Flyers

Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. — Thirty-two.

That’s how many regular-season games remain for the Flyers.

After the All-Star break last season, the Flyers had 35 games left and were five points behind Pittsburgh in the wild-card hunt.

A year later at this same juncture, they hold the second wild-card spot, which puts them in much better shape this winter.

What got them into the playoffs last season was some outstanding individual efforts during the stretch run from goalies Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth, before getting injured, plus Shayne Gostisbehere.

Hakstol’s team went 20-9-6 to clinch a playoff berth on the next-to-last day of the regular season. The Flyers vaulted from the 13th seed in the Eastern Conference to the seventh at the end.

It remains to be seen which players will take their games to the next level this time around.

Yet to a man, the Flyers are hoping they won’t have to expend that same kind of energy and desperation this time because it left them gassed.

“It’s kind of weird,” Brayden Schenn said after Monday's practice at Skate Zone. “It seems like the season flew by. Only [32] games left. This is the time of year you want to be playing and making a push.

“Look how many teams are fighting for those two wild-card spots. It’s going to be a lot of fun hockey. It’s going to be a grind, a push, and the guys are looking forward to it.”

 

Hakstol said his focus is on the present, not the future. 

“We’re not looking at 32 games,” he said. “We’re looking at much shorter segments than that. That’s what we’ll focus on.”

All the Flyers have to do is maintain consistent play and they’re in. Only six points separate five teams fighting for a wild-card spot in the East. The Maple Leafs and the Islanders each have three games in hand, which the Flyers can't get back. 

“Past couple years, we tried to make a push from the outside looking in,” Schenn said. “Now we’re holding our spot. We went through a tough stretch there, then got our game back. We hope it continues.”

Obviously, the three-day All-Star break causes havoc on momentum but that’s as much mental as it is physical.

“Just play tight and don’t panic,” offered Jakub Voracek, who leads the Flyers in scoring with 44 points. “No matter what the score is going to be within the game, just stick with it. Know that if we’re down a couple goals, we can come back in the third.

“If we’re up, we can hold onto it. That’s what we did last year and how we made the playoffs. We’re in a little better shape now than last year."

This time, others are chasing them.

“We hold our destiny in our own hands and that’s exactly what we wanted,” Hakstol said. “It’s going to be a battle all the way down to the final buzzer in the last game of the year.

“Anyone who thought any different would be a little misguided. We’re right there in the hunt.”