If you’ve driven from the Sports Complex to Center City up Broad Street, then you have a pretty good indication of what the Flyers' schedule has been like over the past month.
Start, stop, start, stop, start and then stop again.
I’m not exactly sure why the traffic signals can’t be synchronized at least for a good half mile stretch, but every time the Flyers have a good pace to their schedule, they’re forced to pump the brakes.
First came the league-wide Christmas break when the Flyers had four days between games. Then came the Flyers' five-day bye week and now a brief three-day holiday for the All-Star Game.
“It’s crazy, three breaks in one month, I don’t think I’ve had it before,” Jake Voracek said. “Personally, I like to keep going. On the other hand, if I know I’m going to have that bye week or if I’m going to have that All-Star break to get some rest, it’s going to help. I’m playing around 20 minutes a night. That rest is awesome.”
Head coach Dave Hakstol approaches each break a little differently depending on the workload leading up to that break and where they are on the schedule.
“Everyone’s a little bit different,” Hakstol said. “Each one of the breaks, you’re in a different spot when you come into the break or come out of that break. I think right now for our team, it’ll be a good time for a break. It’s a short break.”
For most teams, you’ll typically find a heavy workload of games that precede the break. Just before the Christmas break, the Flyers endured a stretch of seven games in twelve days. They reeled off three straight wins before dropping three of their next four, the first sign of physical and mental fatigue setting in. Thursday’s 5-1 to the Lightning wrapped up a stretch of six games in ten days and Hakstol believes this break comes as a bit of relief.
“I’ve probably been split down the middle on the last couple, to be honest with you," Hakstol said. "They are what they are. You can make a positive spin or you can make a negative spin. Honestly, I think at this point in time we’ve played a lot of hockey. I think you saw a little bit of that in our game the other night. Mentally and physically, we looked like we had some fatigue to our game I thought the other night in Detroit.”
Interestingly, in the first 49 games of the season, the Flyers have had seven extended periods between games — stretches where they’ve had at least three full days off in between games. In that first game back the Flyers are 4-3-0, ranging from an 8-2 blowout victory over the Washington Capitals in the home opener to the last time they were shutout, 3-0, at home to the Bruins.
In other words, the Flyers haven’t responded one way or the other coming out of a significant break in action.
Once the league reconvenes following the All-Star Break, that will all change.
From here on out it’s a sprint to the finish. A 31-team drag race, foot to the pedal, with no opportunity to decelerate. 33 games over the final 67 days of the regular season, and for the Flyers, not a single three-day break.
“We’re in the fight and it’s going to be a dogfight now coming back as soon as we come back off the break,” Hakstol said after Thursday’s game. “The schedule doesn’t lighten, but it doesn’t really lighten up for anybody. We got to keep finding ways to get points and keep finding ways to get a little bit better.”
“Every team in our division is capable of making a push,” Travis Konecny said. “It’s just going to come down to whatever team sticks with it, whatever team stays positive, grinds the longest, just battles it out.”