New linemates have a huge road trip
Throughout October and November, all the Flyers could do was gaze above at the standings to see everyone ahead of them.
They were dead last in the Metropolitan Division (eighth) from season’s start until Nov. 9 for all but one day.
At no point were they higher than 15th overall in the Eastern Conference.
The chase for respectability under coach Craig Berube turned into the chase for a playoff spot and third place once the team started to actually win some games in December.
When that happened, the Flyers were looking up at Carolina or the Rangers or Washington.
They actually had something tangible to shoot for -- a playoff spot.
Things have changed.
On Dec. 19, the Flyers finally reached third in the division standings -- a playoff spot.
Saturday’s win at Phoenix pushed them to No. 2 in the Metro with 46 points.
So here’s the question: Should the Flyers now have the attitude, 'Let’s see if we can make a run at Pittsburgh,' or should they scale their expectations back to reality and focus solely on trying to hold onto second place in the second half of the season?
After all, the Penguins have a 17-point bulge on the division. That’s pretty much insurmountable, even for a Flyers team that has seven wins in its last nine games.
“I don’t think that is in anybody’s head,” Scott Hartnell said. “We want to finish with as many points as possible.
“[Pittsburgh] is playing great hockey, winning lots of games, they might be tough to catch. We need to worry about ourselves and making these games count. Make the division games count.
“We’ve been on a great run. It’s nice to pass teams and catch up to teams to get in the playoffs. Obviously, you are not going to stop till you’re on top of the conference.”
Tonight, the Flyers are in New Jersey, where the Devils are just four points behind them.
“The confidence we have in this room, if we bring it against New Jersey, we should be all right,” Jakub Voracek said.
What about the confidence to make a run at the Penguins?
“It’s very hard to say,” Voracek replied. “We’re one game above the middle of the season. Obviously, we know they are playing pretty well with 60 points (63) or something. Just go game by game like we have last couple of weeks and see where it takes us.
“The way we have played the last month and half or two months, I don’t know if we can make a push on Pittsburgh, but obviously, we can still be very successful.
“There are a lot of teams around us. Jersey, the Rangers are right there. We have to make sure and focus on every game. When you look at the standings and schedule, every game is a huge game for us. We have to make sure to leave everything out there every game.”
Berube doesn’t discuss the standings with his players. If you win, it takes care of itself, he says.
“I don’t talk about it,” he said. “You got to keep winning. Win your games. It’s tight. You can’t look at it that way [catching them].
“All these teams, they are right on your tail. Nobody is out of it. Keep plugging along. We got Jersey and have to keep winning games.”
After tonight, the Flyers return home for the back end of their back-to-back against Montreal, then have another back-to-back over the weekend with a Saturday afternoon game at home against Tampa Bay, then Sunday night at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers.