It’s the flu season, and for the most part, even the Flyers have avoided the most contagious strains.
And when they do acquire what’s going around, it doesn’t remotely seem to slow them down, as evidenced by Claude Giroux’s performance this past weekend. The Flyers' captain was fighting something nasty and then delivered a healthy dose of goals (three in four days) that resulted in him being named the NHL's First Star of the week.
If that’s the cause and effect of getting sick, then perhaps the entire team should start eating their meals off a Petri dish.
Now that we’re four months into the season, the Flyers should be knocking on wood until their knuckles begin to bleed. Their only real affliction had been self-inflicted — a 10-game winless streak that started in mid-November and lasted three weeks. However, they’ve completely sweated that out of their system as they’ve bounced back with an impressive 20-8-3 mark.
Tuesday night the Flyers played their 57th game of the season, and Dave Hakstol has been extremely fortunate he hasn’t had to replace Sean Couturier, Jake Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Travis Konecny, Ivan Provorov or Giroux in his lineup.
Not one time.
The Flyers have suited up 10 regulars who have played in all 57 games, and the majority of the rest have been healthy scratches.
Entering their game with the Devils on Tuesday, the Flyers had been dealt just 61 man games lost because of injury. Comparatively, the Anaheim Ducks, who have nearly an identical record as the Flyers, were sitting at 262 games lost with injuries to key contributors, mainly Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler.
The Flyers realize just how fortunate they are.
They haven’t needed to build an immunity to injuries and have somehow managed to fight off the injury bug as if spraying off throughout the dressing room was the way to go about it.
Their most significant loss came in October when defenseman Andrew MacDonald missed 15 games with a leg injury, and at one point, the blue line had gone 10 deep on the depth chart with AHL journeyman Will O’Neill making his NHL debut. Whether you value MacDonald or not, the Flyers' record was 3-6-6 in the games he missed.
Now with Brian Elliott out of action for the next five-to-six weeks, the organization is dealing with a real dose of adversity. With Elliott in net, the Flyers own a .630 winning percentage. Without him, that number dips to .470.
“I think whenever you get down to two goalies and you’re down to one, I think you’re a little bit nervous no matter what,” general manager Ron Hextall said. “There’s a great example, Vegas. They get two guys down, three guys down and everyone is like, ‘Oh Vegas is done.’ You know what, they’re not done. What are they, second in the league? So it can be done, with a fourth guy, so we’re pretty confident (Michal Neuvirth) is a guy that can carry out for the short-term future.”
While also hoping Neuvirth has a short-term memory. Tuesday night against the Devils, Neuvirth allowed another one of those brutal goals on Taylor Hall’s sharp-angled shot. A healthy Elliott may have been the difference in regulation and a two-point turnaround in the Flyers' favor.
Either Hextall needs to start crossing his fingers or start making phone calls. In an ideal world, the Flyers benefit from the addition of another goaltender, some defensive depth and arguably one more forward who could effectively kill penalties.
But that all comes at a cost with a trade deadline now less than two weeks away.
Hextall is facing his biggest dilemma since taking over as GM nearly four years ago. This Flyers team is the deepest, most competitive roster he’s assembled since taking over in May of 2014 with nine double-digit scorers. They may not be Stanley Cup contenders, but then again, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them win their first postseason series since 2012.
Deal or no deal, how the team deals with its most significant setback of the season will determine where it goes and how it feels in April.