NHL: Florida Panthers at Philadelphia Flyers
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Yo Philly: Stop ignoring the Flyers, the NHL’s hottest and the best team in town

The boys in orange and black are riding a six-game win streak into Thursday’s home tilt.

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The Flyers are the hottest team in the NHL, winning six straight games, the longest current win-streak in the league. Through 28 games, the Flyers are still just fifth in the Metro division with 33 points, but they currently sit in a wild card position (albeit with games in hand) and with Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers in town Thursday night, all eyes in Philly need to be on the WFC.

Well, see, that’s the thing. All eyes won’t be focused on the Flyers, but they probably should be right now. With respect to Villanova basketball and Temple football, the Flyers are the best team in the city, certainly as pro teams are concerned, and it’s really not even close.

The Flyers are 15-10-3 after Tuesday’s overtime victory against Florida. They haven’t lost since the day after Thanksgiving, beating the likes of Calgary, Boston, Ottawa, Chicago and Nashville before defeating the Panthers. In a three-game stretch before Tuesday’s win, the Flyers won in overtime at the Senators, second in the Atlantic division, returned home to beat the Blackhawks, perhaps the best team in hockey, then turned around the next day and beat Nashville on the road.

Everything’s coming up Flyers the last 10 days. Head Coach Dave Hakstol spent half his postgame press conference on Tuesday talking about how poorly his team played and yet, on the back of goalie Steve Mason, they managed another win. That’s what good teams do, and the Flyers have shown over the last 10 games, they are becoming exactly that.

Unfortunately for them, all Philly seems to be concerned about right now is Carson Wentz throwing too high, Zach Ertz not blocking, and whether or not Joel Embiid is going to play tonight.

Programming note: He is, and it’s against Anthony Davis and the Pelicans and oh my gosh is that a game you cannot miss if you care about his developme—

Dammit. I did it again.

NBA: Utah Jazz at Philadelphia 76ers
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to ignoring the good and focusing on either the great or the historically horrible. The Flyers have found themselves in this pocket of “good,” which doesn’t warrant as much attention when there is budding greatness in town (read: Embiid) and historic terribleness (read: The rest of the Sixers), hoping to become great again.

The general sense of terribleness has spread to the Linc, as the Eagles are mired in a funk Doug Pederson seems ill equipped to get them out of. Carson Wentz is nothing like he was the first three weeks of the season, the team can’t catch a ball even if it was thrown well and half the roster had to field questions this week about whether or not they gave up on the team last Sunday.

I did it again, didn’t I? I made a story about the Flyers about the Eagles, after making it about the Sixers. At least I didn’t make it about the Phillies.

Speaking of the Phillies, are they going to make any moves this hot stove season? By the looks of it, no, as their youth movement is really going to start to take shape next season, without Ryan Howard and Choo—

Why do I keep doing this and why haven’t you stopped me yet?!?

Speaking of stopping things, did you see Andre Blake was named to the MLS Best XI this week. The future is bright in Cheste—

Ah! Again! Talk about the Flyers, Dan. The Best Team In Philly Right Now.

NHL: Florida Panthers at Philadelphia Flyers
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Okay. The Flyers. They are the best team in Philly right now, and that’s something we should celebrate, because wins in this city, at least from a professional standpoint, are tough to come by this year. In 2016, the Eagles, Phillies and Sixers are, to date, a combined 88-157. Much of that is the Sixers, granted, but none of the three have a winning record in 2016.

Philly fans, and yes the media, are so used to teams struggling and so ready for teams to be holding parades — sorry, Soul, yours doesn’t count — that we can’t even muster the strength to celebrate a proper win streak. It’s in our DNA, which is probably why the general sports attention gravitates toward the future — The Process — more than the present.

And yet, the Flyers, of all teams in Philly, might have the best balance of present and future, as the stars of the next few years are helping this year’s team rapidly climb the standings.

The Flyers have 20 players under the age of 30, and nine are under the age of 26. The Flyers currently have four rookies and three second-year players on their active roster, including back-up netminder Anthony Stolarz, and while the development of those young players may have contributed to some early-season struggles, their growth in a short amount of time as been a huge asset to the team’s recent run. A player like Ivan Provorov is never going to garner the attention of Embiid or Wentz in town, but he’s doing more to help his team win than either of the other star rookies right now.

Travis Konecny (11) celebrates his first NHL goal with Matt Read (24) and Ivan Provorov (9) against the Buffalo Sabres.

Travis Konecny (11) celebrates his first NHL goal with Matt Read (24) and Ivan Provorov (9) against the Buffalo Sabres.

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

As good as the youngsters are becoming, though, this recent run has been made on the backs of veterans.

Mason has five wins in hist last five starts, saving 162 of 171 shots in that span, a .947 save percentage. His goals against average in those five games is 1.74 and while he doesn’t have a shutout during this run, he has absolutely stood on his head — the best term in sports to describe someone playing well at their position — keeping the Flyers in games and giving them chances to win.

It’s fair to suggest the defense has improved during this win streak, but that may not actually be true. It may just be Mason, as the Flyers have given up 33.8 shots on goal per game during this streak, the second-worst rate in the NHL, and way above their average of 28.8 per game. They’ve allowed 12 goals in the last six, or 2.0 per game, which is markedly below their 3.04 average this season.

The offense, surely, has improved of late. The Flyers have scored 21 goals in their last six games for an average of 3.5 goals per game, above their season average of 3.11. Wayne Simmonds is on a scoring tear, with four goals in his last two games, with five goals and two assists over this win streak. Simmonds is fourth in the NHL in goals and 10th in points, while captain Claude Giroux is right behind him with 25 points, buoyed by 18 assists. And one grilled cheese sandwich.

Seriously, will you look at that? How adorable is that story? And there’s absolutely no context do it. Look, here’s a news hit from when it happened, a few days before this win-streak started. The kid doesn’t have some kind of serious ailment or medical issue that the Flyers wanted to use to get a great PR hit from. It was just a boy who loves Giroux and grilled cheese and wrote a letter in crayon (of COURSE it was in crayon) because he wanted to share grilled cheese with Giroux and then it happened.

“Sometimes it just hits you a little bit more,” Giroux told 6ABC. “We have time to do those kinds of things after practice. Anytime we have a chance to meet a kid like that is awesome.”

The Eagles are a mess and the Sixers are about to be once Nerlens Noel comes back and sees there are no minutes for him to play and demands to be traded (oh, it’s coming), while the Phillies are having the quietest off-season in recent memory and here are the Flyers just hanging out and eating sandwiches with little kids and beating all comers.

Maybe Dave Hakstol needs to starting saying we should trust the process more. Would that get his team some attention?

How about for now, they just keep winning.

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