Flyers

Flyers can look at 2014-15 Senators as inspiration for historic run

Flyers can look at 2014-15 Senators as inspiration for historic run

VOORHEES, N.J. — If anyone on the Flyers says they haven’t paid attention to the wild-card standings, they’d be lying to you.

“It’s really tough,” Claude Giroux said Sunday. “I’m telling you guys not to look at the standings and the playoffs and not think about it, but I start thinking about it every day. It’s about not focusing on it, just knowing what your job is. If we start thinking about playoffs is when we get off track.” 

After the Flyers returned from the bye week, their playoff picture looked very grim. They were 14 points behind the Penguins for the second wild-card spot in the East, returning for their first practice back last Sunday.

It took all of six days to cut that deficit in half to just seven points as they’re now chasing the Blue Jackets, a team in a complete free fall. The Flyers can close the gap to five points as Columbus doesn't play again until Tuesday in Colorado.

It’s difficult to not look too far ahead considering the Flyers can make up the biggest deficit in NHL history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau — a record that was previously set by the Ottawa Senators in 2015.

Remarkably, that Senators squad dug a much deeper hole, sitting 14 points out of the final playoff spot as late as Feb. 7, 2015, when they proceeded to set the hockey world on fire with goaltender Andrew Hammond, aka "The Hamburglar," leading Ottawa to a 23-4-4 finish, clinching a playoff spot on the final day of the regular season by beating the Flyers, no less. 

The Flyers started their ascension up the standings on the morning of Jan. 16, when they were trailing Pittsburgh by an insurmountable 16 points. However, interim head coach Scott Gordon believes the Flyers' mental approach started to change a week before that on the final day of that eight-game winless streak.

“I think reality stares you in the face and with every single game that you don’t win, you’re staring at a deeper hole,” Gordon said. “That was the reality, and ever since that Washington game (Jan. 8), we’ve been playing it one shift at a time.”

Still, the odds suggest completing this unbelievable turnaround is not in the Flyers' favor. Sports Club Stats, a site that uses advanced algorithms, lists the Flyers' chances of advancing to the playoffs at 2.96 percent, while the website Money Puck has the Flyers' chances at 8.01 percent.

But it’s worth looking ahead as the Flyers play eight of their next 11 games at the Wells Fargo Center, while Columbus hits the road for six of its next nine.

Perhaps, we should reevaluate this whole playoff scenario on the final day of February, when the Flyers travel to Columbus to play the Blue Jackets for the final time this season. 

So much can change in just one month.

Or from the Flyers' view of things, just one week.

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Future Flyers Report: Could prospect Connor Bunnaman be headed back to NHL soon?

Future Flyers Report: Could prospect Connor Bunnaman be headed back to NHL soon?

It’s time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers’ prospects playing in the AHL, overseas and at the junior and college levels.

• The Flyers' depth at forward is being seriously tested.

The team is without Travis Konecny (concussion, out indefinitely), Michael Raffl (broken right pinkie finger, out approximately four weeks) and Nolan Patrick (migraine disorder, out indefinitely).

Going into their three-game road trip, the Flyers have only 12 healthy forwards. In his fifth stint with the big club since the beginning of 2018-19, Mikhail Vorobyev is centering the Flyers' fourth line. The 22-year-old is in audition mode yet again with the Flyers and will have to be noticeable in limited minutes to stick.

How Vorobyev performs moving forward and the Flyers' depth concerns could open the door for Connor Bunnaman. The 21-year-old forward made the Flyers' season-opening roster. He's healthy again with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley after missing nearly a full month because of a lower-body injury.

Bunnaman brings size and positional versatility as the 6-foot-3, 214-pounder can player either center or winger. This past week, Bunnaman scored a goal and had eight shots in three games.

The Flyers may want to have him play more games with the Phantoms before calling him up. However, they may need him soon. Bunnaman has Raffl-like potential and ability.

