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November could be make-or-break month for new-look Flyers

The Flyers have started out well, but a tough November slate could go a long way in determining their fate.

NHL: OCT 28 Flyers at Canucks Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

One month down, six (or hopefully more) to go in the 2021-22 season for the Philadelphia Flyers. It was a good first few weeks for the Orange and Black despite a few injuries throughout the month.

The Flyers are off to a 4-2-1 start after their seven games in October. They may have gotten outplayed in a few of their wins, but a win is a win. It’s a similar story to last season, but there’s reason to believe that this year will be different. A normal schedule, practice time, and most importantly the play of Carter Hart will help the Flyers keep up in the Metropolitan Division.

This team feels different. Cam Atkinson has been a big reason for that early on, as have the depth additions in Derick Brassard –– thrust into a second-line role –– and Keith Yandle. Hell, even Nate Thompson has had his moments and Martin Jones is 2-0-0 to start the year.

Ryan Ellis has been a rock on the top pair, but a nagging injury has kept him “day-to-day” for the past week-plus. Rasmus Ristolainen has had his moments, but the second pair with him and Travis Sanheim needs to find their game.

The new-look Flyers could also be getting back a familiar face this month. Kevin Hayes had abdominal surgery and was expected to miss six-to-eight weeks as of September 21st. Today (November 2nd) is the six-week mark and Hayes has been skating with the team recently.

He’ll probably play it cautiously and return in a few weeks, which will have a trickledown effect on the rest of the lineup. Hayes is one of the reasons a few of the offseason additions came to Philadelphia. It’ll be interesting to see how they all play together.

The Flyers have shown that they have the potential to be a good, all-around team. But potential needs to be realized. They’ll have plenty of chances to prove themselves in a tough November schedule.

They play a total of 14 games –– in 29 days –– in November. It’s an even split of seven games at home and seven games on the road. And of course, it wouldn’t be Flyers hockey without a set of back-to-back games ... or two, in fact. The schedule makers didn’t do the Flyers any favors in November.

The Flyers start the month with what should be one of their easiest games of the season. They host Shayne Gostisbehere and the winless Arizona Coyotes tonight.

It’ll be a chance for the Flyers to bounce back after a dud against the Flames to end their three-game road trip.

However, the Coyotes have been playing better recently –– at least by their final scores –– with a 2-0 loss in Washington (one goal was an empty-netter) and a 2-1 loss in Carolina. Now, as the only winless team left, they could pick up their first victory of the season against the Flyers. It’s a game that the Flyers need as well given the rest of their November schedule.

After a one-game stop at home to take on the Coyotes, the Flyers go on the road for their first two divisional games of the season. In fact, the Flyers play six games against the Metropolitan Division this month. Their first two are against the Penguins on Thursday and Capitals on Saturday, both on the road.

Pittsburgh has been struggling to start the season with a 3-3-2 record but just got Sidney Crosby back and anything can happen in a Penguins-Flyers game. They’ll also benefit from four days off before hosting the Flyers.

Washington suffered their first regulation loss of the season on Monday night in Tampa Bay. They started the year 5-0-3 and have gotten a point in each of their home games.

The Flyers should be happy with a split in those two games, with three or more points giving them a great start to the month –– assuming they beat Arizona.

We then have three days without Flyers hockey before they host the Maple Leafs on Wednesday Night Hockey. Toronto has been disappointing this season, at least to start. They’ve scored three goals or fewer in eight of their nine games, including just one goal in three of their games. In total, they’ve been outscored 29-21 through nine games.

After that game against Toronto, the Flyers hit the road for a back-to-back in Carolina and Dallas.

The Hurricanes are sneakily one of the best teams in the league. They’re the lone remaining undefeated team with an 8-0-0 start, outscoring their opponents 33-12 in the process. This will be a big test for the Flyers and we can only hope that they look competitive.

After a clash in Carolina, the Flyers head down to Dallas. The Stars have yet to win a game in regulation with two overtime wins, one shootout win, and five losses (including one in overtime). However, they’ll be rested with two days off while the Flyers fly in the night before after playing the Hurricanes.

This could be where things go downhill for the Flyers. Carolina is going to be a tough game and they don’t have an easy schedule matchup the next night. Three games in four nights against Toronto, Carolina, and Dallas could mean trouble. The Flyers will need to get at least three points out of the contests.

The Flyers then have two days off before their lone homestand of the month. They host the Flames, Lightning, and Bruins on the 16th, 18th, and 20th.

We just saw what the Flames can do, and it wasn’t pretty for the Flyers. The Orange and Black were a bit fatigued, but they struggled to get any offense going.

The Lightning are reigning back-to-back Stanley Cup champions for a reason. Even if they don’t have Nikita Kucherov due to injury and some of their depth players lost in the summer, Andrei Vasilevskiy is one of the best goalies in the league. Oh yeah, Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, and Victor Hedman are still there as well.

It doesn’t get any easier with a game against the Bruins to close out the homestand. The Flyers took down Boston two weeks ago, but it wouldn’t have surprised anyone if the Bruins pulled that one out. The same can be said about their mid-November meeting.

Hopefully, the Flyers can use those three home games in front of their fans to build some momentum. One win is a must. Two could be a necessity depending how the month went to that point, and a sweep would be huge.

During Thanksgiving week, the Flyers have a back-to-back in Florida against the Lightning and Panthers on Tuesday and Wednesday. They then host the Hurricanes in the Black Friday matinee.

Those are three games in four nights that could derail a team. Thanksgiving is usually the point in the season where people first truly look at the standings and see who’s for real and who isn’t. The Flyers have a very tough stretch of games leading up to and around Thanksgiving.

The Flyers close the month out with their first game of the season against the Devils on the 28th in Newark before hosting the Islanders on the 30th.

By that point, a ton of things could have changed. Nevertheless, the importance of divisional games cannot be understated –– especially in a division as tough as the Metropolitan this season.

The Flyers had a pretty good start to the season with a 4-2-1 record, including a statement win against Boston and sweep in Edmonton and Vancouver. But the clunker in Calgary weighs heavily heading into November. The Orange and Black need to put that behind them as they enter quite possibly their most important month of the season.