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December 16, 2017

Winning streak or not, the Flyers remain an enigma

Flyers NHL

With his hat turned backward, the crimson scruff on his face beginning to blossom again, Jake Voracek wasn’t too pleased. The Flyers’ second line right winger, who’s tied for the NHL lead in assists (31), was blatant with his displeasure: 

“To be honest with you, I don’t think we played good today,” Voracek said. Then he went on to mention, “it wasn’t a great game by us.”

Voracek said that after the Flyers’ 2-1 victory over the visiting Buffalo Sabres Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

What a difference a few weeks makes. As November was closing a victory of any kind was welcome. Now, it’s being critiqued on aesthetics. The Flyers’ victory deserved to be checked off in the ugly, clunky box. But the Flyers are also on a five-game winning streak, currently the second-longest in the NHL behind Atlantic Division-leading the Tampa Bay Lightning’s run of six-straight games.

In Buffalo, they beat arguably the worst team in the NHL.

Though it says something when a team that was looking for any winning crumb to bite not that long ago has its standards raised once again.

Voracek’s message couldn’t have come any louder or clearer. This team has playoff potential and it needs to be more consistent if it plans on playing past April 7, 2018. The Flyers were sloppy in the first period against lowly Buffalo with turnovers, one which led to the Sabres’ lone goal.

“It doesn’t matter, we’ve had games where we played great and we lost, and we didn’t play very good today but we found a way,” Voracek said. “It’s a good thing that we found a way. We have to stay tight and we have to play smart. We have been playing smarter the last five games. I think we were struggling with the fore-check.”

Goaltender Brian Elliott continues to shine. He made 19 saves and once again was steady.

The Flyers are 2-0 in this very important five-game homestand. They haven’t given up more than two goals in a game during this streak, which includes a three-goal third period in their 4-2 win over Toronto on Dec. 12. During this stretch, they’ve outscored their opponents 19-8.

On Dec. 2, the Flyers were sitting in last place in the Metropolitan Division with seemingly no hope. On Dec. 15, they’re four points behind the Rangers and Islanders, who are tied for the last wild-card spot in the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. The Flyers have a game in hand on both. 

“The first 20 minutes isn’t how you want to start at all,” Flyers’ coach Dave Hakstol said of Thursday night's effort. “We chased in the first 20 minutes. We couldn’t find our legs. We weren’t sharp and crisp with the puck. We spent a lot of time in our own defensive zone. But from there, the second period was an outstanding period. We were absolutely able to turn the tables.”

The game was a microcosm of the Flyers’ season so far. This year hasn’t even reached the midway point and the Flyers are still an enigma. They go winless for 10 straight and then win five-straight games in regulation for the first time since Oct. 26-Nov. 6, 2010 when they won six straight in regulation.

Dallas visits the Flyers tonight. What Flyers team will show up is anyone’s guess.