Sometimes there are warning signs in sports.

They aren’t always negative either. Take Jake Elliott’s 61-yard field goal. At the time, we were all talking about how lucky the Eagles were to win a game and that their coach was a buffoon.

But we should have taken it instead as a warning sign to the stars aligning for the Eagles in what will go down as the greatest season in Philadelphia sports history.

The Flyers have a little bit of that same charm going their way recently. Some of it is from good play. Some of it is pure luck. But good teams make their own luck.

So, Andrew MacDonald, Brandon Manning, and Jori Lehtera scoring goals in the same game was predicted by no one ever, yet it happened yesterday – in a game where the Flyers lost another goalie to injury and had to rely on an AHL-level backup to come in and play two great periods to earn his first NHL win.

And here are the Flyers, with points in eight straight games, just four points out of first place in the Metropolitan Division with two games in hand.

Charmed, I tell ya. Charmed.

Now, with the way the Pittsburgh Penguins are playing lately, I don’t think there’s any way the Flyers will catch them, but I’m the same guy who as recently as a couple weeks ago was arguing that the Flyers couldn’t sustain the way they were playing through the previous two months over the course of another nine weeks.

So far, they’ve proved me wrong, so what do I know.

And it’s curious how they’ve done it.

They’ve managed to somehow become the only team in the NHL with 10 guys with at least 10 goals. So much for this team not having depth, right? Remember when we were talking about how many games the Flyers had gone without getting a goal from a forward not named Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier or Jake Voracek?

And yet, they still really don’t have depth.

I mean, half of those guys are sitting on 10 goals right now. Two of them are the top pair defensemen in Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere.

The other three are:

  • Valterri Filppula – who  hasn’t scored in 13 games and has just one goal in his last 21 (By the way, the Flyers are  7-1-1 when Filppula scores and 14-3-4 when he registers at least one point.)
  • Michael Raffl – who only has one goal in his last 12 games and went the first 21 games this season without a point
  • Scott Laughton – who has started to chip in a little more lately with three goals in the last eight games, but is prone to prolonged scoring droughts (has two double-digit scoring droughts this year – 21 games and 10 games)

So, the perception that scoring depth suddenly exists on this team is a fallacy. But what isn’t misleading – and is the true reason behind the Flyers’ sustained scoring success – has been two lineup changes that have given the team a second scoring line.

Moving Travis Konecny to the top line and dropping Jake Voracek to the second line and moving him to the left wing (which he personally doesn’t like, but is doing it for the good of the team – and is thriving individually because of it) and promoting Nolan Patrick to the second line center has created two really good scoring units for the Flyers.

Here are the stats for the top six forwards before the changes (first 35 games) and since the changes (last 24 games):


Giroux          14-28-41 (1.17)          7-21-28 (1.17)              0

Couturier      16-15-31 (0.89)         13-15-28 (1.17)       +0.28

Konecny        4-6-10    (0.29)          11-13-24 (1.00)      +0.71

Voracek         8-36-44  (1.26)           3-18-21 (0.88)        -0.38

Patrick           2-5-7      (0.20)           4-4-8     (0.33)       +0.13

Simmonds     11-10-21 (0.60)          9-7-16   (0.67)       +0.07


TOTAL            55-100-155 (4.42)      47-78-125 (5.20)   +0.78

Team Record       15-13-7                    15-6-3


With the exception of the great boost for Konecny, it’s not an overwhelming difference, as collectively they are averaging 0.78 more points per game, but when you lose a lot of close games, which was the case, even during the 10 game losing streak, this subtle of a change can be the difference between winning and losing.

Combine that with better defensive play (for the most part), solid goaltending (again, for the most part) and the fact that the Flyers are suddenly an incredibly disciplined team (The Flyers did not allow a power play to their opponent in either game this weekend – both wins by the way – which had never happened before – or at least since NHL boxscores began tracking game-by-game power play opportunities in 1977. As a matter of fact, they have reduced the number of shorthanded situations per game from 3.17 in the first 35 games to 2.54 in the last 24) and you have the right recipe to swing 50/50 games in your favor more often than not.

