Philadelphia Flyers' Remarkable Turnaround Continues, but Are They Contenders?

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Philadelphia Flyers' Remarkable Turnaround Continues, but Are They Contenders?
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After an abysmal start to the season, the Philadelphia Flyers are suddenly one of the hottest teams in the NHL.

With Craig Berube now at the helm, Philadelphia is now 6-0-1 in their last seven games and 9-3-2 in their last 14 games. 

They are finally playing inspired hockey. A number of things have improved over this recent stretch.

Claude Giroux has three goals and five assists over the past seven games,  which is a major reason for the team's turnaround. They needed their captain and best player to put the team on his shoulders, and he has done that over the past few weeks.

Jakub Voracek has also come alive with two goals and six assists in the past seven games. He has been the team's most dynamic offensive player during the streak.

It is also hard to overstate how incredibly Steve Mason has played in net for the Flyers, not just during this recent stretch, but throughout the entire season.

He has kept the team in every game this year, which no doubts boosts the entire squad's confidence. With a combination of steady play and spectacular saves, Mason has really been one of, if not the Flyers' most important player so far this season.

Mason has allowed just six goals in his last four starts, and has made 104 saves on 110 shots in the past three games.

He has bailed out the defense on innumerable occasions, and helps tremendously on the penalty kill, which the Flyers have found themselves on far too often because of poor mistakes.

They have cut down a little bit on the bad penalties, but they still spend the seventh-most time in the NHL on the penalty kill. 

But while they take too many penalties, they do a decent job of preventing shots against on the kill, and are right in the middle of the pack for shorthanded shots against.

It's also evident this season how important shots are in any capacity. The Flyers' win percentage is .667 when they outshoot their opponent but is just .308 when they are outshot.

Not surprisingly, they have outshot their opponent in six of their eight most recent wins, and have been outshot in their last seven losses.

As long as the Flyers can keep controlling the puck, moving the play up the ice and creating chances to get the puck on net, they will keep winning.

When they are the ones dictating the flow of the game, which has been the case in each Ottawa victory, they are a very dangerous team.

And they showed against Pittsburgh that they can also go with the ebb and flow of the game and play better against good competition. 

They also proved that they could control the game against the Islanders and Sabres, two clearly inferior teams.

Len Redkoles/Getty Images

These are two trademarks of a good team; they dominate games against less talented opponents and are extra competitive against quality opponents.

Three players, besides the ones I already mentioned, have really stepped up their level of play and been instrumental in this turnaround.

Matt Read has been phenomenal in every facet of the game, and has two goals in each of their last two games.

But he also plays a lot on the penalty kill and power play, and is a consistent source of speed and energy every time he steps out on the ice.

Brayden Schenn has also been one of the Flyers' best players throughout the entire season, and it looks like he could be on the midst of a breakout year.

He's averaging exactly a point per game in their current seven-game points streak, and has been able to both finish around the net and also create offense for his linemates.

Finally, Steve Downie has made a huge impact since being acquired in a trade for Max Talbot on October 31.

He has been a huge difference-maker, bringing energy and tenacity to the Flyers. He has also contributed with six assists since coming back to Philadelphia.

With their forwards playing at this level, they are legitimate contenders. Philadelphia has as much talent as anyone up front, and they are really difficult to stop when they are on.

The defense is suspect, but they have held up well enough over the past couple weeks. They will end up being the X-factor for the rest of the season.

If Mark Streit, Nicklas Grossmann and Braydon Coburn hold on, then Kimmo Timonen can continue playing less minutes than usual and save his legs for the final stretch of the season.

But Mason has been the biggest surprise this season, and his play between the pipes have made this turnaround possible.

If he continues his solid play in net, then there's no reason to think they won't make a strong playoff push in the second half of the season.

 

 

All stats taken from NHL.com 

 

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