Things are beginning to fall into place for the Philadelphia Flyers and it couldn’t have happened at a better time. With just 10 games remaining on the regular season schedule, the orange and black are making a statement that they can compete with the best teams in the Eastern Conference, as was evident this past Sunday when Philadelphia beat their cross-state rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 in an overtime thriller.
Coming into the matchup, Pittsburgh was the hottest team in the league, riding an 11-game winning streak thanks in part to the return of their captain Sidney Crosby. The Penguins were well on their way to earning another victory leading 2-0 after two periods but then the Flyers awoke, like a sleeping giant. It was familiar territory for the Flyers who found themselves in the same predicament the day before in Boston before mounting a comeback and forcing the Bruins to win in a shootout. The Flyers pulled off the same feat again, forcing overtime but the ending this time around favored the Flyers.
With 0.9 seconds before facing another shootout, Scott Hartnell scored his second goal of the contest to give his team the victory, helping the Flyers pull within two points of the fourth-place Penguins and three of the conference-leading New York Rangers. It was another big victory against one of the Eastern Conference’s elite teams.
The Penguins were another team to fall victim to the surging Flyers who have not only won 8 of their last 10 games but are now beginning to get healthy. Of those eight wins, five have come against playoff teams – Washington, Detroit, Florida, New Jersey and Pittsburgh. But there is still one team that haunts the Flyers’ dreams of becoming the Eastern Conference’s representative in the finals – the New York Rangers.
The two teams have squared off five times this season and the Rangers have won each game and have even embarrassed the Flyers twice. If there is any hope of the Flyers going deep in the playoffs, it is almost certain they’ll have to go through the Broadway Blueshirts. But there is still hope. The two teams will meet one last time at the Wells Fargo Center in two weeks and it could prove to be one of the most important games of the season for both clubs. For the Flyers, it’s a chance to build confidence with the playoffs starting just one week after.
It is safe to say that the Flyers are playing what very well might be their best hockey of the season, especially given the fact that the goaltending demons seem to have been exorcised. Ilya Bryzgalov is fresh off his record setting weekend, in which he broke the Flyers’ 13-year-old franchise record for longest scoreless streak that was set by John Vanbiesbrouck at 227:40. It came just days after being named the NHL’s number one star for the week of March 5.
It is uncertain what seed the Flyers will finish with and what team they will play in the first round but if they continue to beat the teams they should and compete with the elite it’s safe to say Philadelphia can compete with any of the other seven seeds.