Flyers Playoff Dreams May Be Coming True

Ben Williams ‘19, Staff Writer

Coming into the 2017-2018 NHL season, the Philadelphia Flyers were major underdogs, but looked to prove everyone wrong. Taking a look at their roster at the beginning of the season, they were viewed as an average team with fading veterans and young talent, that were not at a level to perform well in the league. The Flyers started their season off fairly well winning 5 of their first 8 games. It seemed like they might actually have a fighting chance and make a strong impact after what many believed to just be another rebuilding and developmental season. Then in November, reality set in. From November 11th to December 2nd, the Flyers did not win a single game. It was a 10 game losing streak where distraught Philly fans, and had them calling for the firing of head coach Dave Hakstol and general manager Ron Hextall.

Finally, the Flyers first win in 24 days came on December 4th, a 5-2 win against the Calgary Flames. Until December 16th, they won 6 straight games, the perfect way to bounce back from such a horrific and unbearable stretch of the season. From there, they looked to crawl their way back into the standings of the tight Metropolitan division. They did just that, winning 8 of their 13 games in the month of December and finishing 2017 on a high note by defeating the best team in the NHL, Tampa Bay Lightning, 5-3.

Poised to continue their mid season comeback, there was no better way to do that by having their first game of 2018 be against the rival Pittsburgh Penguins. However, they did not emerge victorious in this matchup, getting walloped by the Penguins 5-1 in their own house. It seemed as though the Flyers were back to their old ways. To the likes of many worried Flyer fans, they recovered 2 days later by defeating the New York Islanders 6-4, offering some relief to their passionate fans. Ever since then, the Flyers have never looked back..

It is also important to recognize the improvement in some of the Flyers players. Claude Giroux is having a bounce back season, as he is in the top 5 for scoring throughout the entire NHL and is on pace to have one of his best seasons yet. Jake Voracek is also having a great year, leading the NHL in assists and is a very reliable forward. Younger players such as Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny have also taken big leaps in their development stages and have had impact seasons. Perhaps the most notable player to mention is Sean Couturier. He is in the top 5 for goals scored and his defensive skills as a forward are among the best in the league. His defensive play has always been there, but offensively he is finally hitting his stride.

Both goaltenders Brian Elliot and Michael Neuvrith are having great years as well, helping the Flyers finally find reliable goaltending. Unfortunately for the Flyers, both goaltenders are now injured and out long term. This is a big blow to the team, especially at such a pivotal point in the season. The loss of their top 2 goaltenders has not stopped them though. Once Brian Elliot went down, who has been stellar all season, Michael Neuvirth stepped in and went 4-0-1 before he got injured. Of those four wins include the likes of beating one of the top teams in the league on the road, the Las Vegas Golden Knights, who had only lost at home 3 times prior to the Flyers victory. The Flyers of course recalled a goalie, Alex Lyon, from their AHL affiliate team the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. They had hoped not to use him, but his time came when he replaced Michael Neuvirth in net after the first period against the New York Rangers on Sunday, February 18th. Lyon didn’t miss a beat, making 25 saves on 26 shots. The Flyers knew they needed a reliable goaltender, so they acquired Peter Mrazek from the Detroit Red Wings a day after learning Michael Neuvirth was done for the season. Alex Lyon got his first home win against the Montreal Canadians on Tuesday the 20th, thanks in part to Jake Voracek’s late game heroics, tying it with close to a minute left, and winning it in OT 2-1 shortly thereafter. Peter Mrazek had his Flyers debut two days later and made it count. He played a great game only allowing one goal on 20 shots, as the Flyers beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1.

Riding a four game winning streak, the Flyers are poised to make their final playoff push in the 21 games that remain. They will have to do so without their top two goaltenders, but have already proven they can. The Flyers sit tied for 2nd place in the Metropolitan, only 1 point out from 1st place. It has been an unbelievable run since mid-December, and there seems to be no end in sight. Once last in the division, the Flyers have finally turned things around as the future has never looked brighter.