The Rangers resumed ownership of the Flyers on Tuesday night,
their gritty 4-2 victory launching a brand new winning streak amid a season of
reruns. Philadelphia snapping an eight-game losing streak to New York back in
January looks like a blip on the radar now, a fluke if you will. Orange &
Black is just one for their last 11 versus the Rags.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Tuesday’s loss dropped the
Philadelphia hockey club back below .500. It prevented the Flyers from finally “stringing
together” a few wins for the first time all year. It reinforced notions that this
team is heading no place in particular very quickly in 2013.
We’ve reached the midway point, and the Bullies haven’t been
able to shake that narrative yet, although it’s not entirely fair. You can
easily explain away how they can be 11-12-1 through 24 games. The Flyers got a
bad jump out of the gate by beginning the season 2-6, and you’re probably tired
of hearing it, but opening the schedule with 19 tilts in 34 days made it
difficult to generate any sort of momentum.
Another way of looking at this picture is the Flyers have
gone 9-6-1 since their horrendous start, and they’re 3-2 since the brutal portion
of their slate has ended. If they continue at either pace, they are almost a
lock to reach the postseason.
Their record isn’t even the most concerning aspect anymore, rather
it’s been their inability to beat certain opponents. It’s nice any time a Philly
team can kick Pittsburgh’s ass with regularity, but that’s almost meaningless
when New York and New Jersey have their number.
The Flyers can’t win like that, not a Stanley Cup, not very
easily anyway. Maybe they’ll get lucky, and somebody else will take care of the
Rangers and Devils come playoff time – hey, there’s a one in four chance they
wouldn’t see either team in the first round, right?
Only that strategy is kind of like walking on to a minefield
without a map or any idea where you’re going or what you might step on.
You can’t assume the Flyers won’t run into either one of last season’s Eastern
Conference finalists once the tournament rolls around. That's not even a strategy.
It might be too soon to count them out anyway. Philadelphia’s
offense is climbing to its rightful permanent home in the NHL’s top 10, and
the power play is becoming flat-out scary, currently sixth-best in the
league. And while Ilya Bryzgalov has faltered a bit of late, he’s shown the
tendency to get white hot for stretches, so much so that he could unexpectedly
carry the Flyers for a month.
All they need it seems is to go on such a run. It can
happen. You could see traces of it building up against Washington and Ottawa before
New York got a hold of them on Tuesday night, or against the Islanders and Pens
a couple weeks back before they slipped up against Florida Panthers.
Until the Flyers can defend themselves against the likes of
New York and New Jersey though, it’s all proverbial wheel-spinning. In any
league, you gotta defeat the good teams to be the good teams. So far, Philly
has come up well short in that regard, even if it’s not too late to ascend to that level quite yet.
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