Four and a half months without playing hockey is quite a significant stretch of time.
Even though that could be the length of a typical offseason, players still have the ability to train and stay as ready as possible for the following year. Because of the coronavirus outbreak, many were not able to even skate for the majority of the pause following the announcement of the NHL's hiatus to keep up with social distancing guidelines.
This raised a lot of concern for when play would ultimately resume — conditioning, chemistry and the ability to pick up right where things left off.
Just a few weeks into the pause, it was clear those were concerns for players as well.
“I think our team had come together in a great way and we were really playing for one another and everyone was buying into the system that A.V. put together,” Kevin Hayes said in early April. “And now there’s a possibility that we’ll never see the outcome of that … I assume that we’re going to be this good all the time, but who knows if we’re going to have this feeling again.”
Looking back to right before the pause, the Flyers were the talk of the NHL. They won nine out of their last 10 regular-season games, had the duo of Carter Hart and Brian Elliott making them a threat at home and on the road and it was clear that the team’s chemistry was unmatched.
Luckily, Hayes and the Flyers will be able to see the outcome of the work they put in, but would they be that good again? Would that feeling of being on top return once play resumed?
If you watched the Flyers’ exhibition against the Penguins or their first round-robin game against the Bruins and wondered how the team stayed hot during all that time — you must not have been paying attention.
Since the calendar year turned, this team was more than a feeling, it was more than a hot streak — it was the hottest team in the NHL.
And yes, there is a big difference.
There’s a reason the Flyers are one of the top teams in the East, there’s a reason they were able to pick up right where they left off after the hiatus. It’s time to start acknowledging the Flyers for what they are — and that’s a legitimate contender — now more than ever.
Before anyone truly knew how long the wait before playoff hockey would be tangible, if at all in 2020, the Flyers looked like a well-oiled machine.
Through the span of the last 25 games of the season, the Flyers never lost consecutively. They evaluated poor outings and came out swinging the next night. One of the best examples falls back to Feb. 6-8 when the Flyers were set to play the Devils and then Capitals.
The Devils finished their season 28-29-12 for a grand total of 68 points. They had more games played (69) than points themselves. This should have been an easy win for the Flyers, but instead, they were shut out, 5-0, on home ice. It was probably one of the ugliest losses of the season — and the players knew it.
After an embarrassing loss to the worst team in the Metropolitan Division, it was time to face the first-place Capitals. It was an opportunity to right the ship and make a statement that the previous game was not the identity of this team. And boy, it looked like they were on a mission.
Not only did they take down Washington in its home barn, but steamrolled over it. The Flyers pulled out a 7-2 victory, Claude Giroux earned his 800th career point and they were able to silence Mr. Great Eight himself, Alex Ovechkin, while he was on the hunt for his 700th career goal.
The Flyers endured absurd travel at the start of the season, the always brutal midseason West Coast road tip and injuries popping up at the most difficult of times — and all while competing in the tightest division in the league? That’s no small feat.
Because of their hard work throughout the season, Travis Konecny earned his first All-Star appearance, Alain Vigneault is a Jack Adams finalist and Sean Couturier a Selke finalist. Giroux earned quite the career milestone in points, along with Jakub Voracek, who earned his 200th career goal. Hart boasted an impressive home record of 20-3-2 and won nine of 11 starts following the All-Star break. Ivan Provorov ranked eighth overall in defenseman with average time on ice with 24:51 and played his 300th career game in just four seasons. They overcame the news in December when it was announced their teammate and friend Oskar Lindblom had been diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma. It has been a season like no other.
It’s not a fluke. The Flyers aren’t hot — they are on fire.
With the additions made in the offseason of Kevin Hayes, Matt Niskanen, Tyler Pitlick and others, the Flyers went from a roster with a few strong players to one of the most complete teams this franchise has seen in the past decade. Rookies Joel Farabee and Nicolas Aube-Kubel found their home with the big club in no time and only solidified things further.
Whether it’s the top line or the fourth line, you never know who’s going to step up and take control of that game. It’s great for the Flyers and absolutely terrifying for any opposing teams.
So, instead of looking at the opposing team and wondering what they did wrong — why not look at the Flyers and see what they’ve done right?
If you’ve paid attention from the start of the season, this should be no surprise.
The rest of the NHL better look out — this team isn’t going anywhere but up for the foreseeable future.
Sports Uncovered is on all podcast platforms: click here to subscribe now!
Subscribe and rate Flyers Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube
Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.
More Flyers analysis for 24-team tournament
• Don't expect the Flyers to be mingling with their rivals at Hotel X Toronto
• Costly injury comes at interesting time, creates more decisions for Flyers
• Feel good to be back? Despite possible injury, Flyers open tourney with a bang
• From lineups to big picture, everything Flyers fans need to know for round robin
• Can the Flyers go all the way? Our Stanley Cup predictions are here
• Potential heavyweight coaching matchup for Flyers in 1st round
• Flyers celebrate return of hockey with OT drama and positives in exhibition
• So, about those Penguins ... 1st-round matchup for Flyers?
• Picture collage and signs show love for Flyers as they eye Cup run in Toronto
• Couturier's goals in NHL bubble: Stanley Cup and an important baby book item
• One of the most intriguing (and favorable?) 1st-round matchup possibilities
• Could Flyers still share the wealth against Blue Jackets in 1st round?
• Would Islanders be Flyers' kryptonite if they meet in 1st round?
• Flyers announce playoff roster, have fans going crazy over shirts
• All types of Flyers odds (including the Cup) as NHL's 24-team tourney begins
• Scott 'couldn't be happier' with Flyers, but there's more action to be done
• Trust the captain, he'll know what to do if the Flyers face the Hurricanes
• No scrimmage for Hart but Flyers' goalie provides important sight
• Analyzing Hart's situation, another Flyer becomes a dad, more
• Lindblom has new contract, his comeback is on with Flyers
• Flyers-Canadiens is perfect on paper, but would it be a trap?
• What round-robin schedule change could mean for Flyers' strategy
• What happened? Voracek says calm down, he's fine ... now you know
• Key Flyer missing, buzzing rookie, don't forget Ghost and more
• The Flyers' lineup, practicing celebrations, no hiding these two and more
• A 'dangerous card' in the Flyers' hand, Giroux still wows and more
• Fans can purchase Flyers playoff shirts with new slogan
• What it was like to go back to work at Flyers practice in different times
• Analyzing the Flyers' schedule to open 24-team tournament
• 5 questions on Flyers' chances in 24-team tournament
• Predictions for Flyers' best Game 1 lineup to start 24-team playoff
• Who are the Flyers' top 5 reinforcements for 24-team tournament?
• Elliott has sweet new mask for Flyers' playoff run
• Flyers sign a player to extension at position of strength
• What to know as NHL, NHLPA finish big step, announce schedule
• Things get even better for Flyers in NHL's 24-team tournament
• Finding the Flyers' best 1st-round matchup for Hart
• Flyers have two top 50 pending UFAs; will they re-sign them?
• Everything Flyers fans need to know for NHL's 24-team tournament
• Hockey insider details Flyers’ hotel
• Bettman gives Gritty the hard truth for why he can't be in Toronto bubble
• Key dates, protocols announced as Flyers set to return