On the first day of February, the Philadelphia Flyers were the most disappointing team in the NHL. After just 8 games in a shortened season, the Flyers had suffered a heart breaking 3-2 loss to the Washington Capitals. The Flyers led that game 1-0 early in the second period, only to have the lead taken away after three straight Capitals’ goals. After the first day of February, the Flyers were 2-6-0, with only panic spreading through the locker room, media and fan base.
After the loss to the Capitals on February 1, newly promoted captain Claude Giroux was quoted saying that “the team needs some kind of an offensive spark to match the team’s defensive consistency.”
At the time, Jakub Voracek was just an afterthought. The 23 year old was a third line right wing hardly received enough ice time to be the offensive catalyst that Giroux was wishing for. Voracek was even rumored to be trade bait; some speculated he could be sent to Calgary for future Hall Of Famer Jerome Iginla. None of these obstacles were successful in slowing down Jakub Voracek. The right wing has recently been promoted to first line, and not only does his 25 points lead the team, he is 6th in all of the NHL in the same category. His success can be mostly devoted to the support of Claude Giroux, who has assisted on seven of Voracek’s nine goals. In February, Giroux and Voracek were second in the NHL in points as a duo, trailing only Pittsburgh’s Chris Kunitz and Sidney Crosby. The pair’s success hasn’t only led to individual recognition; the team is starting to get back on track, too. The Flyers were 8-5-1 in February, and with a win against the Senators in the first game of March, they have propelled into the 8th seed, making them a part of the Eastern Conference playoff picture if it were to begin today.
Flyers’ General Manager Paul Holmgren stuck to his promise that he made in February, saying that he wasn’t afraid to trade away future draft picks to get a goal scorer. Former Flyer Simon Gagne turned out to be the man Holmgren had his eye on the whole time.
Holmgren admitted in a press conference that “Gags (Gagne) was the guy we had lined up from the get go, the money situation just never lined up early on in the negotiations… but when both sides came to terms that were beneficial for both Future and Present, it was a no brainer.” Gagne made an immediate impact, scoring a goal in his first game back in a Flyers uniform.
It’s no secret that the Flyers are a postseason threat – the team has missed only one postseason since 1997 – and with a core group of leaders that have played in more than enough playoff action to be considered an experienced group, there is definitely the capability for a Stanley Cup run from this team. The Flyers begin a crucial stretch of games on Tuesday, which will be the start of six straight against Atlantic Division opponents. If the team will have any hope of remaining playoff contenders, they’ll need to thrive against division rivals in their next six games, and the remainder of the season.
By John Iezzi