If the Flyers are going to do the unthinkable and reach the playoffs, they will need to finish with 97 points, based on last year’s standings.
That means they would need 43 points over their last 29 games, something on the order of a (gulp) 20-6-3 record the rest of the way.
No wonder interim coach Scott Gordon and the players aren’t looking too far ahead.
No wonder Gordon is stressing short-term goals — leapfrogging the team directly in front of them.
Thanks to eight straight wins, the Flyers have climbed ahead of Florida and the Rangers. The Flyers, who were last in the 31-team NHL midway through the season, entered Tuesday within five points of the last wild-card team, Columbus, which had two games in hand. They were two points behind Carolina and Buffalo.
“I haven’t heard any guys talk about playoffs,” defenseman Radko Gudas said after contributing five blocked shots, five hits, and four shots on goal in Monday’s hard-earned 2-1 win over Vancouver. “We’re taking each game at a time. For us, a shift at a time. … Everybody is building confidence every shift, and every game is better and better. I think if we keep doing that instead of looking at the big picture, it’s better for us.”
“We’ve got L.A. Thursday,” right winger Jake Voracek said. “Let’s focus on that.”
The Flyers (24-23-6), who were 16 points out of a playoff spot on Jan. 15, have won each of their last four games by one goal.
“I think earlier in the year we were probably finding ways to lose these games,” left winger Scott Laughton said, “and [now] we’ve found ways to win even when we’re not playing our best.”
Rookie phenom Carter Hart, 20, has covered up mistakes with his superb goaltending. Hart has won his last seven starts, during which he has a 2.26 goals-against average and .934 save percentage.
“He just gives us life and makes a big save when we need it,” Laughton said. “He’s been huge for us so far, but we’ve got to keep it rolling here.”
Voracek, who has 13 points over his last 11 games and scored the winner Monday, called Hart a “humble" guy who “comes to work every day and gives us a chance to win every single night, and that’s what you want from a goalie. Obviously, he’s playing like he’s 28 years old and has lots of years in the league.”
Early in Monday’s second period, Hart charged out of the net to knock the puck away from Brandon Sutter in the right circle and prevent a breakaway. But Brock Boeser gathered Hart’s clearing attempt off the boards and scored into an empty net, cutting the Flyers’ lead to 2-1.
“I’m sure he probably would have played that one he gave up differently,” Gordon said. “But in saying that, it’s how he responds after that. It goes beyond just being technically sound as a goaltender; it goes to what your makeup is as a person and how you’re able to handle adversity when things go wrong for you.”
Hart did not allow a goal the rest of the way, stopping the last 30 shots, including 18 in the final period, as the Flyers closed out the 2,000th win in franchise history.
Hart, who has started nine of the last 10 games, will get a well-deserved rest Thursday, and Anthony Stolarz will face visiting Los Angeles (21-27-4), which is last in the Western Conference. Stolarz had a 38-save gem in his last outing, a 1-0 win over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 29.