And that’s how these Flyers have to play. They aren’t dominating teams in any games, nor are they being dominated. Most Flyers games are hanging in the balance late. So the subtle things you can do better can make a difference.

A slight uptick in scoring from your top two lines. A mild decrease in penalties. Marginally smarter defense when the opponent has the puck (opponent shots on goal per game are down from 30.9 in the first 35 games to 29.5 in the last 24 games).

That’s how you sustain success.

Now… it’s still not going to be easy. The schedule gets brutal in March, but if the Flyers can take advantage of their softer upcoming schedule (their next five games are against teams behind them in the standings) they can build enough of a cushion that if they revert back to .500 hockey (points percentage) they should be able to hang on to a spot.

A lot of that though will be determined by what happens with goaltending.

We know Brian Elliott is out of the lineup until the end of March. Michal Neuvirth, who wasn’t having all that great a game to begin with, seemed to hurt his lower body (again) on the Rangers’ third goal yesterday and was lifted from the contest.

Alex Lyon came in and played really well as the Flyers took advantage of an awful New York defense and an off day in goal by Henrik Lundqvist to earn the win.

But, if Neuvirth is going to be out for any length of time – even a few games – this should be the FINAL reminder (as if the Flyers didn’t have enough of them already) that Neuvirth is unreliable health-wise to go into the stretch run.

As such, the Flyers may not only add one goalie, but if Neuvirth is really hurt and out for an extended period, the Flyers could add two goalies before the trade deadline.

That’s right. Not one. Two.

Ron Hextall is still going bargain basement shopping, but teams know he is desperate at this point and might try to hijack a higher pick from him.

According to the Detroit Free Press, the Red Wings offered the Flyers backup goalie Peter Mrazek for a third round pick and Hextall balked.

Might he come back around to that? Or is that too much for a guy who is making $4 million this year and is a restricted free agent who the Red Wings don’t view as a goalie of the future?

I don’t think he does. I’m told the Flyers aren’t in love with either of Detroit’s goalies (Jimmy Howard being the other who is signed through next season with a cap hit of $5.29 million).

Instead, I think he goes cheap rentals.

I’m told the team truly believes Elliott will be all right for the playoffs and will likely get a few games in beforehand.

The three names Hextall is most interested in are:

  • Antti Niemi – who won a Cup in Chicago, but is now 34, making just $700,000, has already played for three other teams this season (Pittsburgh, Florida and currently Montreal) but is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.
  • Chad Johnson – a little more pricey at $2.5 million against the cap, but he’s younger than Niemi (31), is also a UFA at the end of the season, and, was selected by Hextall when Hexy was the GM for Team Canada at the 2017 World Championships to be on the roster as a backup goalie.
  • Calvin Pickard – once considered to be a can’t miss goalie prospect, Pickard, still just 25, hasn’t lived up to the hype. And right now, he isn’t even in the NHL. But, he’s dominating in the AHL for the Toronto Marlies (Maple Leafs farm team) and was the go-to goalie Hextall selected for the World Championships last season.

The Flyers have had scouts in Buffalo and Toronto, making the short drive back and forth on the QEW to see the latter two players. Maybe Niemi will start against the Flyers tomorrow instead of Carey Price, to give Hextall an in-person look.

Any way you slice it, these three guys will come far cheaper than Mrazek. Also, the Flyers are flush with draft picks. They have all of their own picks for the next three years and have three extra in the 2018 draft – St. Louis’ first rounder, Arizona’s fifth rounder and Montreal’s seventh rounder. So, if Neuvirth is out for an extended period of time, the Flyers can get two guys if they need them without really affecting their stock of assets.

Get a goalie (or two) and get in the playoffs and anything can happen. They’re not as good as Tampa, or Pittsburgh, or maybe even Boston, but if the planets and stars align in the Flyers moon… well, who knows. Crazier things have happened – like an unknown rookie replacement kicker kicking a game-winning 61-yard field goal.