Claude Giroux is in Ottawa to visit his newborn nephew before heading to San Jose and playing in the All-Star Game on Saturday. Many of his teammates have headed to warm-weather destinations, including Radko Gudas, Michael Raffl, and Michal Neuvirth, who are in Jamaica with their families.
Carter Hart, the rookie goalie who has made a dazzling impression since being recalled from the AHL’s Phantoms, traveled home to Alberta to spend time with his family and friends.
Welcome to the Flyers’ bye week, which follows a tumultuous first three-plus months, during which their head coach, an assistant coach, their general manager, and an assistant GM were fired and the team dropped out of playoff contention.
The Flyers (19-23-6), thanks primarily to Hart, left winger James van Riemsdyk, and center Nolan Patrick, did show some life just before their break, winning their last three games to feel good about themselves for, well, the first time since their only other three-game winning streak this season (Nov. 5-10).
They hope their eight days between games don’t end the momentum they built before the break.
Even with their modest winning streak, the Flyers are 14 points out of a playoff spot. Sportsclubstats.com estimates the Flyers have a 0.3 percent chance to play in the postseason.
“We’re a lot of points away, but I still use the playoffs as a motivation. We’re still not out of it,” Gudas -- who has arguably been the Flyers’ best defenseman -- insisted before heading to Jamaica. “We’re feeling pretty good about ourselves right now. The confidence is getting better and better with every game [where] we have success.”
“We’re playing better as a team,” defenseman Ivan Provorov said.
Three straight wins, of course, can’t erase the three mostly miserable months that buried them in the standings.
“We have to learn from the past and look forward and try to get better,” said center Sean Couturier, who leads the Flyers with 19 goals. In recent games, “I think we’ve been more mature in our game and the way we manage the game. Some games we’ve been outshot, but in crucial times we’ve stepped up and got the job done.”
Giroux talked about how the Flyers rallied in the latter stages of last year, overcame an early 10-game losing streak, and made the playoffs. That team, however, had to overcome only an eight–point deficit to earn a playoff berth.
“We’re a real streaky team… We understand we have to get really streaky,” Giroux said last week, referring to the need for a long string of victories. “But the important thing for us is to just go one game at a time.”
Now that the 20-year-old Hart (2.66 GAA, .918 save percentage) has solidified the goalie situation, the Flyers – who have tied an NHL record by using seven goalies this season – believe they will be competitive in every game.
“What’s surprised me the most is his maturity on the ice,” Giroux said. “He’s really composed. He doesn’t get too excited or too low. He knows what he has to do and he has confidence in himself. When you have a goalie who has confidence in himself, it kind of carries to us.”
Before going back home to western Canada for four days, Hart was asked about his personal goals for the season’s final two-plus months.
“I just want to make sure I stay here for the rest of the year,” he said. “I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that happens. I love playing here. We’ve got a lot of good things going on with our team. We’re battling hard and we just need to keep it up. We went through a tough stretch. … But we have great character in this room and it’s a lot of fun to be a part of it.
“I want to be a part of it for the rest of this year.”