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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