This is how the Flyers are 13-7-4 in their last 24 games and have given themselves a chance to make playoffs:
1) Scott Laughton, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Sam Gagner & Nick Cousins.
They are producing the secondary scoring the Flyers had suffered without. Nineteen of the team’s last 48 goals have come from players who are not in Philadelphia’s top six in points, which is how to survive nine games without Sean Couturier, three in the absence of Claude Giroux, plus two (and counting) minus Jake Voracek.
But this is not really new. When Michal Neuvirth’s puck-handing gaffe got badly-outplayed against the Hurricanes on Feb. 23, it really was only the second contest all season that the Flyers’ netminding didn’t give them a chance to win (the other was Steve Mason in October at Florida). That’s a definition of consistency that is not measured by save percentages. Considering the quality of the chances they give up, the Flyers might be receiving the best goaltending in the league this season or close to it.
The Flyers last almost wire-to-wire clunker was against Anaheim 11 games ago. The letdowns don’t seem to last an entire period as they did earlier. This resilience is a reflection of a deeper confidence.
When you can lose a Michael Del Zotto and yank an Andrew MacDonald up from the minors, that’s singin’ in the rain.
5) Mark Streit.
He returned two games before the Flyers started their surge. One more smart guy back there has made a difference. Plus, the 19 games Streit missed may be a stretch-drive blessing, too, at his age of 38.
And this is how the Flyers can keep it going:
1) Get Jake Voracek back.
The Flyers need this 5-1-1 run to turn into a hot streak of almost triple this length to overtake Pittsburgh or Detroit. It will be hard to maintain without all of their best players.
2) Beat Pittsburgh.
Always a grand idea but one that is imperative now. Barring a Penguin collapse, winning two of the remaining three meetings between the teams will be necessary. It’s going to take a sweep to turn the race. One victory will only keep Philadelphia barely alive.
The Flyers, who still have road games left at Chicago, Tampa Bay, Florida, their Columbus hellhole (where they have lost seven straight games) and two at Brooklyn, have already won three more road games than they did all of last season. This is a good sign. The March schedule was even scarier than this two seasons ago and the Flyers made the playoffs regardless.
3) Stay out of the penalty box.
The Flyers have spent the fifth most time in the league on the penalty kill, which doesn’t compute to a playoff spot with the 23rd best penalty killing. The Flyers best players are their worst offenders and often at the worst possible times.
4) Closing them out.
The Flyers have given up six goals when the opposition is six on five, plus twice lost a point on final minute opposition winning goals. During those desperate, breath holding, everybody-taking-a-whack at it seconds nothing succeeds like past success. Mindset puts away games.
5) Depressing the clutch.
There are 20 games to go, and just a guess, 14 of them will go into the final minutes either tied or with a one-goal differential. The great Islanders teams of the eighties would ask aloud before overtimes: “Who is going to be the hero?” then proved uncanny in sudden death. The Flyers have scored 22 goals to the opposition’s 15 in third periods this season, the side of the ledger they need to continue to be on.