It was just a little over a week ago that the Flyers were in first place in the Metropolitan Division. They overcame a 10-game winless streak in November that buried them in the basement and recently compiled a 10-0-2 record in February to climb to the top of the mountain.
However, the Flyers are learning that as difficult as it is to get there, it’s even harder to remain at the head of the table.
Since they moved into first place following last Monday’s win over the Canadiens, the Flyers have gone 0-3-1. Heading into Thursday night’s game in Boston, they had dropped to third place and were three points behind the Metro-leading Penguins.
The Flyers are aware of their streaky tendencies this season, but winger Jake Voracek attributed the recent slide to playing elite teams and an abundance of youth on the roster.
“It just happens,” Jake Voracek said after Wednesday’s 5-2 loss to the Penguins. “You’re gonna win some games; you’re gonna lose some games. … We are playing good teams right now that are on top of the standings and have a lot of experience. So, sometimes it shows that we are not there yet.
“We are still in the hunt for a [playoff] spot so we gotta make sure we find a way [to get] some points.”
As noted by Voracek, the schedule has not been forgiving in the last week and won’t ease up much until the second half of the month.
They lost to the Eastern Conference-leading Lightning, 7-6, in a shootout on Saturday and were flat in a 4-1 loss to the Panthers, who are one of the hottest teams in the NHL, before facing the Penguins. Next up are the red-hot Bruins Thursday and then the Jets and Golden Knights, who are tied for the second most points in the Western Conference.
With 15 games remaining, the Flyers need every point possible regardless of their opponent, though. They hold a narrow three-point lead over the Devils, who sit in the first wild card spot, and are eight points ahead of the Panthers – Florida has played three less games – who reside in ninth place just outside the playoffs.
How the Flyers emerge from the upcoming stretch against some of the best teams in the league will likely determine whether they remain in the hunt for a division title or are relegated to fighting to stay out of a wild card berth – or even in a postseason slot.
“We’ve already been into that stretch of playing really good opponents,” coach Dave Hakstol told reporters earlier in the week. “It’s about one game right now. It’s that short-term focus. We’re not looking for any measuring sticks or anything like that. We’re looking for two points.”