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Flyers Face Long Odds in Climbing Back into the Playoff Race

Flyers Face Long Odds in Climbing Back into the Playoff Race
With most of the area following the Eagles so intently, the Flyers have flown under the radar and for their sake that is not a bad thing after what has been a rough first start to the season.

Actually, the Flyers are more than halfway finished their season. After 48 games of the 82-game schedule, they are 19-23-6 for 44 points. That is 14 points out of a second wild card spot.
 
That seems to be an insurmountable distance to make up, but the Flyers have made late-season pushes, including last year when they made the playoffs.
 
However, they have not been this far back in the standings.
 
Either way, the Flyers have won three in a row leading to their all-star break. They won’t return to action until hosting Winnipeg on Monday.
 
Very little has gone right for the Flyers, but the play of rookie goalie Carter Hart ranks at the top of the positive developments. The 20-year-old Hart began the season in the minors and there was no assurance that he would even play in the NHL this season as the Flyers didn’t want to rush him.
 
Yet since being recalled from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, he has given the Flyers a major boost.
 
Hart is 6-5-1 with a 2.66 goals against average and a .918 save percentage, yet the stats don’t begin to tell the entire story. He has made some outstanding saves and shown an ability to keep cool in all the pressure-packed situations.
 
While it is still a small sample size, Hart has given the Flyers some hope that a franchise which has had troubles in goal for a good part of the last three decades, may finally have a viable solution.
 
Now if only the offense can show consistency.
 
One constant has been the play of captain Claude Giroux, who was the Flyers only all-star representative.
 
Giroux, who turned 31 on Jan. 12, has 14 goals and 38 assists for a team-high 52 points. He is also a plus-4.
 
There is a feeling that when the Flyers are ready to contend that Giroux may be past his prime, but at this point, he has shown no signs of slowing down.
 
This will be his sixth all-star game and while he will need several more big seasons, his chances for the Hall of Fame can’t be discounted.
 
The Flyers need their young players to have strong finishes this season if they are going to get back in the playoff race.
 
Defenseman Ivan Provorov, who was so impressive his first two years, has slipped this season is a minus-14, while fellow defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, is minus-12.
 
Those two are expected to be foundation players and they haven’t taken the next step.
 
Nolan Patrick, the No. 2 overall pick in last year’s draft, has also developed slower than expected, although he has shown recent improvement.
 
For the Flyers to jump back in the playoff picture, and it will be a difficult task, they have to see young players, including Travis Konecny, take that next step up.
 
Even then it will be tough due to the hole the team has dug, but the three-game win streak before the all-star break gives the Flyers a little hope, which is even more than they had a week ago.

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Author: Marc Narducci; Photo by Marc Narducci

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