If the Flyers are going to climb back into the playoff hunt, they need to rediscover their mojo on home ice.
They are coming off a three-game sweep in Western Canada, but have won just four of 14 games (4-6-4) at the Wells Fargo Center. Only Arizona and Buffalo, the NHL’s two worst teams, have fewer home victories. The Flyers have lost their last six at home (0-4-2).
On Tuesday, the Flyers (11-11-7) start a five-game homestand — which equals their longest of the entire season — against a 20-10-1 Toronto team that has the second-highest points total in the Eastern Conference.
During the home losing streak, the fans have turned on the Flyers.
“It can be tough at times, especially in Philly. More pressure,” said center Sean Couturier, who leads the Flyers with 14 goals. “But when you’re winning, it’s one of the best places to play. Now that we’re back on the winning side, we’re excited to be back in front of the fans, and hopefully we can stick a few more wins here.”
The Flyers, who scored a 4-2 victory in Toronto on Oct. 28, are hoping the momentum from their recent Western Canada trip carries onto home ice.
“We keep it simple on the road,” right winger Wayne Simmonds said Monday after practice in Voorhees. “We made a pact to keep it simple and play the right way and we did. We just have to continue it at home.”
Toronto has won three straight and five of its last six, and the status of Maple Leafs star center Auston Matthews (13 goals, 13 assists) may not be known until game time. He missed Sunday’s 1-0 win over Edmonton with an apparent chin/head injury. The Leafs are a surprising 5-0 in games he has missed this season.
The Flyers are a healthy 7-5-3 away from the Wells Fargo Center.
“I think on the road we’re more worried about our game. I think that’s the biggest thing,” defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said. “You can’t worry about the matchups too much. Obviously you try to match up, but ultimately they have the last change [when the Flyers are on the road]. I think at home if we worry more about ourselves, we’ll be fine. We’re playing great hockey right now.”
The Flyers used a 1-2-2 alignment in Western Canada and clogged the neutral zone.
“Our adjustments to our new system have been working,” Gostisbehere said, “and we’re just trying to get better with them.”
The Flyers entered Monday eight points out of a wild-card spot, which is why they need to make up ground during the extended homestand.
“It’s huge for us,” Gostisbehere said. “I mean, we obviously dug ourselves a little bit of a hole and we’re trying to dig ourselves out — and we’re doing that right now with three in a row. I think we if just take it game by game, we’ll be fine.”
Goalie Brian Elliott, who will make his fifth straight start Tuesday, said it’s “important we continue what we’ve built on the road” and play the same type of game “the rest of the season, especially at home.”
The key, he said, is “not trying to do too much fancy stuff. It’s get back to the basics, put pucks on net, and bang in some rebounds. I think it’s a little harder to do at times, mentally, at home. I think it’s human nature at home to do something fancy in front of your home fans. But they’d rather see a win than a fancy play, so I think we’re going to try to keep it simple.”