From Nov. 11 through Dec. 2 the Flyers lost 10-straight hockey games and were dead last in the Metropolitan Division. Fast forward two months and the Flyers have won six-straight and are riding a 9-0-1 stretch to vault into second in the division, just one point behind Washington with a game in hand.
To say the 2017-18 Flyers have been a wild ride would be an understatement, but they’ve come a long way this season and have been one of —if not the hottest— team in the NHL since the calendar turned to 2018.
The Flyers will look to continue the winning ways when they welcome the Carolina Hurricanes to the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday night.
Carolina was where the Flyers found themselves not too long ago, buried in the jam-packed playoff race in the tight Metro, and the wild card race as well. The Hurricanes are just four points out of the second Wild Card spot (currently occupied by Columbus), but have lost six-straight and are an uninspiring 3-4-3 in their last 10 games.
Times are now desperate if the Hurricanes want to make a push for a playoff spot, but the red-hot Flyers have their eyes set on more than just a playoff spot at the moment. Dave Hakstol’s club has their sights set on their first division title since the 2010-2011 campaign. In order to do so they’ll need to things rolling against teams outside of the playoff picture. The Flyers dispatched the Rangers, Montreal (twice) and Ottawa in the past week-plus to pickup important points in their quest and have another chance with the fading Hurricanes, losers of six-straight, on tap next.
Good news for the Flyers is that the Hurricanes don’t do anything particularly well. They’re 26th in goal scoring (2.6 per game), 22nd in goals against (3.0 per) and have the 20th overall power play and penalty kill units in the league. That’s a whole mess of blah and won’t strike fear into a Flyers team that is just rolling.
Petr Mrazek gave the Flyers a huge boost in goal against Montreal with a stellar, 28-save effort to earn his first shutout as a member of the club. He’s 3-0 with a 1.30 goals-against average and a .947 save percentage in his three starts.
Sean Couturier made Mrazek’s outstanding effort stick with a shootout winner to give the Flyers the 1-0 win in that game. The Flyers’ top center continues to roll offensively and is on the cusp of his first 30-goal season and could very well be the frontrunner for the Selke Trophy given the recent injury to Boston’s Patrice Bergeron.
The Flyers will again lean on those two to get the job done against a talented but reeling Carolina club whose season could very well be leaning in the balance.
The Hurricanes have also been dealt a tough blow off the ice with the loss of Jordan Staal’s infant daughter, Hannah. Staal, the Hurricanes’ captain, has been involved with a ton of battles against the Flyers over the years going back to his days as a Penguin, but certainly many thoughts and prayers from the Flyers family go out to Jordan and his family during this difficult time.
Mrazek gives Carolina the blues
The Flyers’ new masked man is 6-1 with a 1.71 goals-against average and a .951 save percentage with one shutout in seven careers starts against Carolina. Mrazek has been better than advertised in his first three starts and could be staring at a fourth-straight win to start his Flyers career given the success he’s had against the Canes in his career to date.
Peco Power (less) play
Yes, the Flyers have won six-straight hockey games and they’ve won nine of 10. But what hasn’t been great in that time has been their power play.
They’re just 2 for 15 on the man-advantage in their last six games. Now they’ve won all of those games despite this, but the Flyers remain a middle-of-the-pack even strength team and continue to have a terrible penalty kill, so at the end of the day, they won’t keep winning unless the power play starts humming again.
There’s no real need to panic given the Flyers’ season-long success on the man-advantage (ninth overall at 21%, and given that the Hurricanes have far from a shutdown penalty kill. This feels like a good chance for the Flyers power play to get back on track.
Get this kid a goal
Oskar Lindblom has come oh so close to potting his first NHL goal over his first four games. The rookie has stepped into the lineup for Wayne Simmonds and has looked the part of an NHL forward and then some. He’s been strong along the wall, solid defensively, and has shown the willingness to go to the dirty areas to try and score goals.
Lindblom played a career-high 16:29 against the Canadiens and had a couple nice scoring chances but was unable to find the back of the net. He has posted a 55% Corsi-For in his four games, which is a small sample but slightly better than only Sean Couturier. He’s looked the part and it’s only a matter of time before the Swede gets his first.
The Flyers’ (subject to change) lineup:
Giroux - Couturier - Konecny
Lindblom - Patrick - Voracek
Leier - Laughton - Raffl
Weal - Filppula - Weise
Provorov - Gostisbehere
Hagg - MacDonald
Manning - Gudas