With one game, a 4-1 win over the Sabres on Sunday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center, the Flyers finally climbed out of Metropolitan Division cellar and simultaneously took over the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Now, it can all change depending on Sunday’s late results, but it’s important to note that after 42 games the Flyers are a playoff team.
“It’s a great feeling to be in this spot, but it’s only half of a season,” Jakub Voracek said following the team’s third straight victory and fourth win in the last five games. “We have to make sure we don’t go through any slumps again. Every game is huge. The Metro is tight We have to be really, really sharp the rest of the year.”
Despite enduring a 10-game losing streak, when fans and media were calling for coach Dave Hakstol to be fired, inconsistent play and a team that has had as many as five rookies on the ice at the same time, the team has positioned itself to make a legitimate playoff run in the second half of the season.
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They did so with home victories over the Islanders on Thursday, the Blues on Saturday and then the Sabres. In the former games, the Flyers erupted for a combined 12 goals, while they outlasted Buffalo behind markers from Sean Couturier, who had two, Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere.
After a lackluster 5-1 loss to the Penguins last Tuesday, the Flyers played with energy and purpose in the next two wins and received balanced scoring from all four lines and the power play. In their third game in less than 72 hours, they appeared, as expected, fatigued at times but persevered against the worst team in the conference.
Due to a mandatory bye week, the Flyers are off until they travel to face the Devils on Saturday.
“It was important to get this win going into the break,” said Couturier, who has a career-high 23 goals to lead the team. “We spoke after the Pittsburgh game that we weren’t too happy with our effort. We had three games in four nights before the break and we wanted to do good. I think we showed some good character here.”
The Flyers control their own postseason destiny. In their next 12 games and in 34 of their final 40 games, they will play against Eastern Conference teams. It won’t be easy, especially against teams in the Metro, where all of them are within a whisper of the playoffs and eight points separate first and last place.
However, if they win a majority of those crucial conference and division games, the Flyers will likely secure their first playoff berth in three years.