggest keys for a lengthy Flyers playoff run.
Top Forwards Performing
A move to left wing has appeared to revive Giroux, though a healthy season is likely a factor as well. Giroux’s 24 goals are his most since the 25 he scored during the 2014-15 season. His 81 points are the most since the 2013-14 season where he had 86 points. With 13 games to go, there is a chance Giroux can come close to his career high of 93 points.
A bounce-back season has Giroux among the top players in the league. He sits fourth in points while his 57 assists rank fourth. He has continued to climb the franchise ranks when it comes to points.
Claude Giroux is four points away from passing Eric Lindros on the Flyers' all-time list. pic.twitter.com/zMSrUd7wwP
— Sons of Penn (@SonsofPenn) March 10, 2018
Giroux isn’t the only one contributing at a high level for the Flyers. Couturier has taken a big leap forward for the team this season. After moving up from 13 to two during the draft, the team decided to trade forward Brayden Schenn after drafting Nolan Patrick. This put the spotlight on Couturier and showed that the team highly values him. And he has not let them down this season.
Since becoming the number one centre, Couturier has shattered his career highs in goals and points. His 63 points are 24 more than his previous career high of 39. His 29 goals are almost double the 15 he scored in 2014-15.
He has been relied upon more than he has ever been during his career. Along with top line duties, Couturier is on the top power-play unit as well as the top option for penalty killing. No other forward has played more than Couturier has since the beginning of November, a total of 1,246 minutes and 56 seconds.
Depth Forwards Providing A Spark
It has not just been the top forwards that have been powering the Flyers forward. They have been getting contributions from other players in the lineup. The two most noticeable centre around their young forwards in Travis Konecny and Nolan Patrick.
For Patrick, the beginning of his season was not one he would like to remember. He had just five goals and eight assists in his first 48 games. That included a 25-game stretch where he only had three points. Patrick’s past 11 games, however, have him looking more like the player the Flyers drafted second overall.
His recent stretch of five goals and five assists helped earn him a promotion to the second line, as he centres Jakub Voracek and Oskar Lindblom. His most impressive play came in the team’s recent loss to the Boston Bruins. Patrick played a key role in Voracek’s power-play goal.
Nasty between-the-legs pass from Nolan Patrick to set up Voracek pic.twitter.com/ehdu5ctT2k
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) March 9, 2018
Patrick had been rewarded with additional time on the man advantage while Wayne Simmonds was injured. Three of his last five goals came while on the top unit.
Konecny has also taken a step forward this season. His play has jumped to new highs since late December. In the 32 games since then, Konecny has 27 points. A move to the top line has certainly helped.
In his second season, Konecny has set new career highs with 18 goals and 19 assists. His 37 points are nine more than the 28 he posted in his rookie season. A small sample size, but it is a positive sign for a young forward who struggled early in the season.
Consistency A Key For Flyers Playoff Run
Perhaps the biggest factor in any playoff run for the Flyers will be their ability to play a consistent game on a nightly basis. That has shown to be an Achilles heel for the team. It was evident when the Flyers went from points in 12 straight games to a five-game losing streak.
Come the playoffs, the Flyers cannot afford to see their play drop dramatically. Their current place in the standings would see them face off against the Capitals in the first round. While things may change by the middle of April, there is one clear conclusion.
The Flyers have had consistency issues in the past. The team has fought through many throughout the season. Fighting through those issues, however, is what has the Flyers in a playoff spot. If the team is able to continue that fight, a playoff run may be in their future.
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