Philadelphia Flyers: Split decision in back-to-back

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Facing a pair of important games on consecutive nights, the Philadelphia Flyers took one step forward and then another one back.

What, you thought that this Philadelphia Flyers season was going to be anything other than nip and tuck? Tasked with back-to-back games against the Florida Panthers and New York Islanders, the Flyers earned a solid win on Monday at home against the Panthers but then suffered a gut-punch loss the following night in New York.

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Taken as a whole, the team’s performance over the two games was highly encouraging. But that doesn’t pay the bills, as the end result was two out of a possible four points. Not terrible, of course, but it certainly could have been better.

Along the way, there were some performances to note.

The biggest positive development for the team came on Monday when Carter Hart finally made his return to the cage. He surrendered a goal three minutes in, but he was a wall after that point, making 30 saves and backstopping the club to a 4-1 win over the Panthers. It was by no means his best work, as he looked a bit uncomfortable at times, but the results were certainly there. Hart’s play going forward will be the single biggest determining factor of how the Flyers’ season ends up.

James van Riemsdyk also made an appearance, picking up a goal and an assist as he had his “once every other week game” where he was a force to be reckoned with. And Ivan Provorov also found the back of the net for the first time in a while, a nice reward for the solid level of play he’s been maintaining for weeks.

The win over Florida was a big one, as it created some space between the Flyers and Panthers on the playoff bubble. The following night, the Flyers had a chance to double down and leapfrog the Islanders for third place in the Metropolitan Division.

The effort was there, but it wasn’t meant to be, and it certainly now seems like the Islanders have the Flyers’ number for whatever reason. The Flyers dug themselves a 3-0 hole before earning their way out of it by carrying the play for almost the entire second and third periods, with Sean Couturier tying the game with only 1:32 left in regulation.

Travis Konecny in particular was a force, and he was probably the best Flyer on the ice. And the team as a whole should be given a lot of credit for digging deep when they were running on fumes and had played a ton of hockey in just over 24 hours.

Still, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise when the Islanders’ Ryan Pulock blew a slapshot past Brian Elliott with just over 40 seconds to play to restore the New York lead. All too often, a team shows a ton of determination but ends up with zero reward, at least as far as the standings are concerned. Moments later, the Isles tacked on the requisite empty-netter to send the Flyers to a 5-3 loss that it wouldn’t be a stretch to call heartbreaking.

But the Flyers must get right back on the horse, as they head to the Sunshine State for a rematch with the Panthers on Thursday, followed by a clash with the white-hot Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday. All these games, all these points, are vital to the playoff push that the Flyers have to make.

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And of course, the Flyers can’t dwell on the hard luck they experienced Tuesday night. The games keep coming, and it’s going to take a continuation of the same kind of effort they’ve shown recently for them to stay on the right side of the postseason cutoff in a fiercely competitive Eastern Conference.