In the NHL, one week can make a big difference.
Take, for example, the past seven days. Since last Tuesday, the Flyers managed to pull themselves out of the league’s basement in goal scoring and brought home five out of a possible six points.
And now, looking ahead to this week, they have a chance to hit .500 for the first time all season -- and prove to their fans they actually can win games at the Wells Fargo Center, where they're currently 3-7.
Starting with the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday, the Flyers have three very winnable games through the end of this week. They’ll host the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday and the New York Islanders on Saturday. If things go the way they’re hoping, the Flyers could draw ever closer to playoff contention.
“It would be huge, obviously,” Jakub Voracek said. “We’re right there, we’re like four or five points out of the playoffs. We’ve just got to play the same way we played on the road. It would mean a lot if we wound up at .500 at the end of the week. We’ve got to go game by game and be focused.”
The Flyers registered at least a point in each of their last four games, with some of their best work coming on the road against the Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins.
But it’s not just the outcomes that are encouraging. The Flyers appear to have worked past some of the flaws that doomed them for the first month of the season. They aren’t collapsing late in games, they’re consistently winning battles and, instead of committing turnovers, they seem to have more of an awareness of where teammates are on the ice.
“It’s only four games. We’ve got to build on that,” Steve Downie said. “We had a good road trip, but we’re still out of it, so we’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve got to stay focused and keep getting better every day.”
Predictably, though, because they are getting better (at least in the standings), the mood in the Flyers’ locker room is a lot more optimistic than it was a week ago. As Scott Hartnell said, “Guys are looser, guys are having fun.”
They need to put the positive energy to good use.
“We need to feed off it,” coach Craig Berube said. “We need to get a little bit different mindset at home here, and take it to teams at home. It’s our building. We need to get our fans behind us and get it going.”
To say the Flyers have struggled at home this season would be an understatement. They’ve been outscored 29-15 at the Wells Fargo Center in 10 games and have heard far more boos than cheers from the home crowd.
Fans have gone so far as to call for the head of general manager Paul Holmgren when things have been at their worst, like they were in a 7-0 blowout loss to the Washington Capitals on Nov. 1. Team chairman Ed Snider said he'd never seen things get so bad for the Flyers in their history.
“We don’t like hearing boos in our own building,” Hartnell said. “It sucks when you’re trying hard. We hear them, but we’ve got to be better and score, win games. Then [the fans] will be happy.”
The Flyers are hoping that’s exactly what they’ll be able to do this week. And if they play the way they have in recent days, they have every reason to believe they’re capable of winning all of the games on this upcoming homestand.
That confidence is the biggest takeaway from last week’s road trip success.
“Our attitude on the ice is very positive,” Voracek said. “Flyers fans are going to see that we’re working our asses off. They’re going to appreciate it, and they’re going to keep us pushing.”
The Flyers are far from out of the woods. By all indications, though, they have turned a corner. And as strange as it might sound, if they're able to keep things on the uptick, they might eventually benefit from their early-season struggles.
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” Hartnell said. “If you keep battling hard through adversity, you’re going to come through there with your head held high. When things get tough down the road, which they probably will, we’ve got to realize what we’ve learned at the beginning of the year and continue to build and play better and better.”
And that's especially true for the games they'll play going forward in Philadelphia.
“You’ve got to have a good home record,” Berube said. “It’s very important.”