Jordan Hall

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.

Joel Embiid roasts Colin Cowherd for Sixers prediction

AP Images/USA Today Images

Joel Embiid roasts Colin Cowherd for Sixers prediction

Colin Cowherd was worried about Sixers fans blowing up his Twitter account.

Really, his chief concern should have been Joel Embiid.

"The minute that game's over," Cowherd said, "my Twitter account's going to literally be in flames."

Embiid, a social media virtuoso, made certain Cowherd's nightmare came true.

You see, the Sixers on Wednesday night won their 40th game of the season by blasting the 19-win Grizzlies, 119-105, at the Wells Fargo Center (see observations).

Prior to the season's start, Cowherd, a host of the FS1 show "The Herd," lambasted the thought of Brett Brown's team achieving such a feat.

So a little wager was made:

"You know what I don't like about this, I don't like a couple of pro athletes … suddenly ganging up on me," Cowherd said, joking around. "I'm not a big fan of this."

That's too bad.

Embiid and Simmons felt no sympathy after the victory.

COLIN COWARD.... Coach deserves a lot of credit #40wins #TheProcess

A post shared by Joel "The Process" Embiid (@joelembiid) on

Now, Philly just needs to get the guy his jersey.

Maybe Embiid can sign it for him: "Trust the Process."

Meanwhile, these guys have 40 wins ... and they're not done yet.

Do not mess with Chase Utley

SportsNet LA

Do not mess with Chase Utley

Chase Utley is back for yet another baseball season and he's more business than ever.

After re-signing with the Dodgers in February for two more years, the 39-year-old is clearly still having tons of fun playing the game … well, fun in his own way, obviously.

Andrew Toles, a 25-year-old outfielder, gave us a glimpse into Utley's mystique within the Dodgers' clubhouse. We all know how well respected No. 26 is among his teammates, both former and current. In fact, his presence and example are significant reasons why, at his age, he's still playing in Dodgers blue after being acquired in an August 2015 trade with the Phillies.

Utley, in a hilarious segment on SportsNet LA's "Backstage Dodgers," jokingly showed his trademark stoicism with the cameras around and Toles looking to chat.

"That's what you call a role model. A baseball role model," Toles said. "You've got to have those. I wake up in the morning and I'm like, 'How can I be like Chase Utley today?' Because he's that guy. I want to be that guy, too, one day."

When Utley was wearing red pinstripes, just about every youngster playing baseball in the Delaware Valley was probably saying the same thing.