Don’t say any of this in the locker room, because the Flyers have done a nice job of late narrowing their focus to only worry about the task at hand and not look ahead at what’s coming down the road, but as someone who has nothing better to do than sit here and look at hockey schedules while waiting for puck drop, I can safely say now that the Flyers may not be in as bad a shape as everyone thought as recently as six days ago.
Sure, a couple of wins can maybe cloud your vision with blinding optimism – and it’s certainly possible that when the stretch of games I’m about to talk about are over the Flyers find themselves worse off than being just five points out of a playoff spot (as they currently are with a couple games in hand).
But, it’s just as possible, if not more likely, that what I’m about to lay out in front of you will happen, and all the worries of that 1-7-0 start will have dissipated.
In the next 30 days, beginning tonight, the Flyers play 15 games. Of those 15 games, only three – tonight against Anaheim, Nov. 13 in Pittsburgh and Nov. 27 in Tampa Bay – are against teams who currently have a winning record.
That means the other 12 games are against teams, who like the Flyers, have played the month of October not playing the kind of hockey they had hoped.
As a matter of fact, the teams they will play in those 12 games have combined to play 144 games to this point and won just 43 times.
That’s a winning percentage of .299. Think about how epically bad that is for a second.
Then consider those teams are averaging scoring just 2.44 goals per game. Meanwhile, the Flyers have allowed just 27 goals this season, sixth-best in the NHL.
Looking at special teams, Eight of those 12 games will come against teams ranked in the bottom half of the league on the power play. Meanwhile, the Flyers have the ninth-ranked penalty kill.
Of course, the Flyers are only averaging 1.80 goals per game and have the No. 27 power play out of 30 teams, but of the teams involved, only the Flyers have had statistics trending positively – namely, they are the only team who currently have won at least two consecutive games.
As a matter of fact, New Jersey is currently the only other team coming off a win.
Yes, it’s possible that goal scoring in those games will be at a premium. If they are, then it means the Flyers are playing the game they want to play.
So what does all this mean?
Well, the Flyers still feel they are better than their record and their statistics show. And that well could be the case. So for a minute, let’s assume they are. Let’s assume they are more talented than all of these other struggling teams. On paper, it’s hard to argue they aren’t, so for argument’s sake, go with me here.
Let’s take the three games against the winning teams – Anaheim, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay. For the sake of this study, let’s say they earn three points in those games (1-1-1).
And let’s say the Flyers have gotten it together enough that in the other 12 games they have a good run and go 8-3-1.
That would mean that as they fly to Nashville on the final day of November, they’d get there with a record of 12-11-2 with 26 points.
Now, looking at the teams in the Metropolitan Division who are in front of the Flyers – minus Pittsburgh, who should be comfortably holding onto first place for the time being – the Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, Washington Capitals and New Jersey Devils are all registering about one standings point per game played so far (New Jersey slightly less). Let’s say they simply maintain that pace over the next month.
Assuming they all continue to play close to .500 hockey, the Flyers, at 12-11-2, could well be in second place in the Division!
Seriously. The Islanders also have 15 games in the next month. If they go 7-7-1, they’ll be 11-11-4, for 26 points as well. Carolina has 14 games. If they go 6-6-2 they’ll be 10-11-5 for 25 points.
I can do this all day and come up with dozens of scenarios – some positive and some negative for the Flyers.
The point is, looking forward, the Flyers schedule is definitely in their favor in November. Sure there’s a bit more travel and three sets of back-to-backs, but it’s not like the Flyers are facing a murderer’s row of teams coming up in the next month.
This is their chance to make everyone forget about 1-7-0. It’s not as hard a hole to dig out of as it once seemed. Two wins in a row starts to instill the necessary confidence, and a glance at the schedule ahead favors a more optimistic perspective.
Of course, if, by Thanksgiving, things haven’t turned around and the team is as cooked as that night’s turkey dinner, then more change could occur, but why look at it negatively when there’s still something positive staring back at you?
It won’t be easy – because after that target game 30 days from now the Flyers embark on a six-game, 12-day road trip against some stiffer competition – but the terrain is far more traversable when you look at it this way than it may have seemed before.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers