The Flyers have gone 10-2-1 over their last 13 games and have a 10-game home winning streak. (Photo Courtesy of ESPN.com)
The 2014 portion of the NHL season is just nine days old. Take this in for a moment: the Philadelphia Flyers are the hottest team in the National Hockey League.
Wednesday night's game was symbolic for several reasons. The Flyers had to overcome multiple third-period deficits on a six-game road trip that opened with a shootout win and ended with an overtime win. The other symbolism was the night's opponent.
On Dec. 12, the Flyers faced the Montreal Canadiens at Wells Fargo Center. Even then, their home success was no secret. They had a five-game home winning streak at the time.
That night the Flyers picked up a 2-1 victory. Nearly a month later, the Flyers scored another win against the Canadiens, this time by a score of 3-1. In the time between the two games, a total of 13 games have been played. The Flyers are 10-2-1 in those games.
In the last 13 games, the Flyers have averaged 3.46 goals per game. They have allowed 2.54 goals per game. That includes 17 goals allowed over a four-game stretch - a pair of home-and-home games against the Washington Capitals and Columbus Blue Jackets.
Since the start of the road trip, those numbers are even better. They score 3.14 goals per game and allow 2.14 goals per game.
The strong play continues to start in goal. Steve Mason hit a rough patch, allowing three goals or more in eight of his last 13 starts. During that time, the Flyers still went 9-2-2. Furthermore, in some of those game, like the Flyers 4-3 shootout win in Vancouver, Mason kept the Flyers in the game. Despite allowing three goals, he stopped 41 shots and all three of the Canucks shootout attempts.
Even Ray Emery has helped fuel two wins on the Flyers road trip, earning the victory in Calgary and New Jersey allowing three goals between the two games.
A few weeks ago, the Flyers turnaround was mainly a credit to the Flyers top line - notably Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek - finding the net. Now, the middle lines are chipping in more.
The two biggest players to that are Wayne Simmonds and Scott Hartnell. Both have put together notable point streaks. Simmonds has nine goals and fives assists in the 13 game stretch. That includes a stretch of three straight games with two goals in each, just the third Flyer in history to accomplish the feat.
Hartnell put together an eight-game point streak starting on Dec. 21. It was snapped in Wednesday's win. During the streak, Hartnell scored four goals and added six assists.
What is the true sign that the Flyers are rolling? How about Zac Rinaldo scoring a goal in the win on Wednesday. A goal from the fourth line is always a plus. For it to come at this time just shows the Flyers improvement.
The Flyers played a nearly perfect game on Wednesday. The only flaw was a couple of good shorthanded chances - and one shorthanded goal - for Montreal. The Flyers power play at home has not been successful.
The recent success has moved the Flyers up into the standings. The team that looked like it had to fight for a playoff spot, possibly late in the season, is now comfortably in the playoff picture.
The Eastern Conference and Metropolitan Division are a logjam. But the Flyers are starting to create separation. With 50 points, the Flyers are second in the division and fifth in the conference. Catching the division-leading Pittsburgh Penguins - also tops in the conference - is a longshot. But every other team in the East is within eight points of the Flyers.
By facing Montreal, the Flyers opened a stretch of games against some stiff competition. The Canadiens are fourth in the conference. The Tampa Bay Lightning, the Flyers opponent on Saturday, are third in the conference. They also have games against the Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings and Anaheim Ducks to close out the month.
This stretch should separate the Flyers from the rest if they are to be a solid playoff team. For now, they are in the picture, and that has got the city taking notice.