Have Flyers peaked too soon for playoff run?


Steve Kuzma/Flyerdelphia

The Flyers came away with five out of eight points on the recent road trip. Teams win some and lose some, and the Flyers did a pretty good job of gaining points to remain in the playoff race.

But with five teams looking at four spots in the Eastern Conference playoff spot every point counts.

With a disappointing loss against the Arizona Coyotes and inconsequential excitement including a Martin Hanzal hurting Claude Giroux, a Radko Gudas on Shane Doan that ended the night for the Arizona captain and a challenged Michael Stone goal leading to Arizona’s two-goal lead, the obvious question is have the Flyers peaked or do they still have what it takes to grab a playoff spot?

This time of the year is the most exciting for hockey fans. Playoff standings change daily. The Flyers have at least a game in hand on all but two teams in the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference. They have been playing unbelievably well under the pressure and shown signs that they do have what it takes to make playoffs. As one of nine teams in the battle, making the playoffs is as simple as not finishing at the bottom.

It is a much-improved team from the beginning of the season. With few exceptions, each player is confident and this makes for a disciplined team. All of the offensive lines and all of the defensive pairs are impressively contributing and each player is doing his part. 16 out of 19 forwards have earned a point on the road.

From the start of the season, the defense has improved leaps and bounds in their own zone, the play of the puck in the neutral zone has been impressive at times, and the penalty kill is of good percentage, mainly due to Steve Mason.

Speaking of Mason, he has been a stand out star since Michal Neuvirth suffered an injury that will keep him out for the remainder of the regular season. The Flyers have not faded, still holding the final playoff spot via tiebreaker with eight games to go in the season.

But with eight games to go, the Flyers missed an opportunity in their last game to create separation in the standings. That would have not only provided some security, but kept the Flyers in the middle of the hunt.

They still have eight games to prove their worth, and will have to do so against other hungry teams that are also starting to hid their stride such as the Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings, and New York Islanders, all who crave the same playoff spot Philadelphia does. It will be an intense schedule, but if the Flyers can find the intensity level that made them a fearful opponent in the month of March, to the tune of a 7-3-2 record with two games remaining this month, they can emerge again as one of those teams finding their stride as well.

There will be naysayers and doubters that will regard the Flyers playoff run as a potential waste of time and say that even if the Flyers made the playoffs, a first-round series against the Washington Capitals won't get them far. But in playoff hockey, anything can happen.

But getting there is half the battle, and if the Flyers can continue to build on a month where they pushed their way into a playoff spot temporarily and finish the job, there could be playoff hockey to look forward to in just a couple of weeks.

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

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