The Flyers missed out on a few accomplishments that could have been proudly placed in their back pocket as they left the Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday night.
A victory over the Capitals would have given the Flyers their longest winning streak (five games) in the opening two months of a season since 2010-11, when the club won six straight games from Oct. 26 to Nov. 6.
A win would have also improved the Flyers’ home record to 7-1-1, which would have marked the team’s best start on home ice since 2005-06, when it went 9-1-0.
Alas, the Flyers had to settle for a 2-1 shootout loss to Washington (see observations).
That result holds far greater meaning in the grand scheme of the 2019-20 season than some historical feats among past franchise teams. This season, the Flyers are aiming for a jump back into contention and relevancy among the NHL’s better clubs.
They want to show everyone they are not the 2018-19 team that fell well short of expectations and finished with 82 points, the organization’s fewest in a full season since 2006-07. The demoralization of last season is why Alain Vigneault is in Philadelphia this season, leading the charge of making this Flyers team different.
Wednesday represented an eye-opening indicator of how things have changed.
In 2018-19, the Flyers were manhandled by the Capitals, losing all four meetings to the tune of an 18-9 margin. The Flyers allowed Washington to put up 4.50 goals per game in the matchups. As shown by the outcomes, the Capitals had their way.
“For me, it’s a new season,” Vigneault said Thursday. “I’m new here, my staff is new, players are new to us. I’m really not interested or focused on what has happened in the past.
“It was about us going out last night, going out and trying to win a game against the best team at this time in the league. I thought our start wasn’t real good because we were a step behind and a second behind in making the plays that we needed to defensively. Got better in the second, got better in the third and we made a game out of it and were able to come back and get a point."
Entering Wednesday, the Capitals were still the Capitals. They were leading the NHL with 30 points, were scoring a league-high four goals per game, were on a 12-game point streak and were 8-1-1 on the road.
They came rolling into the Wells Fargo Center and the Flyers held them to one goal through three periods and overtime. Washington had scored three or more goals in 16 straight games before the Flyers limited it to one in 65 minutes.
“Give them credit, I mean they came out hard and they proved in that first period there’s a reason why they’re first in the league right now,” Vigneault said Wednesday. “Their execution and their speed were very challenging. In the second period, we got better, made better decisions as far as giving them a little bit less space and time. We were able to make a couple plays with the puck and, in the third, we found a way to even it up.”
Over their last three games, the Flyers took five out of a possible six points and allowed only five goals against the Capitals, Bruins and Maple Leafs, who are a combined 34-12-12. Last season, the Flyers went a combined 3-7-0 against those three clubs and were outscored 43-27.
The Flyers are clearly a better team this season compared to last.
They have proven that with hard evidence.
How much better compared to the rest of the league is a question to be answered when the games become bigger and the playoff race has truly begun.
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