Flyers reverse course behind a balanced attack


Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny have stepped up offensively for the surging Flyers. Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Out of the gates, it appeared as though this was going to be a lost campaign for the Philadelphia Flyers. It culminated with a 10-game losing skid in early December, putting coach Dave Hakstol squarely on the hot seat. To say things have changed would be a massive understatement.

It can't be denied; the Flyers have been on a roll. After two months with a balanced offensive attack and goaltending to match, they've moved into a solid playoff spot, just a couple points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals in the Metropolitan Division. Heck, they even beat the Golden Knights in Vegas last weekend, a feat that few have accomplished this season. Vegas has the best home record in the NHL, losing just four times in regulation all season at T-Mobile Arena.

Now, their successful goalie tandem has been interrupted due to injury, with de facto starter Brian Elliott expected to miss a little over a month during a crucial stretch of the regular season. How can Philadelphia keep it rolling without its starting netminder?

For starters, a trade to help Michal Neuvirth out between the pipes may come to fruition. The organization certainly has faith in the experienced Neuvirth, but Elliott went 15-5-1 since the Flyers' losing streak was snapped in the final month of 2017. While Elliott potentially could be back in action before the playoffs start, Philadelphia has to keep winning to maintain playoff position. GM Ron Hextall told the press that the Flyers currently plan to give Neuvirth a heavy workload, but he also didn't ruled out the possibility of getting him some help at the deadline, which is still a couple weeks away.

In the meantime, Philly needs to maintain the scoring production that got it out of that dismal losing skid back in November. The emergence of Sean Courturier as a goal-scorer has certainly been part of that success. His contributions to Philly's 4-1 win in Las Vegas, with a goal and two assists to match his typical stellar defense, was a nice sample of how he has played over the last couple of months. The 25-year-old forward already has set career highs in goals, assists and points, pacing Philadelphia with his team-leading 28 goals.

He adds punch behind All-Star Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek, who are among the top point producers in the league. Even the Flyers' young defense corps is contributing. Following a slow start, Shayne Gostisbehere is playing the best hockey of his career, pairing with Ivan Provorov to form one of the most talented young defense pairs in the NHL. In addition, the Flyers have nine players with at least 10 goals this season, with Wayne Simmonds his usual reliable self and sophomore Travis Konecny adding scoring punch to his game.

It's clear that a big part of the Flyers' success is that they no longer have to rely on only two or three players to carry the team. That has to keep up if they want to stay within striking distance of the Penguins and the Capitals in the standings.

The next couple of weeks will tell us a lot about whether the Flyers can keep up this streak. They have a few days off to recover from the 5-4 shootout loss to the New Jersey Devils Tuesday night — a team they've bumped from playoff contention, no less — before they visit the Blue Jackets in Columbus Friday. From there, it's a mixed bag of competition before they visit the East-leading Lightning March 3 and host the Penguins March 7.

Adding intrigue to that early March intrastate rivalry contest, if the playoffs started today, the Pens and Flyers would square off in Round 1. If Philly can maintain its rounded offensive push and hold down the fort between the pipes, that postseason matchup — or one just as competitive — could become a reality.

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Chelena Goldman grew up on a street where the boys played street hockey and yelling at baseball and football over the radio was a standard -- making life as a sports geek the perfect fit. She believes in dominance on the blue line, good red wine, and the theory that you can never be too overdressed for any occasion. You can find her gabbing away on Twitter at @ChelenaGoldman.

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31 SLIDES
Ranking every starting goalie in the NHL
QUIZ: Name every player on both Philadelphia Flyers 1973-74 and 1974-75 Stanley Cup-winning teams

Can you name every player on both Philadelphia Flyers 1973-75 Stanley Cup-winning teams - the famed Broad Street Bullies of the NHL?

Clue: Number/Position

Score:
0/18
Time:
5:00
1/G
Bernie Parent
2/D
Ed Van Impe
5/D
Serge Lajeunesse
6/D
Andre Dupont
7/LW
Bill Barber
8/LW
Dave Schultz
9/LW
Bob Kelly
10/C
Bill Clement
11/RW
Don Saleski
12/RW
Gary Dornhoefer
14/D
Joe Watson
15/C
Terry Crisp
16/C
Bobby Clarke
18/LW
Ross Lonsberry
19/C
Rick MacLeish
20/D
Jimmy Watson
26/C
Orest Kindrachuk
30/G
Bobby Taylor
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