The push for the postseason is underway
This is where the season truly begins.
Although the NHL year officially began back in October, this is the time of the year when every point begins to matter a little bit more than it used to.
As any hockey fan will tell you, the 82-game NHL season is more marathon than sprint.
However, with the final full month of the regular season finally here, that analogy no longer applies; it is now a mad dash to the finish line.
For the Philadelphia Flyers, the month of March could prove to be the moment in time that truly decides their fate. Considering that there will be a game practically every other night for the rest of the season, it’s understandable why.
As of Thursday night, the team was sitting in fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings with a total of 77 points. They trail the fourth place Pittsburgh Penguins by two points and have a one point lead over the Ottawa Senators who are in sixth place (the Senators have played two more games than the Flyers).
The difference between fourth and seventh place in the conference is a matter of only four points.
With that being said, any rough period in March could result in a drastic change in the playoff picture.
This is certainly an issue given the team’s recent trend of allowing their opponents to gain early leads.
In total, the Flyers have allowed the opposing team to score the first goal of the game in nine consecutive contests.
“We want to win big games, we can’t be down all the time,” Kimmo Timonen said on Thursday night. “We just need the better starts, pretty much for every period. We have to fix that.”
The team has also struggled to give a complete effort in all phases of the game.
Sometimes the offense will fail to show up, while other times the defense has a rough night. Obviously, the goaltenders have had their fair share of issues.
That is going to have to change if they plan on putting together a deep run.
“There are things I think we can do better defensively and then in some other games I think there are things we can do better offensively,” head coach Peter Laviolette said on Thursday night. “It’s continually a work in progress, trying to hit your stride down the stretch here as you enter the playoffs.”
In addition, the team is going to have to overcome the issue of winning games at home.
The Flyers are currently 15-10-5 at Wells Fargo Center this season. That home record is the fifth worst of any team in the NHL.
Of the 16 games the team plays in March, 10 will take place on home ice.
The Flyers are going to need to improve that number if they hope to put themselves in a favorable position come playoff time.
Given that 12 of the 16 games will be against teams fighting for a playoff spot, the road will not be easy.
Ultimately, the team is going to have to start putting together complete performances. Luckily, they have shown glimpses of that in their most recent games.
After being shutout by the San Jose Sharks, the Flyers started the month off on a good note by dominating the New York Islanders, 6-3 on Thursday night.
Their offense looked to be back on course and with the six-spot they put up on the Isles, the team now leads the entire league in scoring with 209 ‘goals for’.
In addition, goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov has looked solid in his most recent outings and has cut down on the ‘soft’ goals that plagued him earlier in the year.
A big month from him could go a long way.
This is it folks, the stretch run to the postseason has already begun. The Flyers now have 19 games remaining before the most exciting time of the year will finally be here.
Make sure to sit down, strap-in and enjoy the ride.
And be sure not to give the bandwagon fans too much trouble for joining the party a little late.
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