On Sept. 26, Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher spoke highly of the 2016 fourth-round pick who scored 19 goals in 62 games with Lehigh Valley last season and two goals this preseason.

He’s been the best player in training camp. He was outstanding in the practices. ... By best player, I mean in terms of expectations. He’s come in and blown them away.

He honestly seems twice as fast this year to last year. I know we make a habit of saying players are quicker and faster but this guy is legitimately much faster than last year and he scored 19 goals last year, had a heck of a year in the American League.

There’s no reason to doubt that he can play some games for us this year.

The Phantoms play Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The Flyers play Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. Keep an eye on Bunnaman and the big club's bottom-six depth.

Quick hits

• Noah Cates is continuing to turn heads.

As a sophomore, the 2017 fifth-round pick leads defending national champion Minnesota Duluth with nine goals and is a point-per-game player (16 points in 16 contests).

The 20-year-old winger is coming off a four-point weekend (three goals, one assist) in the Bulldogs' two-game sweep of Omaha.

The Flyers couldn't stop bragging about Cates this summer and are probably bragging some more to each other this week.

"I just need to play the way I can play, especially these next couple years with my development," Cates said in June. "They're on board with that, they're happy with where I'm at, but I've got to keep making strides."

He's doing just that.

• Cam York, the Flyers' 2019 first-round pick, recorded a goal and an assist in Michigan's 4-1 win over Penn State last Friday.

The mobile and skilled puck-moving defenseman owns nine points (four goals, five assists) in 14 games as a freshman.

• Egor Zamula enjoyed a three-point weekend for the Calgary Hitmen.

The 19-year-old is third among WHL defensemen with 28 points (seven goals, 21 assists) in 28 games and has a plus-19 rating.

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Flyers' Travis Konecny out indefinitely with concussion after hit from Mark Borowiecki

Flyers' Travis Konecny out indefinitely with concussion after hit from Mark Borowiecki

VOORHEES, N.J. — Monday started with bad news for the Flyers.

Travis Konecny, their 22-year-old leading scorer, is out indefinitely with a concussion.

Konecny was leveled in open ice by Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki during the first period of the Flyers' 4-3 win Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center. He left the game and never returned.

The 2015 first-round pick is on pace to shatter his career highs. He's been arguably the Flyers’ most important piece to their turnaround through 30 games of 2019-20.

He has 28 points (11 goals, 17 assists) after having 28 points through the team's first 50 games last season. The Flyers are 2-4-4 in games that he hasn't scored.

I didn’t know a ton about him. I knew he competed like hell, fiery player," Matt Niskanen, in his first year with the Flyers, said Monday. "Playing with him, that’s reinforced that thought — hungry on the puck, good quickness, really good at creating turnovers. He’s shown a pretty good scoring touch, too, so far this year. A lot of good tools and he’s been a really important player for us.

Philippe Myers left the Flyers' skill practice Monday with back spasms. With Konecny out and Myers potentially out for Wednesday's game in Colorado against the Avalanche (9:30 p.m. ET/NBCSN), the Flyers will most likely have only 12 healthy forwards and six healthy defensemen to open a three-game road trip.

Niskanen, who has 125 career postseason games on his résumé and a Stanley Cup title, said this can be a good challenge for the Flyers. The team is 12-3-4 and tied with the Capitals for the most points in the NHL at 28 since Nov. 1 (see weekly observations).

"Both guys have played really well for us," he said. "Hopefully they come back, we've been on a pretty good run here. But it gives somebody an opportunity and it tests us a little bit — and that's OK, early in the year, you're going to have to learn to deal with things."

As of Monday morning, the Flyers did not have plans to make a call-up. Forward Chris Stewart will enter the lineup and defenseman Robert Hagg will, as well, if Myers is unable to go in Colorado.

Head coach Alain Vigneault said it's uncertain if Konecny will or can travel with the Flyers. The team flies to Denver Tuesday afternoon.

"At this time, I would say no," Vigneault said, "but you never know how things change."

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