Why the Next Two Weeks Will Decide the Flyers’ Entire Season

Created 2 years 282 days ago
by Nick Arnold

Tags: Philadelphia Flyers
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written by Nick Arnold

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016 --

There are 82 games per team in an NHL season. Sometimes a club clinches a playoff berth early enough that the remainder of the season becomes a fight for seeding. Other times teams accept their fate before the trade deadline and begin moving pieces for the future. Then there are the bubble teams - the teams that fight and claw to narrowly miss or make the postseason dance at the last possible moment. The one constant in all of this is that every single game matters up to those points. We’ve seen that firsthand with our most recent push to the Cup Final in 2010, a miracle run that began with a shootout win in game 82.

Fast forward to today. We all knew this Flyers season was going to be one of retooling. Hextall spent the summer cleaning up as much of previous management’s mess as possible, but with huge contracts and no-move clauses, we did not expect to win the division. However, we are Philadelphia fans. We absolutely want that championship every single year, regardless of how good or bad the team in front of us looks. The Flyers started the season off impressively, narrowly losing to the defending Eastern Conference Champions in the first ever 3-on-3 OT in the NHL. Our hopes only rose when we followed up a miserable 7-1 shellacking at the hands of the Panthers with back-to-back shutouts, including a 3-0 domination of the Stanley Cup Champs.

From there on out, though, it was back to the same consistently inconsistent Flyers we’ve grown to know and love (to hate) in the last few seasons. That all changed when a catalyst was inserted into the formula: Shayne Gostisbehere. Now I’m not going to pretend he is the savior come to lead us to the promised land, but the rookie defenseman has 7 goals and 9 assists in 23 games played. The Flyers began their season 5-8-3 before calling up the Ghost Bear. Since then, they have gone 13-7-4. Now this article isn’t about how Shayne has saved our season; it’s about how this team has changed over the last two months, and how even though every single game is important, the following two weeks are the two most important weeks of the entire season.

Starting tonight, the Flyers have eight games left in the month of January. All eight of them are against Eastern Conference teams, and half of those are teams in our division. On top of that, seven of those eight teams are above us in the standings, and Toronto is only 4 points behind us. Let’s break down these matchups briefly.

Flyers vs Boston - 1/13 & 1/25

We’ve faced the Bruins once already this season in Boston. You might remember that day because we came back and beat them in OT after being down 4-2 going into the 3rd. You may recall that game because of Rinaldo’s hit that left Couturier concussed but garnered no supplemental discipline.

Why it’s one of the most important games of the year: While we’d all love to see Rinaldo with his beak punched in tonight, it would clearly be the wrong move to put vengeance above points in the standings. Boston holds the first wildcard spot with 47 points, but we are only 4 points behind both them and the Devils, with a games in hand (1 game over Boston, 4 over NJ). It is imperative we take both matchups with Boston in this 8 game stretch - in regulation, hopefully - to gain ground.

Flyers vs Rangers - 1/16

Our hated rivals from the Big Apple are currently sitting in the 2nd place spot in the Metro division 8 points ahead of us (with 2 more games played). The Rangers aren’t playing stellar hockey lately, with only 4 wins in their last 10 games.

Why it’s one of the most important games of the year: Our last two meetings with them this season ended in a 3-2 shootout win(!!!) at home, and a 3-0 shutout win at MSG. This is far from a guaranteed win, but it’s definitely a must win. If we’re going to make the postseason, we have to be able to consistently play hard against division rivals, especially in our own barn.

Flyers at Red Wings - 1/17

Am I the only one who will never get over 1997? I was just a child that year, but at 8 years old I learned the true meaning of pain and hatred. Now that they are in our conference and we face them more often, my lust for neverending revenge has only increased. But I digress.

Why it’s one of the most important games of the year: The Red Wings are not in our division, but the whole conference is such a clusterpuck (I apologize for nothing) that it would only take a few games for Montreal and Boston to move up and bump Detroit down to a wildcard spot - one that we would like to inhabit if we can’t break into the top 3 Metro spots. On top of that, this is the first road game of this stretch, and is the 2nd half of a back-to-back situation. Our road record isn’t ideal at 8-10-3, and our overall record in Detroit is 20-36 with 10 ties. If ever there was a time to win in the Red Wings’ house, it’s here and now.

Flyers vs Maple Leafs - 1/19

Not that the Flyers are an elite, winning team by any means but the Maple Leafs are… well, the Maple Leafs. Sitting 4 spots from dead last in the entire league, Toronto has struggled to sustain any kind of consistency despite winning the Babcock sweepstakes.

Why it’s one of the most important games of the year: The Flyers notoriously “play down” to struggling opponents. Despite being as low down in the standings as they are, Toronto is four points behind them with the same amount of games played. If the Flyers are going to climb the ladder to playoff contention, they’ve got to be able to beat the “bad” teams, too, and not take any game for granted.

Flyers at Penguins - 1/21


In one of the worst scheduling choices ever, the Flyers and Penguins face off for the first time all season more than halfway through the 2015-16 campaign. On 1/21, it will have been 9 games since the Flyers last tasted regular season defeat against their cross-state rivals, or 826 calendar days! The first meetup of the season takes place in our home away from home, the Consol Energy Center.

Why it’s one of the most important games of the year: Do I have to explain this one? It’s the Penguins. It is infinitely imperative that the boys in orange and black don’t look back at the last 8 games against them and pencil in a W before this game begins. The Penguins are fightingfor a playoff spot themselves, and that only makes them a tougher opponent. Add Fleury playing out of his mind to the mix, and this could very well mean the end of our streak if the focus isn’t there. Pittsburgh lost their contest last night in OT, putting them 3 points ahead of us with 2 more games played.

Flyers at Islanders - 1/23

Exactly two weeks after a 4-0 shutout win over the Islanders, the Flyers travel back to that new (horribly designed) arena to face another division rival. Our first meeting there ended in a 3-1 loss after a lethargic performance from the Flyers.

Why it’s one of the most important games of the year: The Islanders hold the third spot in the Metro division with 51 points. They are 8 points ahead of us, but we have 3 games in hand. We’ve already lost to them twice this season, but have been playing much better hockey since. Another division game, another must-win to push for a playoff berth.

Flyers at Capitals - 1/27

The Washington Capitals are the best team in the league at 32-7-3. They are 8-1-1 in their last ten games. Alex Ovechkin is at the top of his game. Braden Holtby is a man possessed between the pipes.

Why it’s one of the most important games of the year: See above. The month of January ends with our biggest test yet. The Flyers lost 5-2 to the Capitals at the Wells Fargo Center back in mid-November. Holtby only faced 20 shots, and Ovechkin was held pointless. To be able to climb and defeat the mountain that is this contest on the 27th, we’re going to need some gritty goals and stellar defensive play from the net out. Alexander the Great has surpassed the 500 goal mark, and he isn’t going to slow down anytime soon. If we can’t handle the Capitals, a deep playoff run - or any playoff run at all - is unlikely. 

At the end of tonight’s tilt, we will be exactly 41 games in. The way we end the first half of this season and begin the second will ultimately define what kind of team we see starting in February: A team clawing for a playoff spot, or a team looking to trade for the future come the deadline.



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