The Philadelphia Flyers started the 2013-2014 season 1-7-0. It was awful.
Then, to make matters worse, captain Claude Giroux made a ridiculous, ill-advised statement, declaring, “We will make the playoffs.”
At the time, he seemed crazy. But maybe Claude knew something we didn’t, because now the Flyers are a playoff team. They are firmly in the mix for as high as the 3rd seed as of March 10, sitting in the 7th spot. The Flyers are just five points behind the third-place Maple Leafs, with two games in hand. In the Metropolitan division, the Flyers are in 4th place, only one point behind the Rangers, who recently lost their captain, Ryan Callahan. Though the Rangers also gained Martin St. Louis, probably a better overall player, Callahan was nevertheless an integral part of the Rangers, as implicated by his captaincy. (Fun fact: the last Rangers captain to be traded was Mark Messier. He was traded for a fourth round pick, which turned out to be … none other than Callahan himself.)
But the Rangers’ possible upgrade isn’t too much to worry about, because the Flyers are hot. REALLY hot. They are 7-2-1 in their last ten games. Since mid-December, Claude Giroux, who started the season very very cold (possibly still recovering from an injury sustained while golfing) leads the league in points. Steve Mason has been a brick wall in net. Coburn isn’t getting ‘Coburnt’ quite as often (actually, he probably has been, but it’s not as noticeable). And, the Flyers’ trade deadline moves to dump Meszaros (good riddance) and add Andrew Macdonald (aka slightly better Meszaros) should help sure up the blue line and add even more danger to an already potent Flyers powerplay.
So get excited. The Flyers have a chance, and all bets are off once the playoffs for Lord Stanley’s Cup begin; remember, the eighth-seed Flyers in 2010 made it all the way to the Finals (and would have won if Michael Leighton wasn’t a bum and Brian Boucher hadn’t been resurrected one too many times already that season).
And remember again, all you need in hockey is a hot goaltender. Once the playoffs start, that is THE deciding factor in almost every series: how the netminder plays. Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton played well (especially considering that they were Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton) in 2010, and the Flyers got to the Finals. Tim Thomas played lights out in 2011, and carried the Bruins to their first Stanley Cup since 1972. So let’s hope Mason keeps it up.