This has been quite a memorable run for the Flyers, and with a few more wins, it could become one for the history books. Dave Hakstol’s team has won nine consecutive games, a feat the Flyers last accomplished in the strike-shortened 1995 season, and head into Wednesday’s contest at Colorado with a chance to do something no Flyers team has done in 30 years: win ten in a row.
The Flyers entered the 1985-86 season with something to prove, losing the Stanley Cup Final to Edmonton in five games the season before. Mike Keenan’s crew lost four straight games after winning Game 1 of that series, a devastating way for that season to end. The first game of the ’85-86 season started the way the previous year had ended, with a loss, but the Flyers bounced back with two-straight wins on the road before losing, again at home, to level their record at 2-2 after four games.
And then something magical happened. Those Flyers beat Minnesota, then went to Chicago the next night and won there. Then they beat Hartford and Vancouver and Montreal and Quebec and Los Angeles and the Rangers and Chicago again and the wins kept piling up until finally, after an overtime win against the Islanders in mid November, the team lost the back end of a home-and-home with the Isles, ending their remarkable win streak at 13 games.
Just one of those 13 wins came in overtime, as the Flyers outscored their opponents 70-36 during that run. Seventy goals in 13 games! It was a different time, surely.
The last time the Flyers won ten-straight games a postage stamp cost 22 cents. And people actually used to mail things! A gallon of gas was $1.09 in 1985 and bacon was $1.65 per pound, because who wouldn’t want to know how much bacon is per pound at different times in history? (Bacon today is about $4.00 per pound, unless we’re talking uncured organic bacon; then, it’s going to cost you.)
Overtime was different back then too. This year’s team needed four overtime games — including one shootout — to amass their streak. Back then, heck even back when the team last won nine-straight in ’95, there was no shootout. Games just went to overtime and then ended in a tie. Nowadays, in an effort to open up the ice and avoid a shootout to decide games, overtime is three-on-three, which can be exciting, if a tad ridiculous.
This year’s run is incredibly impressive. Just different.
The ’85-86 Flyers leveled off a bit after that 15-2 start, but closed the season strong, winning 11 of their last 13 games — win streaks of six and five with two losses in between — for a record of 53-23-4, 110 points and a first place finish in the Patrick Division before falling in the first round of the playoffs to the hated Rangers.
The ’94-95 Flyers finished first in their division as well, ending that season with a 28-16-4 record and a loss in the conference finals to the Devils. Terry Murray’s team had streaks of nine and eight wins, rather impressive in a season of just 48 games.
Technically the 1993 Flyers won 10-straight games too, though it spanned two seasons, finishing the ’92-93 campaign — an 84-game slate — with eight wins, then winning the first two games of the ’93-94 season.
This year’s team is playing a full 82 and through the first 31 they stand at 18-10-3, markedly improved from 10 games ago. And yet, despite this near historic run the Flyers are on, they cannot seem to make even a dent in the division standings.
The Flyers are on 39 points through 31 games and were in fifth place in the Metro division at the close of play Tuesday. Only the Rangers have played as many games as the Flyers this season heading into Wednesday’s slate, with some division rivals having played three or four fewer games, yet still ahead of the Flyers in the standings.
Pittsburgh and New York enter Wednesday with 41 points, while Columbus has 40 and Washington is tied with the Flyers at 39, with three games in hand.
Montreal leads the Eastern Conference with 42 points, but the next best team in their division has just 34 points. That’s how good the Metro is this season. The fifth place team would be in second in the Atlantic or Central, and would be leading the Pacific division by four points.
The Flyers are 9-1-0 in their last 10 games, but Washington is 7-2-1, Columbus is 8-1-1 and the cross-state rival Penguins are 8-2-0 with a game against Boston Wednesday that’s entirely winnable.
Still, whether they’ve made up ground in the division or not, the Flyers went from a team under .500 to one eight games over in the span of three weeks, and the run has rejuvenated the city, which has been desperate for a winner for some time.
The Flyers have outscored their opponents 31-19 in this nine-game run — not quite the 5.4 goals per game like in the ’80s — winning more with a surprise uptick in defense and some stellar netminding from Steve Mason and Anthony Stolarz. In the last nine games the Flyers have allowed more than two goals just twice, and more than three just once.
Wednesday’s game against Colorado has the Flyers facing one of the league’s lowest-scoring teams. In fact, the Avalanche have the fewest goals in the NHL this season, with 60 in 27 games, the third-worst goals per game average in the league. The Flyers are middle-of-the-pack in terms of scoring defense, but they are one of just six teams averaging three goals per game or more, ranked fourth in the NHL in that category, behind division rivals Columbus, New York and Pittsburgh.
The Flyers do have a run of winnable games coming up. After Colorado they travel to Dallas, then home to host Nashville and Washington before a four-game road trip to New Jersey, St. Louis, San Jose and Anaheim. None of those teams have more points than the Flyers right now, and surely none can say they are hotter. Still, the pressure of continuing this streak will undoubtedly get to the Orange and Black at some point. And winning games in the division has to become a priority as the calendar flips into the new year. The Flyers are just 3-2-0 against the Metro this season.
Back to the streak… If the Flyers do win Wednesday, and maybe three more after that to tie that old mark from the mid-80s, what would that mean historically?
It would mean they’d need to keep it going through New Year’s Day to get to 17. That’s the number.
The 1992-93 Penguins won 17-straight games and no team has come closer than two games since. The Flyers actually hold the record for the most consecutive games with a point, at 35 games, set in the 1979-80 season. That’s a ways away, but surely, getting to 10 — record or not — would be nice.