The Flyers are no longer trying to make the playoffs.
Rather, they are trying to win the Metropolitan Division.
Following their 3-2 come-from-behind overtime victory on Tuesday against the Canadiens, the Flyers are closer to first place than the last playoff berth in the standings. Entering Wednesday’s games, the Flyers (72 points) sat in third place, trailed the first place Capitals by three points and led the Hurricanes, who sit just outside the postseason bracket, by eight points.
They clearly have their eyes on the bigger prize.
And the current direction their season is headed supports their quest. They are, and have been, one of the hottest teams in the league.
The Flyers are 7-0-2 in their last nine games and since December have gone 23-8-3, which is the third best record in the NHL.
“Points are critical, so anyway you can get the points is important,” coach Dave Hakstol said on Tuesday. “I thought we did really good things.”
They are playing loose, confident and shockingly with acute discipline. The Flyers became the second team in NHL history to go three consecutive games without giving up a power play opportunity.
“I think we have done a good job of just staying disciplined and holding onto pucks,” Scott Laughton said. “When you have the puck, you can’t take penalties. So, I thought it was one of our best group efforts tonight.”
While life has been rosy lately, the Flyers have not been immune to adversity. Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth, their starting and backup goalies, will each miss at least the next four weeks with injuries. They also lost forward Wayne Simmonds for two-to-three weeks with an upper body injury.
However, rookie goalie Alex Lyon has filled in admirably recently – winning his last two starts against stars Henrik Lundqvist and Carey Price. Then, veteran goalie Petr Mrazek joined the ranks from Detroit after GM Ron Hextall made a trade late Monday night to sure up the position. He will likely get the start on Thursday at home against the Blue Jackets and assume the starter role until at least Elliott returns next month.
To replace Simmonds, the Flyers called up rookie Oscar Lindblom. Although he will hardly fill the offensive void left by Simmonds, Lindblom had a solid NHL debut against Montreal.
“[Simmonds’ shoes] are big shoes to fill inside of our dressing room,” Hakstol said. “I don’t think anybody spends too much time thinking about the injuries or people who might be out of the lineup. Guys are excited to see a young guy like Oskar Lindblom come in and help us win a game. You have to have that within an organization.”
Especially for one that has set its sights on a division title.