The Philadelphia Flyers would like to forget the past week. The best way to do that may be to just get away from hockey, not focus on the three losses suffered over the past seven days and move on. Luckily for the team, it will have that opportunity with a bye week that started Monday.
Initiated this season, each NHL team will have a break of at least four days with no games, no practices and no hockey. For the Flyers, their break couldn’t have come at a better time.
Flyers In 2017
It’s safe to say that the new year has not been kind to Philadelphia. In eight games, the team has two wins and has collected just six out of a possible 16 points. Meanwhile, the Flyers’ grasp on the standings has slipped.
Comfortably in the second Wild Card spot to start January, the Flyers are now just a single point ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes for the last playoff spot. The ‘Canes have three games in hand and three other teams are within five points of the free-falling Flyers.
Unsurprisingly almost every facet of the Flyers’ game is underwhelming. The club has scored 18 goals and let up 31 over the past eight contests in front of once-again shaky goaltending.
Steve Mason once seemed to have a handle on the net, but has fallen off a cliff since the 10-game winning streak. Behind him, Michal Neuvirth hasn’t gotten in enough games to get in a rhythm, but the Flyers have little time to experiment.
Unfortunately, it seems that coach Dave Hakstol is willing to do that though. In an effort to get his team going, he’s frequently scratched impact players like Shayne Gostisbehere and Travis Konecny while allowing possession liabilities such as Andrew MacDonald play every game (and on the top pairing).
Although a trade to wake a team up is a popular one across sports, it’s not one that general manager Ron Hextall is considering, as he told Dave Isaac:
The worst thing you can do is overreact when things aren’t going right and that’s not gonna happen, but if we can find a way to make ourselves better we will.”
– Ron Hextall, Courier Post Online
The Bye Week and Beyond
It will be up to the Flyers’ players on the roster to change things around, barring any call-ups. The bye week should work well for that.
The Flyers started their bye after their 46th game, or right after the halfway point of their season. Even though a season can be broken up into halves, there’s typically not a specific point where the second half starts. For Philly, this is the marker.
The players can put behind the failings of the first 46 games, focus on the positives and work toward becoming better. The break also gives the team the chance to go on a vacation or spend time with the family—like an offseason— to get their minds off the game.
Of course, it’s nowhere near as long as the summer offseason and practices aren’t allowed, so players won’t be able to work on their games, but it’s more than what’s offered during a regular year.
That’s a downer for the offense, which needs to start clicking more and it’s unlikely Hakstol will start making more popular lineup changes, but the Flyers need a turnaround quick.
When the team returns to action Saturday, it will face a Metropolitan opponent in the New Jersey Devils. The next two tilts will feature Metropolitan rivals before the Toronto Maple Leafs, who could challenge the Flyers for a playoff spot.
Philadelphia will see fewer Eastern Conference foes in February, but in March, 13 of the Flyers’ 15 games are against teams from the East. Heading into April and the end of the regular season, all six of the team’s last games are against Metropolitan opponents.
If there was ever a time a team needed to recharge for a playoff run, it’s now for the Flyers. Playoff runs are always draining, but this one has the makings to pass exhaustion.
There are no guarantees that the bye week will be enough to get the Flyers back on track, but it has all the tools to do it for the team, and it’s coming at the right time.