There were plenty of reasons the Flyers sat out the playoffs last season, but right near the top had to be their 8-15-1 road record throughout 48-game lockout shortened season
To turn that around, then, and become road warriors this season has salvaged a season that once looked headed for disaster. Tonight, after playing 14 of their last 18 on the road, they’re finally back home to take on Danny Briere and the Montreal Canadiens.
Regardless of what happened the finale of a six-game trip last night in Newark vs the Devils, they’ve put themselves in great position for the long haul.
“It’s fun to win on the road and ruin the other team’s night,’’ said Scott Hartnell, who’s been playing his best hockey since placed on a line with Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn. “We’ve had a great road trip, but everyone’s happy to be back home.’’
Especially since the 21-17-4 Flyers carry a nine-game home winning streak into this one, longest in franchise history since 2005, but far off the record 20 set in 1976. That, coupled with going 4-1 out West–winning shootouts in Edmonton and Vancouver, to go with victories in Calgary and Phoenix–has vaulted them into second place in the Metropolitan, seventh in the East overall.
With 46 points heading to Jersey and seven of their next 12 on home ice they figure to gain even more ground on the teams ahead of them if they can maintain something close to that pace. On the other hand, with just six points separating fifth place Detroit (48) from 13th place Columbus, there’s little margin for error.
“We’ve just got to keep winning,’’ said Craig Berube, now 21-14-4 since replacing Peter Laviolette. “It’s tight.”
“Look at all these teams right on your tail. Nobody’s out of it. You just have to keep plugging along,’’
Between Simmonds, who’s moved into the team lead in goals with 14, team captain Claude Giroux, who’s regained his scoring touch with 38 points and sturdy goalie Steve Mason, who’s regained his form after hitting a lull, the Flyers look like a team on the rise.
“We’re just fighting for a playoff spot right now,’’ said Simmonds, who has eight goals in his last seven games, four on the power play “We need to get as many points as we can.’’
While the playoffs are still four months away, if the Flyers can keep this up you can probably save a seat for them at the table.
They’re going to be heard from.