Though they are still a long shot, the surging Flyers have a chance to make NHL history.
They are trying to become the fist team to ever earn a playoff spot after being 16 points out at one point in the season.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Ottawa made the greatest comeback to reach the playoffs, overcoming a 14-point deficit with 31 games left. The Senators went 23-4-4 the rest of the way and got into the 2014-15 playoffs.
No other team has overcome a greater deficit at any point in a season.
The Flyers (23-23-6), who host Vancouver (24-22-6) on Monday, have won seven straight and are the NHL’s hottest team. They were 16 points out on Jan. 15, and have inched within seven points of Columbus, the last wild-card team, with 30 games remaining.
The streak makes it difficult to not look ahead, captain Claude Giroux acknowledged, “but at the same time, it’s important to focus on the next game, on Vancouver. One game at a time, that’s the mentality we’ve been having and that’s the mentality we need to have. I think if we start thinking about playoffs, that’s when we get off track.”
“I’m telling you guys not to look at the standings and the playoffs, and not thinking about it, but I think about it every day,” he conceded with a smile. “It’s about not focusing on it, it’s about just knowing what your job is. I mean, you see games like last night” – Columbus and Pittsburgh both lost – “and we get help and you start thinking about it again. It’s important we don’t.
" It’s a good thing we can do something special here – being in last place halfway through the season and being able to make the playoffs, yeah, that would be great. But at the same time, we just have to worry about Vancouver right now.”
At the All-Star break, when they were 14 points out, the Flyers had a 0.3 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to Sports Club Stats. They now have a 3 percent chance.
The Flyers have overcome third-period deficits to win their last two games, overtime victories over Boston and Edmonton.
“We’re playing some good hockey right now and even if we get scored on, we have the confidence we’re going to get it back,” Giroux said. “Confidence is a big thing.”
“We’re just focusing on trying to be a good team and getting better as a team and growing,” said Sean Couturier, who has 14 points, including five goals, in his last 10 games. “Lately, we’ve gotten some results, [but] we can’t look too far ahead."
The Flyers have won eight of their last nine since an eight-game losing streak (0-6-2).
“We’re finding ways to win games, even on nights when we’re not playing our best,” Couturier said. “When it comes down to the crucial moments, we’re sharp and we’re getting the job done, whereas before, even if we were playing good, we’d be in the game and it would be the opposite – we’d find a way to lose games by doing little mistakes.”
The much-maligned power play keyed the last two wins, going a combined 6-for-7. Before that, the power play was 2-for-25 in its previous nine games.
“The biggest thing is … the numbers at the net,” said interim coach Scott Gordon, whose team scored three power-play goals from out front Saturday. “That gives you the opportunities to score goals that don’t have to be highlight-reel style of goals.”