VOORHEES, N.J. – Five points back with 17 games to play. It’s not an insurmountable deficit by any stretch of the imagination for the Flyers.
However, it does hinge on the upcoming five-game homestand that begins tomorrow against the New York Rangers.
Actually, in a lot of ways, it hinges on that game tomorrow.
It’s one of those four-point-swing games.
Win, and the Flyers move to within three points of a playoff spot with 16 games to play, and the push begins in earnest.
Lose in regulation, and the Flyers would be seven points back with 16 to go, which isn’t mathematically impossible, but is certainly mathematical improbable.
“This is our week to get some wins together,” said Kimmo Timonen. “If you look at our last two games we played pretty god… but didn’t get the results. Now is the time to get the wins.
“Everybody knows the standings. I can’t deny that I don’t look at them. But my message for the guys is that it’s still in our hands. We control our destiny and this week is huge. It starts tomorrow. We have to go game-by-game… We focus on the win tomorrow, get it and then we can move on.”
Nobody wants to talk about not winning the game, because they know things will truly be dire at that point.
Not to mention, the trade deadline is fast approaching, and general manager Paul Holmgren’s decision on whether to be a buyer or seller at the deadline could hinge on the outcome of this game.
“We had meetings this morning and talked about things,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “It’s an important game coming up [tomorrow]. We can’t play the fifth [game of the homestand] without playing the first one tomorrow night and we have to make sure we are ready to play.”
For a team that has gone 2-5-1 in their last eight games, the Flyers are certainly a confident and optimistic bunch.
While they aren’t content with the result of the last couple games, they are happy with the effort that was put forth and feel they are thisclose to breaking through with a string of victories.
And although some may argue that 31 games into a 48-game season might be a little too late to finally start playing the way necessary to make a playoff push, the Flyers find themselves in a position where they still have control over where they finish in the standings.
“This is a huge week for us and we need to get off to a good start,” said Luke Schenn. “It should be to our advantage to have all these games at home and if we get off to a good start and get it going, maybe it can carry over.
“I think now is the time we have to be really desperate… When everyone does that, guys tend to feed off one another and want to go out there and do the same.”
Desperation has worked for Laviolette and the Flyers before. As recently as 2010, the team barely made the playoffs, but did so by doing enough to get in on the final day of the season, then made a mad dash to the Stanley Cup Finals tht included an historic comeback from a 3-0 deficit in games and a 3-0 deficit in Game 7 to beat the Boston Bruins.
A year later, the Flyers played the desperation card to overcome a 3-2 series deficit to come back and beat Buffalo in the first round.
Last year, it was desperation that guided them past a Pittsburgh team ticketed by many for the Stanley Cup Finals.
So if there’s one thing this coach and these team does well, is play with it’s backs against the wall.
Since Laviolette became coach the team has won two-thirds of their do-or-die games in the regular season and playoffs.
And while technically tomorrow isn’t really do-or-die, it’s as close as one can get without touching that descriptor.
“Everybody in our dressing room realizes the position we are in right now,” said Braydon Coburn. “That’s the kind of desperation we have to play with right now. We try to play our game and make sure we are playing the way we want to be successful.
“Every game is important here on out. But especially with the Rangers being in front of us – they are a team we have to chase down. It’s the start of a homestand too so it’s huge.”
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