Don’t look now, but despite being in last place in the new Metropolitan Division, the Flyers are in the playoff hunt. That’s what a five-point week on the road — with wins in Ottawa and Pittsburgh, followed by a frustrating shootout loss in Winnipeg — will do for a team in the log-jammed standings, where the Washington Capitals have now moved past the slumping Penguins into first place.
Even at 7-10-2 on the season, the Flyers are only nine points out, as they open a three-game homestand vs. Ottawa Tuesday (7 p.m., CSN), followed by Buffalo and the Islanders. The playoffs are months away, but Philly is within four points of the Rangers, currently the last one in, with the Flyers holding a game in hand. Another big week and they figure to move up on everybody.
"We’re right there," said Jake Voracek, who had two goals in that 5-0 romp over the Senators last week. "We’ve just got to play the same way we played on the road. It would mean a lot if we wound up at .500 by the end of the week."
While the Flyers recent turnaround is encouraging, the real reason they’re still in the playoff conversation is thanks to the way the 14-team West has dominated the 16-team East. So far, Western clubs have posted an overwhelming 81-39-15 mark in head-to-head play. Overall the top seven point totals belong to teams out West, with only surprising Tampa Bay — which just lost leading scorer Steven Stamkos with a broken leg - cracking the top eight.
That’s why despite all their early season struggles, the Flyers have plenty of time to recover, which really was never the case last season after the lockout. Not only were there fewer games to make up ground, but everything was played within conference.
Now, with Western teams beating up on the East, nobody’s really been able to put together much of a record. That’s worked to the Flyers' benefit, though they need to do a better job on home ice than they have so far (3-7) to stay within striking distance.
"We did a good job on our last road trip," said Craig Berube, now 7-7-2 since replacing Peter Laviolette. "Now we need to do well at home.
"We need to get on teams. When they come into our building should know they’re in for a tough game."
If the Flyers can make that happen, they could climb from the bottom of the Metropolitan ladder right on up.