Flyers flight or plight to playoffs rides on consistency

In Philadelphia every game left of this hockey season has become a "do-or-die" flight or plight to reach the playoffs.

At a time like this, when the Philadelphia Flyers are making a playoff run and starting to show signs that they can indeed make this year's playoffs, the thoughts of years past can creep up. Thoughts on inconsistency and the recurring problems that have caused this team to have losing stretches this season that have hurt the team as much as their five wins on the most recent six-game homestand helped.

An inconsistent team is not a fun team to watch. It creates anxiety. Inconsistency in the system could keep this team in a state of dread.

The Flyers are not yet the best team in the league, or the conference, or the division for that matter, but they can establish strong cohesiveness and consistent play with disciplined teamwork and committed support. And if they achieve this, they should win enough games to get into this year’s playoffs.

Inconsistency is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it reflects an inability to succeed. On the other hand, it leaves open the possibility for improvement. The answer for achieving short-term consistency is all in the leadership.

Head coach Dave Hakstol has done the job thus far. He has helped the Flyers buy into a never-say-die attitude and a stronger desire to make the smart play. At the same time, Hakstol's leadership on the bench has not been immune to inconsistencies.

The Flyers have battled injuries for much of the season, at times to key role players within the team. As a result, there has rarely been a consistent lineup.

Hakstol cannot make too many personnel changes with the players he has, but he can make short term adjustments and switches, and trust the captains and leaders to help create consistency.

How do you create that consistency? Recognize the flaws in the system that need to change into a positive, winning strategy that makes sense to his players. Give them a clear, easy-to-understand path to success, using the basics: stay out of the penalty box, keep passes short and crisp, shoot more and follow the shot to be in position for the rebound, be in sync with your goalie — who sees the action better than anyone — stick close to your teammates to support or help them, and be vigilant on defense always.

To the players, particularly the ones that have led the way for much of the season — Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Shayne Gostisbehere, Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, Jake Voracek (when he returns) and veteran role guys like Mark Streit — each player needs to play to his strengths and avoid the temptation to play outside of their knowledge.

Players need to communicate better and commit to a team-first belief. The only way they’ll scrape together enough wins to make the playoffs is to resist singular heroics and work together. That doesn't mean great individual efforts can't be a difference-maker, but only if the individual efforts are standouts among great team efforts.

Some quick solutions to this are a lot of what the Flyers were able to do on the homestand. Shoot and follow up. Do not make risky passes. Do not take meaningless or mindless penalties. Responsibly come to the defense of teammates. Surround and listen to your goalie. Do not overplay your shift.

All common sense, back to basics, smart hockey. There is still time to make the playoffs this season. The Flyers can pull it together if they can come together and stay together.

Denise Mroz is a contributor for Flyerdelphia. Follow her on Twitter @denisemroz10.

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