Which streak was Flyers' true colors?

Which streak was Flyers' true colors?

Throughout the season, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End today are producers/reporters Tom Dougherty and Jordan Hall.

The topic: Which streak was more representative of the Flyers?

If there is anything we've learned over the past eight weeks, it's that the Flyers are not as bad as their 10-game losing streak nor as good as their six-game winning streak that followed.

There were times during the 10-game skid they were victims of bad bounces, but there were also a few clunkers in there. The Vancouver, San Jose and Boston losses were some of the worst efforts this team has had under Dave Hakstol.

Then there were times during the season-high six-game winning streak that fell one win shy of tying an odd NHL record for most wins following a 10-game losing streak the Flyers probably should have lost. The Buffalo and Dallas wins come to mind.

What that tells us is, the Flyers are a streaky team not quite ready for prime time, but not quite bad enough to deserve low fan turnout. The Flyers, while in a bigger rebuild than imagined, are again a fringe playoff team — like the past two seasons.

Brian Elliott has been stellar in his first season as a Flyer, and Hakstol has relied on him heavily because of (surprise) an injury to Michal Neuvirth. Neuvirth could return as early as Thursday in Florida.

Elliott has started the Flyers' past 11 games and has a .933 save percentage over that span. Even during the 10-game losing streak, the losses could not have been pinned on the goaltending.

With Elliott, the Flyers have a chance to win each night. That's all you can ask for from a goaltender when you don't have a goalie such as Sergei Bobrovsky.

There have been enough encouraging signs over the past three weeks that suggests this Flyers team could squeak into the playoffs this April, with secondary scoring atop the list.

Sean Couturier has proven to be a legitimate top-line center, with a career-high 16 goals already. Claude Giroux is back to producing at an elite level. Jake Voracek is back.

Nolan Patrick, while not contributing as one would like, has trended upward over the past three games. He even centered the team's second line with Voracek and Michael Raffl on his wings in the Flyers' last game before the holiday break.

Travis Konecny has found his way into the top six. Will that continue after the Christmas break? We'll see, but he was buzzing with Couturier and Giroux in Columbus.

The defense is young with two rookies. Robert Hagg has been steady and plays far beyond his rookie label, while Travis Sanheim is progressing, though patchy at times. Ivan Provorov has had a bumpy last few games, but he's proven stellar in his second NHL season. He's a rock. Shayne Gostisbehere is back to producing offensively, which has covered up some of his deficiencies. It's been a solid start for "Ghost."

There will be some more bumps along the road as the Flyers close out the season, and when evaluating this team, it's safe to say the Flyers are somewhere in between the team that lost 10 straight and then won six straight.

They sit four points out of the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot as of today. As the schedule ramps up and the games begin to matter more, the Flyers are in a position to strike.

It was hard to see a month ago, but the postseason is still within grasp.

Obviously, the Flyers didn't play well during their 10-game losing streak.

But they weren't downright awful, either.

Half of the defeats came after regulation (when anything can happen and the previous 60 minutes are thrown out the window), while the Flyers also outshot the opposition in five of those contests.

“If we were playing poorly, I’d be the first to say, ‘We’re playing poorly.’ I would be," Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said following the ninth straight defeat on Nov. 28. "We are not playing poorly and to look objectively at our team right now and to say we’re playing poorly, no.

“As a manager, I have to be realistic with how our team is playing. I think right now, as a whole, I think we’ve played better than our record.”

There's a reason they won six straight directly after the 10-game skid. It wasn't strictly a coincidence or a flip of the switch. The Flyers, in fact, weren't far off, maybe just a play or two away from wins during that stretch.

The last time the Flyers lost 10 consecutive games (Feb. 6-23, 2008), they went to the Eastern Conference Finals the same season, which goes to show you streaks in hockey aren't always indicative of the play on the ice or the fate of a team.

Are the Flyers where they want to be? No, but we saw more potential in the six-game winning streak than reality in the 10-game losing streak.

A little bit of time and growth should further prove that, too.

Devils' Hall wastes no time in overtime

AP Images

Devils' Hall wastes no time in overtime

PITTSBURGH -- Taylor Hall beat Matt Murray on a breakaway 27 seconds into overtime to lift the New Jersey Devils to a 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night.

Hall was all alone when Nico Hischier found him with a long lead pass. Hall then slipped the puck between Murray's legs for his 33rd goal of the season as New Jersey picked up two vital points in the race for one of the two wild-card spots in the Eastern Conference.

Hall added two assists for New Jersey. Hischier finished with a goal and an assist, and Blake Coleman and Will Butcher also scored for the Devils. Keith Kincaid made 40 stops for the Devils, who finished a season-high six-game road trip 4-2.

Sidney Crosby scored his 25th of the season for Pittsburgh. Brian Dumolin and Phil Kessel scored in the third period as the Penguins erased a two-goal deficit. Murray finished with 30 saves as the Penguins lost for just the second time in their last 17 home games.

