The Philadelphia Flyers are earning it this season

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

Stuck in neutral for several years, the Philadelphia Flyers are finally showing that they’re a different club than what their fans have had to settle for of late.

With 24 games left to play in this NHL season, the Philadelphia Flyers still have some work to do just to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But, as their record (32-19-7) and overall play have indicated for almost this entire season, they have the goods to get it done.

Aside from their dreadful post-Christmas road trip (1-4-1), the Flyers have played competitive hockey for the entire season, and they’ve especially elevated their play since that trip, going 10-4-1 over the last five-plus weeks.

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There are still challenges, like last week’s 5-0 clunker against the New Jersey Devils and Tuesday’s demoralizing last-minute loss to the New York Islanders. But the Flyers are quickly getting over their missteps as they have (at least so far) managed to avoid a prolonged, season-killing slump.

Thursday’s excellent road win over the Florida Panthers provided a solid example of how resilient this bunch is. The loss in New York was one of those games that could signal the unraveling of a season, but the Flyers took the long ride to Florida and beat the Panthers for the second time this week, both of which were in fairly decisive fashion.

Florida, a direct competitor of the Flyers for a wild card slot in the Eastern Conference playoff race, needed to play desperately and come away with two points at home. Instead, the Flyers built up an early 3-0 lead in chasing the Panthers’ highly-paid goalie, and they didn’t let their foot (or skate) off of their opponents’ throats. As such, the Flyers have opened up a five-point cushion over Florida.

More importantly, the Flyers are jockeying in the standings with two divisional opponents in Columbus and Carolina. The Flyers have a pair of games coming up with the Blue Jackets that will be pivotal in how things shake out, but even an objective observer has to love the Flyers’ chances of finishing ahead of at least one of these teams, which would ensure a playoff spot.

For starters, both of these rivals are currently without their best defenseman for the foreseeable future:  Seth Jones in Columbus and Dougie Hamilton in Carolina. Injuries, an unfortunate part of the game, can nevertheless mean the difference between winning and losing, making the postseason or missing out on it. And these injury situations currently play into the Flyers’ favor.

The Flyers aren’t without their own woes, of course, such as the statuses of Nolan Patrick and Oskar Lindblom, Shayne Gostisbehere‘s nagging knee issue and last night’s apparent injury to Travis Sanheim. But the point is, they’ve at least made it this far without a crippling blow to their roster. There are no guarantees going forward, but their overall health is about as good as you could ask for right now.

But the most encouraging part about this iteration of the Flyers is that they receive contributions from up and down the lineup. They aren’t doomed to failure when their expected top scorers like Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek go through lengthy dry spells, which have occurred on several occasions this year.

With Sean Couturier and Kevin Hayes down the middle, the Flyers provide tough matchups on a nightly basis for their opponents. The bottom lines are a revelation as well, with Scott Laughton taking another step forward in his development this year, Tyler Pitlick providing exactly what the Flyers hoped he would, and unsung heroes like Nicolas Aube-Kubel giving the team valuable minutes so that they don’t have to overtax their top scorers.

I’m hard-pressed to remember a Flyers team that was this deep, and I haven’t even said anything about the play of the defensemen like Robert Hagg or the linchpin in net.

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Much can change in the games and weeks ahead. But if these Philadelphia Flyers maintain this level of play, they will end up comfortably in the playoffs. And, even better, they’ll be a true threat to make some noise once they get there.