With the Flyers’ season already at the quarter pole, the team has finally reached the point where they can be considered almost mediocre. But considering the shaky way things started off, that’s really not so terrible.
When Danny Briere rattled one off the post and across the line 1:43 into overtime to beat Carolina Saturday and cap a 3-0-1 homestand, it pulled their overall mark to 5-6-1. Now comes the hard part, a grueling road stretch — six games in 10 days — beginning Monday night in Toronto, followed by Winnipeg, the Devils, Montreal, the Islanders and finally Pittsburgh a week from Wednesday.
Added to that, Monday's showdown pits Luke Schenn and James van Riemsdyk against their old teams for the first time.
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"I think both teams have obviously moved on,’’ said Brayden Schenn’s big brother, who has been a huge part of the Flyers' improved defense the last two weeks. "They’re having success, too, and we’re starting to, too. But there’s no question I look forward to going back there."
Meanwhile, JVR has been an instant success for the Maple Leafs (7-5), producing the way the Flyers always envisioned he could here with seven goals. But the Flyers need to focus on more than him, as they try to improve on a 1-5 road mark.
"This was a good homestand for us, now we’ve got to go battle on the road for a long time," said Brayden Schenn, who had a goal and assist vs. the Hurricanes. "We're good at home, not too good on the road so far. We’ve got to turn that around."
By the end of this upcoming stretch, the Flyers will have already completed half their road schedule, meaning 18 of their final 30 games will be on home ice. If they don’t break even or better over the next 10 days, the pressure will only continue to mount.
"We wanted to find our identity,’’ said Matt Read, who had one goal and nearly beat the clock at the end of regulation Saturday, before Briere connected in the overtime. "Getting seven of eight points at home is good, but now we have to learn how to play on the road. We just have to take it one game at a time and keep climbing the ladder."
The Flyers know they need to build off the momentum that they have generated in the last week. With an improving power play and a penalty-kill unit that’s stopped opponents on 20 of their last 22 opportunities, they may finally be headed in the right direction for good.