The Philadelphia Flyers entered March playing mediocre hockey, at best. With the team currently sitting in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, Philly must improve their play this month or this abbreviated season will end very soon.
For many teams, March will be an important month separating the "pretenders" from "contenders" and the Flyers are no exception. Showing signs of both struggling and dominating, Philly could go either way.
The season started horribly for the Flyers, largely due to major injuries and shoddy special teams play. Team captain Claude Giroux was pressing his game and sorely missed his injured linemate, Scott Hartnell. Overall, the Flyers ended January with a 2-5 record and with many unanswered questions.
February was a different story for the club, as Hartnell returned from injury and the special teams turned its play around. Giroux felt more relaxed in his first year as captain, Jake Voracek—out of nowhere—played the best hockey of his career and Wayne Simmonds evolved into one of the best all-around players in the league. A big difference from their early season woes, but not great. The team ended February with an overall record of 10-11-1 on the season.
This now leads us to March.
Already two games into the month, the Flyers have beaten the Ottawa Senators at home and lost to their rivals, the New York Rangers, on the road. Philadelphia, a team who has struggled on the road all season, has some good news as they only have four away games remaining in the month (Boston, New Jersey, Tampa, Pittsburgh), as opposed to seven games at home.
The bad news for Philadelphia is they have six more games against Atlantic Division rivals, where every game is magnified. And on par with the season, Philly has played mediocre hockey against their Atlantic foes with a 3-5 division record (via NHL).
Additionally, center Matt Read is scheduled to miss most of March, recovering from an upper body injury—meaning the Flyers’ forwards must continue to play outstanding hockey in his absence. Luckily, the team is extremely deep and talented at the position.
Another looming issue is the trade deadline slowly creeping up on the team in April. Depending on how the Flyers play in March, will determine if general manager Paul Holmgren pulls the trigger on a deal—specifically for a blueliner.
Defense and goaltending will be the largest question marks as the month rolls along. According to Philadelphia Inquirer's Sam Carchidi, defender Andrej Meszaros is still recovering from his shoulder injury and now defenseman Nick Grossman has been listed as day-to-day.
To make matters worse, goalie Ilya Bryzgalov expressed his frustrations with the team's play by bluntly stating, "We’re not good," (via Philadelphia Inquirer).
The Flyers have their hands full this month with injuries, the trade deadline and big division games, which should make for an interesting month of hockey.