The Flyers might actually be decent

The Flyers might actually be decent

Overcoming nine losses in 12 games to start the season, ridiculous injuries and the albatross that is Andrej Meszaros’ part time work on defense, the Flyers have shown something that seemed utterly unbelievable in October:

They might actually be a somewhat decent team.

Since flopping out of the gate and firing coach Peter Laviolette, the Flyers have slowly developed into a formidable foe in the Eastern Conference. And while being OK in the Metropolitan Division isn’t anything to be proud of, the Flyers’ recent 3-1-0 road trip against the Western Conference shows they have the ability to win in less than stellar circumstances.

Beginning the season with a 3-9-0 record, the Flyers were closer to a top-5 draft pick than a playoff spot. Since then, the team has gone 17-8-4 (7-2-1 in their last 10) and wiggled into playoff position, two points behind the Washington Capitals for second in the Metro.

And this isn’t a mirage, random spike in success or a feast on bad teams -- this is a two-month upswing against fairly decent competition. Over their last 29 games, the Flyers’ average competition managed a 19-17-4 record and 42 points, which would put them somewhere between the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators, two fringe playoff teams.

The major reason for the Flyers’ winning resurgence has been individual players waking up from their statistical slumbers in the last 25 games. In particular, Flyers center and offensive catalyst Claude Giroux has almost single-handedly brought the club’s offense up the NHL rankings with an insane burst.

Pointless through the first five games of the season, Giroux was without a goal for the opening 15 games. But once he got his first on Nov. 9 against the Edmonton Oilers, the rest of the team followed, and the club began to compete.

In the 25 games after scoring his first, Giroux has been all-world, posting 29 points (10g, 19a). He’s had nine multi-point games and gone scoreless just seven times during that span. He is currently scoring at a near 100-point pace since busting his slump.

It’s that production, and some fortunate line chemistry, that has unlocked the Flyers’ attack and turned them from a lottery team to a playoff contender.

Wayne Simmonds, once believed to be trade bait, has caught fire, scoring 22 points in his last 25 games. With a jumping deflection goal against the Avalanche on Thursday, Simmonds took the Flyers’ goal-scoring lead with 13 -- a remarkable feat considering he had just one tally through his first 18 games.

Jake Voracek also joined the production game. Like Simmonds, Voracek has added 22 points in his last 25 games. He had just five through his opening 16.

Scoring just two points in his first 12 games of the year, even Scott Hartnell has gotten into the act. Hartnell has 18 points in his last 25 games, despite being shifted all over the lineup.

But a surge in offense means nothing if the Flyers can't defend. That's where Steve Mason comes in. A guy everyone expected to fall flat on his face, Mason has handed the Flyers a .930 save percentage or above in 10 of his last 19 games.

And in using that combination, the Flyers have pushed past the .500 record mark and transformed from a poor team to a surprisingly decent one.

Former Phillies pitcher, Hall of Famer Jim Bunning dies at 85

Former Phillies pitcher, Hall of Famer Jim Bunning dies at 85

LOUISVILLE, Ky.-- Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning, who pitched six seasons with the Phillies and went on to serve in Congress, has died. He was 85.

Bunning's death was confirmed by Jon Deuser, who served as chief of staff when Bunning was in the Senate. Deuser said he was notified about the death by Bunning's family.

Bunning won 224 games in a 17-year major-league career and pitched the first perfect game in modern National League history. It came with the Phillies on June 21, 1964.

He became the first pitcher after 1900 to throw no-hitters in both the American and National Leagues.

He belonged to a rare group of major league pitchers to throw a perfect game in the modern era.

A Kentucky Republican, he was the only member of the Baseball Hall of Fame to serve in Congress. He served in both the House and Senate.

Today's Lineup: Cesar Hernandez (groin) returns

Today's Lineup: Cesar Hernandez (groin) returns

Cesar Hernandez returns to the Phillies' punchless lineup on Saturday afternoon against the Reds (4 p.m./TCN).

Hernandez, who missed Friday night's 5-2 loss with a groin injury, is back at second base and leading off. Hernandez has led off in all 44 games he's started this season. The fifth-year pro has struggled after getting off to a torrid start. He's hitting just .185 (10 for 54) over his last 14 games.

After bouncing around the lineup, centerfielder Odubel Herrera returns to his customary spot in the two-hole. Herrera's season is a microcosm of the Phils' woeful offense. An All-Star in 2016, Herrera is hitting just .227 this season. Manager Pete Mackanin hopes the Venezuelan will hit his way out of it soon (see story).

Here is the rest of today's lineup:
1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Odubel Herrera, CF
3. Aaron Altherr, LF
4. Tommy Joseph, 1B
5. Michael Saunders, RF
6. Maikel Franco, 3B
7. Cameron Rupp, C
8. Freddy Galvis, SS
9. Jerad Eickhoff, P