Ottawa Senators

Flyers 3, Senators 2: Flyers take care of business, move even closer to a playoff spot

Flyers 3, Senators 2: Flyers take care of business, move even closer to a playoff spot

BOX SCORE

No Jakub Voracek, no problem.

Well, against the Senators at least.

In the first game of Voracek's questionable two-game suspension (see story), the Flyers took care of the NHL's bottom feeders with a 3-2 win Monday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

By doing so, the Flyers (34-27-8) crept to within three points of the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot as the Blue Jackets lost to the Islanders, 2-0.

Both the Blue Jackets and Canadiens have 79 points compared to the Flyers' 76. Columbus and Montreal play Tuesday, while the Flyers are idle until Thursday.

The Flyers' torrid push has not slowed down. Since Jan. 14, the Flyers are 18-4-2 with 38 points, tied for most in the NHL alongside the Lightning.

The Senators (23-41-6), on the other hand, have lost 11 of their last 12 games and are 9-25-2 on the road.

• One huge reason for the Flyers' run since mid-January has been Travis Konecny looking like the player he was from last season, pushing the puck up ice, making plays and finding the back of the net.

He celebrated his 22nd birthday Monday by dishing a cross-ice feed to Scott Laughton for a 3-1 cushion at the end of the second period.

Konecny has scored 20 points (11 goals, nine assists) in his last 22 games after scoring just five points over his previous 20 games, when the Flyers were really struggling.

• After a relatively quiet, pass-happy first period for the Flyers, Shayne Gostisbehere got things going early in the middle stanza with his big-time shot.

From just outside the circle, Gostisbehere blasted one so lethally, the puck pinballed off Sean Couturier and then Oskar Lindblom for the 1-1 equalizer.

Gostisbehere has been much more visible offensively over his past two games with three assists, while the Flyers are 14-5-3 when he registers a point.

• Despite Carter Hart being healthy, interim head coach Scott Gordon decided to go right back to Brian Elliott, who rewarded him with 20 saves and the victory.

Elliott is 5-1-1 in his last seven starts and he'll be splitting the Flyers' upcoming back-to-back with Hart.

• As a bottom-six guy, Michael Raffl sees his minutes go up and down but he's always solid. In his 400th career game as a Flyer, Raffl put up a two-point game and had a nice defensive play turn into a goal.

Since Feb. 9, the 30-year-old has nine points and a plus-7 rating in 15 games — ideal production for a player in his role.

His steadiness likely played a factor into general manager Chuck Fletcher deciding to not trade the pending unrestricted free agent at the Feb. 25 deadline.

• Laughton plays his butt off every single game. Even after falling hard on his back from a hit, he was right back up defending rookie Philippe Myers in a scrum in front of Elliott after the whistle blew.

His goal also set a new career high of 11.

• The Flyers host the defending champion Capitals Thursday (7 p.m./NBCSP), which starts a stretch of seven games in 11 days, six of which are against teams currently holding a playoff spot.

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Flyers vs. Senators: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

Flyers vs. Senators: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

VOORHEES, N.J. — Carter Hart is back … sort of.

As the Flyers (33-27-8) host the Senators (23-40-6) Monday night, Hart will dress for the first time since Feb. 21 but back up Brian Elliott.

For more on that decision, let's get into the essentials:

When: 7 p.m. ET with Flyers Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Wells Fargo Center
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

• On paper, Monday looked like an ideal time to give Hart his first action since returning from an ankle injury. The Flyers are at home against the NHL's worst team, making for an opportunistic game to get the 20-year-old back in the swing of things.

However, with the Flyers five points out of a playoff spot with 14 games to go, interim head coach Scott Gordon is looking at every team as the same.

The 33-year-old Elliott has had only one clunker while playing in place of the injured Hart, which went into Gordon's decision.

He's gone 4-1-1 in his last six games and right now, he's playing well, so I can't just take him out of the lineup because it's a perceived lesser opponent, because I don't feel that way. 

Like I said to the players, on a nightly basis, we're playing Columbus and Montreal, every single night. So we've got to treat it like that. Right now, Brian has played well and he deserves to be in. He played well on Saturday and there's no reason not to play him.

Gordon said Hart will play one of the two games in the Flyers' upcoming back-to-back against the Capitals at home Thursday and vs. the Maple Leafs on the road Friday. Either of those games pose a much stiffer challenge than Monday's contest.

"I'm not looking at it as a lesser opponent and that's what I told our guys," Gordon said.

• For your nightly scoreboard watching: the Blue Jackets visit the Islanders Monday and the Hurricanes visit the Avalanche, while the Canadiens don't play until Tuesday when they host the Red Wings.

Carolina currently holds the Eastern Conference's first wild-card position with 81 points and Columbus contains the second at 79 points, ahead of Montreal (79 points) and the Flyers (74 points).

The Blue Jackets' next five games are at the Islanders, vs. the Bruins, vs. the Hurricanes, at the Bruins and at the Flames — all top-11 clubs.

Entering Monday, Hockey-Reference.com had the Flyers with a 9.0 percent chance to make the postseason, while SportsClubStats.com gave them a 5.4 percent chance.

• Ottawa was a big-time seller at the Feb. 25 trade deadline and has lost 10 of its last 11 games (1-9-1), a stretch in which it has been outscored 46-24.

The Senators have the NHL's fewest points (52), second-worst goal differential (minus-55) and are 9-24-2 on the road.

• Without Jakub Voracek (two-game suspension), the Flyers will roll with seven defensemen and 11 forwards.

Projected lineup

Forwards
James van Riemsdyk-Nolan Patrick-Claude Giroux
Oskar Lindblom-Sean Couturier-Travis Konecny
Michael Raffl-Scott Laughton-Ryan Hartman
Phil Varone-Corban Knight

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Travis Sanheim
Shayne Gostisbehere-Philippe Myers
Robert Hagg-Radko Gudas
Andrew MacDonald

Goalies
Brian Elliott
Carter Hart

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Flyers can look at 2014-15 Senators as inspiration for historic run

Flyers can look at 2014-15 Senators as inspiration for historic run

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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