The Flyers playoff hopes were in flux throughout the night on Thursday. The back-and-forth affair against the Carolina Hurricanes was a microcosm of the season as the Flyers trailed for much of the first two periods, tied the game through two, traded goals in the third before finally pulling out the win with a late goal by Jake Voracek.
Ultimately, the win was what the Flyers needed, no matter how it came. It wasn't a pretty win by any stretch, but it got the Flyers to the brink of claiming the coveted final playoff spot.
Let's hit it with our Postgame Review.
- Giroux Has Hart - When Claude Giroux scored the go-ahead goal midway through the third period, it was from a spot where he has tallied many times before this season. But at this stage of the season, when you are playing as determined and confident as Giroux is, you can't miss from there.
He sure didn't.
Giroux has just continued to pile up numbers and be a leader on the ice for his team. At the beginning of the night, he was honored with the Bobby Clarke Trophy as the Team MVP. He showed why in the 60 minutes that followed.
If Giroux doesn't get any consideration for the Hart Trophy, chances are he'll be fine with it. But man, he should be a finalist if the Flyers can finish this thing off on Saturday. He is without question a primary reason they are in this position in the first place.
- A Better Start - It didn't show on the scoreboard, as the Flyers trailed 2-1 after 20 minutes, but the Flyers got the better start they were looking for and generated plenty of scoring chances.
The Flyers peppered Scott Darling with shots early in the game, outshooting Carolina, 15-7, in the first period. In the second, Carolina started to match the level of energy the Flyers had and pushed the play a bit before the Flyers just took over. The Flyers had the final seven shots of the second period and scored the tying goal to go into a crucial third period at 2-2.
After the way the previous game started, this was certainly an improvement. It may be a bit of a blessing that Florida didn't help the Flyers clinch a playoff spot on Thursday night. It forces the Flyers to keep their foot on the gas and bring it in all 82 games this season.
Obviously, the reason Game 82 means everything to the Flyers playoff hopes is because they didn't do that in several games earlier in the season. But it certainly keeps you honest and proves the point of how critical every game and every period is to a season.
- Moose Returns - The Flyers got Brian Elliott back in goal and it went, well, just okay.
Elliott made a few saves that were big for his team, especially at times when they were needed, but he also let in some soft goals.
Carolina's first goal was a decent shot by Klas Dahlbeck and a screen by Travis Sanheim disrupting Elliott. While he probably should have made the save, Elliott had seen just three shots to that point.
The second goal for the Hurricanes was a bank shot from behind the net. Elliott was down and gave up some positioning there, even with the play happening behind him.
The third goal, well, that was Michael Leighton all over again. There wasn't much room for Jordan Staal to slip that shot past Elliott, but he did. It's hard to look at Elliott in his first start in six weeks and get overly critical, especially when the one thing Elliott has that his comrades in net do not is a solid win-loss record, but that third goal was inexcusable. He has to make a save there. Simple as that.
So does a 19-save performance with some shaky moments earn him the start in an all-important Game 82? We'll see.
- Staying the Course - One thing in this game that the Flyers did a good job of was staying with the game. The Flyers could have crumbled after Carolina's second goal, which had timing eerily similar to Mathew Barzal's game-winning goal in New York two nights ago.
The Flyers certainly could have played frustrated or tried too hard following Carolina's game-tying goal in the third. Again, the Flyers stayed with it to finish the job at hand.
Going into a decisive Game 82 just to make the playoffs, the Flyers need to keep the task in front of them in that game and take the ebbs and flows of the game as they happen.
It's not going to be a perfect game and it doesn't have to be. It just has to be a positive result.
- It All Comes Down to This - So here we are. Game 82. On home ice. Against the New York Rangers. Sound familiar?
Of course, the Rangers are out of the playoffs already, so this is a one-dog fight for a playoff spot, but just as the Islanders and Hurricanes didn't back down from trying to play spoiler, don't expect the Rangers to either.
For the Flyers, it all comes down to this. The task is simple: all they have to do is get the game to overtime -- or better yet win in regulation -- to clinch the final playoff spot.
As frustrating as it can be that the Flyers have to handle business themselves right down to the last game -- because, let's face it, it's never that easy -- the task remains in the Flyers hands when several times throughout the night it seemed like the Flyers would be clinging to playoff life no matter what happened on Saturday afternoon. By winning Thursday's game, they hold the keys still. They take care of business, it doesn't matter what Florida does in the final two games.
It all comes down to this. At the very least, the 2017-18 regular season will see the final chapter written, good or bad.
"We plan on playing out best hockey against New York on Saturday. We know what’s at stake. Tonight we battled hard, we grinded out, we played the right way and we got the two points to show it." - Flyers captain Claude Giroux
Play of the Game
The game-winning goal by Jake Voracek, who roofs a shot past Scott Darling.
By the Numbers
Interestingly enough, the Flyers used two third-period goals to claim the game, but it was their worst period at 5-on-5 in terms of possession and generating shooting attempts. The Flyers had a 28 CF% in the third period after controlling the first two periods with a 56.1 CF% in the first and a 58.97 CF% in the second.