New Jersey's drive to end a six-year playoff drought has stalled since the All-Star break. A lopsided loss in San Jose dropped the Devils to just 13-12 since Jan. 30 and skated onto the ice at PPG Paints Arena with a tenuous grasp on the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference (see full recap).

Bruins win on Pastrnak’s last-second goal
DALLAS -- David Pastrnak broke a tie with 12 seconds left and the Boston Bruins scored three straight goals in the third period to rally past the fading Dallas Stars 3-2 on Friday night.

A scramble followed a faceoff in the Dallas end, and Brad Marchand passed to Pastrnak in front. While falling down, he put the puck past Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen.

Tuukka Rask made a season-high 40 saves for the Bruins. Marchand scored Boston's first goal and also assisted on a short-handed goal by Tim Schaller that tied it midway through the third period.

The second-place Bruins won for the first time in three games (1-0-2) to move within four points of Atlantic Division leader Tampa Bay. Boston has already clinched a playoff berth.

The Stars are winless in their last seven games (0-5-2). They remained four points behind Colorado for the second Western Conference wild card (see full recap).

Berglund, Blues push win streak to 4
ST. LOUIS -- Patrik Berglund scored twice and the surging St. Louis Blues beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-1 on Friday night for their fourth consecutive victory.

Vladimir Tarasenko and Dmitrij Jaskin also scored for St. Louis. Jake Allen made 19 saves in his eighth straight start as the Blues won for the sixth time in seven games.

Sam Gagner scored for Vancouver, which has lost eight of nine. Anders Nilsson stopped 21 shots.

The Blues swept the season series and have won their last five games against the Canucks.

Tarasenko extended the lead to 3-1 just 14 seconds into the third period, slipping Jaden Schwartz's pass between Nilsson's legs. Tarasenko missed the previous two games with an upper-body injury.

Jaskin's sixth goal of the season with 2:29 left sealed it for St. Louis (see full recap).

5 crucial developments behind Flyers' playoff push

5 crucial developments behind Flyers' playoff push

With seven games to go, the Flyers are in playoff position.

They sit in the Eastern Conference's top wild-card spot, four points ahead of the next-closest team, while also lurking just one point out of third place and two out of second in the Metropolitan Division.

You would have been hard-pressed to envision such a scenario back when the Flyers had lost 10 straight games and were in dead last of the Metro on Dec. 2.

But, through the streaks — both good and bad — here the Flyers are.

So how did they get here?

Let's look at five keys:

1. Giroux, period
The revitalization has been astounding. 

Claude Giroux's precipitous turnaround is the biggest reason the Flyers find themselves smelling postseason hockey again.

At age 30 and coming off a career low in goals for a full season and a third straight drop-off in scoring, the Flyers' captain has buried those 14 markers and 58 points in the past. This season, he has 26 goals and an NHL-high 64 assists, while reaching the 90-point plateau for the second time in his career. 

When the regular season is over, he will very likely own new career highs in goals, assists and points.

Tip your hat to the guy.

2. Do-it-all Coots
Sean Couturier has done yeoman's work in his breakout year.

Obviously the team-best 30 goals are nice, but he does so much more for this team.

He plays the third-most minutes (21:38) among all NHL forwards, leads the Flyers in PK time by a landslide and his plus-26 rating is top 10 in the league.

3. The kid is here
With a greater role, Travis Konecny has made a crucial jump in Year 2.

Since Dec. 28, the 21-year-old has put up 34 points (18 goals, 16 assists) and a plus-17 rating in 38 games, a stretch in which the Flyers are 22-12-4.

And since Jan. 20, Konecny has the same number of goals (16) as Alex Ovechkin and Nathan MacKinnon.

4. Defensive leaders
While the Flyers have stomached inconsistency and change on defense, Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere have served as two pillars.

Imagine if one of the two got hurt? Or if Provorov endured a sophomore slump and Gostisbehere didn't rebound from his own last season?

Who knows where the Flyers would be.

Provorov and Gostisbehere are first and third, respectively, in minutes per game on the team, while both have netted 13 goals with "Ghost" leading all NHL blueliners in power-play tallies (seven) and man-advantage points (29).

It's not just offense, either. Provorov is ultra steady and Gostisbehere has improved in his own end.

5. Lookin' like No. 2
Nolan Patrick's numbers don't jump off the page, but his evolvement from the start of the season to now is one of the bigger storylines of this season.

Following an underwhelming first 40 games (with an injury mixed in), the second overall pick now looks supremely comfortable and makes a clear impact, even when he's not scoring.

The 19-year-old is playing well centering Jakub Voracek and Oskar Lindblom on the second line and showed tons of power-play potential filling in for an injured Wayne Simmonds.

Patrick has 16 points (seven goals, nine assists) in his last 26 games after recording nine (three goals, six assists) in his first 40.

He's been a different player.