3 Things the Philadelphia Flyers Need to Do to Get Back in 2013 Playoff Race
The Philadelphia Flyers are back in the playoff mix, although a long shot, the team is still breathing some life into their postseason efforts.
As of late, the Flyers are playing better hockey and riding a two-game-winning streak entering their matchup against the mighty Montreal Canadiens. The team must now leave everything on the ice, as they attempt to clinch a playoff spot.
Here are three things the Philadelphia Flyers must now achieve to seriously contend for a playoff berth.
1. Win on the Road
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The Philadelphia Flyers have struggled away from home this season and now must find a way to win on the road.
Currently, the team has one of the worst road records in the NHL and lost five its last six away games. As the Flyers will be playing seven of their remaining 13 games outside of Philadelphia, this losing trend must quickly reverse.
To make matters worse, five of the seven road games will be against teams currently positioned to make the playoffs. The other two will be against the Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes—both ahead of the Flyers in the Eastern Conference.
Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov has also suffered playing away from the Wells Fargo Center. In Philadelphia, Bryz has an impressive stat line of 11-4-2, 2.54 GAA, .910 save percentage. And on the road, he's struggled with a line of 4-10-1, 3.14 GAA, .888 save percentage.
A large reason for the Flyers' frustrations.
Overall, Philadelphia must find a way to win on the road and Bryz must step up his play for the team to crawl its way back into the playoff picture.
2. Overcome Injuries
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Every week it seems a new Flyer has an injury.
The latest in a string of devastating injuries belongs to Max Talbot, who is out indefinitely with a broken leg (via CSNPhilly). But Talbot isn't the only injured forward on the team.
Veteran Danny Briere has also been sidelined, while attempting to recover from a concussion received in practice. Luckily, the Flyers are deep at forward with plenty of young and talented players ready to take the ice.
Defense is another story.
Philadelphia entered the season thin at the position and currently has three injured blueliners in Andrej Meszaros, Braydon Coburn and Nicklas Grossman. Newly acquired Kent Huskins fills a void, but is hardly the answer.
Young players such as Erik Gustaffson and Oliver Lauridsen, who has two games in the NHL, now play an important role in eating ice time and quickly adapting to the pro level. It's crucial for both youngsters to play beyond their years and help support the Flyers' cause in making the playoffs
Without players stepping up for their fallen teammates, the Flyers will have no shot at the playoffs. The offense has solid, role players capable of elevating its play, now the defense must come together and sharpen its efforts during the home stretch.
3. Score First and Put Teams Away
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The Philadelphia Flyers have also struggled playing three-solid periods of hockey in many games this season.
Whether it's starting slow out of the gate, coming out flat in the second period, or lack of closure in the third, the Flyers must now understand the importance of a full game of hockey.
According to NHL.com, when Philly does not score the opening goal, the team has a .217 winning percentage. In comparison to when the Flyers score first, their winning percentage jumps to .647.
Digging even deeper into the stats, when Philadelphia leads after the first period, they own a winning percentage of .750 and after the second period it rises to .800.
Unlike years past, Philly has been unsuccessful playing from behind—making it more important to score early, hold leads and finish games. Too often the Flyers find themselves in a hole and are unable to re-gain any momentum.
If the Flyers can play full, sixty minute games and grind opponents each night, the team has a shot to make the postseason. It won't be an easy task with 13 games remaining, but Philadelphia has no other choice.
They put themselves into this situation—with some bad luck along the way—and now must dig deep and fight until the very last horn.