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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2019-20 Flyers season grades: Ivan Provorov

2019-20 Flyers season grades: Ivan Provorov

The 2019-20 NHL regular season has concluded and the next time the puck drops will officially kick off the race to the Stanley Cup. The Flyers are hungry and ready to battle it out, but that is thanks to the hard work from back in October. 

In an End to End series, NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Brooke Destra, Joe Fordyce and Jordan Hall will be grading players based on individual performances. 

Today we will be looking at Ivan Provorov. 

Destra

From the minute his name was announced in the 2015 NHL draft and Provorov was on his way to the Flyers, there was a strong sense of hope for the future of the team’s blue line. That feeling has only continued to grow since — with its current peak being the 2019-20 season. 

A big part of this was thanks to the acquisition of seasoned defenseman Matt Niskanen. He not only gave Provorov the ability to be a force during every one of their shifts, but was also a true veteran leader for the 23-year-old. In prior seasons, Provorov displayed his strength and the potential of what he could become in years to follow — this is the year that narrative changed. What a treat it has been to watch someone so young, with the talent and discipline he has, put his name on the map. 

There’s no denying that Provorov is a workhorse — he led the team in time on ice with 24:51, led defensemen in points with 36 (13 goals, 23 assists). This season he also reached career milestones of 100 points and 300 games played. By the looks of the player he’s quickly becoming, it’s safe to say this is just the beginning. 

A+ for the future (and the now) of the Flyers’ blue line. 

Fordyce 

The addition of Niskanen has done wonders for Provorov’s game and as a result, this year we’ve seen him be more of a force on both ends of the ice. Much of that is because of Niskanen’s positionally sound play that allows Provorov to freelance from the opposite point. Another key to Provorov’s season was his health. Last season, Provorov was returning from an injury suffered in the previous season’s playoffs and it showed; he looked like a totally different player.

While Provorov still has some work to do, as most players do, he’s taken a huge step this season. Flyers Postgame Live analyst Al Morganti has often referred to Provorov as the “adult in the room” despite his young age. Last season was a departure from that sort of reputation for Provorov. This season though, Provorov returned to that form and clearly will be a mainstay on the Flyers' blue line for the long-term future. 

An A for Provorov.

Hall

Provorov, the team's Sean Couturier on the blue line, once again didn't miss a contest (he has suited up in 315 straight since the start of his career), played the league's eighth-most minutes per game at 24:51, led all NHL defensemen in power play goals with seven, and led Flyers blueliners in goals (13), points (36), blocked shots (111), shorthanded ice time (189:30) and man advantage ice time (210:05).

The winner of the 2019-20 Barry Ashbee Trophy has become a bona-fide do-it-all defenseman for the Flyers at 23 years old.

A- for Provorov's impressive rebound in Year 1 of the 2015 first-round pick's new contract.

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2019-20 Flyers season grades: Tyler Pitlick

2019-20 Flyers season grades: Tyler Pitlick

The 2019-20 NHL regular season has concluded and the next time the puck drops will officially kick off the race to the Stanley Cup. The Flyers are hungry and ready to battle it out, but that is thanks to the hard work from back in October.

In an End to End series, NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Brooke Destra, Joe Fordyce and Jordan Hall will be grading players based on individual performances. 

Today we will be looking at Tyler Pitlick. 

Destra

After earning his first point with the Flyers in the opening game of the season, it took a little bit of time before Pitlick found a rhythm with his new team. Little did anyone know in those opening weeks, that he would soon become a huge asset to the bottom six on the roster. 

Much like the Radko Gudas for Matt Niskanen trade in the offseason, trading Ryan Hartman for Pitlick didn’t seem too significant at the time and created more questions than answers. It turns out, Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher knew exactly what he was doing. While there were a handful of rookies like Joel Farabee and Nicolas Aube-Kubel adjusting to the pros, Pitlick added a level of solidification to the bottom lines. He, alongside players like Scott Laughton and Michael Raffl — who are well-known for their steady performance — made each of the Flyers’ four lines weapons. 

Through 63 contests, Pitlick tallied 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) and would be a valuable asset moving forward with the Flyers. 

Let’s give Pitlick a B for an overall solid season. 

Fordyce 

Early in the season, you didn’t notice Pitlick much and while sometimes for a player like Pitlick not hearing his name is a good thing (as it means he’s doing his job), that was not the case for Pitlick in the early going as he struggled. As the season wore on though, Pitlick carved out a nice role for himself with the team and began to flourish.

A simple look at his game log in 2019 shows that Pitlick was a minus player 10 times, but after the calendar changed to 2020, Pitlick had a minus rating only three times. In addition, later in the season Pitlick developed more of an offensive game, chipping in with goals and assists from time to time. After struggling at the start, Pitlick overall turned into a reliable veteran down the stretch. 

He gets a B from me.

Hall

When the Flyers acquired Pitlick last summer, he explained his game:

"I'm a physical, north-skating player. I can score and make plays when I get the chance. I'm going to be physical and I'm going to create energy and compete as hard as I can."

Pitlick was a man of his word. He provided exactly that to the Flyers in the 2019-20 regular season. It's fair to say among the Flyers' other offseason acquisitions — Kevin Hayes, Niskanen and Justin Braun — Pitlick came with the least hype, but he became a pleasant surprise as a consistently effective bottom-six forward.

With each game, you never questioned Pitlick's effort because he was always noticeable by playing his active, north-south style. When you're constantly noticeable in limited minutes, you're doing something right.

Pitlick joined the club with an attractive $1 million cap hit and a contract set to expire this offseason. He then played his way into consideration to be re-signed by the Flyers. Good for him.

A well-earned B+ for Pitlick.

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