Flyers' brutal schedule will begin to lighten

Posted: March 17, 2013

Seconds after the Flyers' 2-1 shootout win over New Jersey ended Friday, coach Peter Laviolette was more animated than usual, high-fiving his players as they walked through the tunnel and into the locker room.

They may have just saved his job.

Oh, general manager Paul Holmgren had said the previous afternoon that Laviolette was not on the hot seat, but if we all had a dollar every time a coach was given a vote of confidence and was fired within the next week, we would be able to buy some pretty choice property in South Florida.

Laviolette has become a hot-button topic because the Flyers have underachieved in this lockout-shortened season. The fact they have played the most murderous schedule in the NHL - 29 games in 56 days, seven sets of back-to-back contests - hasn't helped.

Here's the thing: The schedule now loosens considerably. Counting Saturday's off day, the Flyers will play just once in the next eight days. They have 19 games in the final 43 days of the season, and they have only three more sets of back-to-back games.

In other words, they cannot use fatigue as an excuse for failing to make the playoffs.

Another positive: Winger Matt Read and defenseman Andrej Meszaros started to show their old form in Friday's escape against New Jersey. Both recently returned from injuries, but both have struggled to look like their old selves.

If Read and Meszaros get back to their form, it will be like adding two difference-makers at the trade deadline.

Speaking of the trade deadline, it has been moved back to April 3 this year. That means Holmgren has 21/2 weeks to figure out if the Flyers will be buyers or sellers.

During that span, the Flyers will play only six games: two on the road (Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh), where they are an abysmal 4-11, and four at home (Rangers, Islanders, Boston, Washington).

The Flyers are due for a run. Fact is, they have not had one since last season. They have not won more than two straight this year.

If they are to put together a streak, they will need goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to play like he did in Friday's (coach-saving?) win over a Devils team that had beaten them seven straight times.

Bryzgalov had been mediocre in the last three weeks before turning in one of his best performance of the season.

Give the quirky goalie credit. Not just for his performance against the Devils, but for standing up earlier in the week and saying the Flyers were "done" if they lost both games in the home-and-home series with New Jersey.

OK, his math was off. The Flyers would not have been finished if they had lost both games because they would have been five points out of eighth place in the East with 19 to play.

But his intentions were honorable.

"Bryz is emotional and he wanted to get us fired up," forward Danny Briere said. "That's all it was."

Was Friday the start of a playoff push?

"We need to win a lot more than only one," winger Simon Gagne said. "You start to see a little bit of sun, but not much yet. It's coming."


Contact Sam Carchidi at scarchidi@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @BroadStBull.

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