Does Philadelphia seriously belong in the playoff discussion?

Hot and not

BennettSam Bennett, Calgary Flames
Bennett has broken out of a slump in a big way. After going 18 games without a goal, he has five in his past two. That includes four goals (three in the first period) in Wednesday's 6-0 whipping of the Panthers.

LuongoRoberto Luongo, Florida Panthers
A nine-game winning streak has come to a screeching halt for Luongo, who allowed four goals on 15 shots in the loss to the Flames and was pulled after the first period. The loss makes two in a row for Luongo after that nine-game run.

Are the Flyers a real threat to make the playoffs?

Scott Burnside@ESPN_Burnside: All of a sudden, the Philadelphia Flyers are making themselves known in the Eastern Conference playoff discussion. Most of the news surrounding the Flyers this season has been the ongoing work by GM Ron Hextall in digging the Flyers out of salary-cap hell. Hextall most recently managed to unload Luke Schenn and Vincent Lecavalier on the Los Angeles Kings. But under rookie head coach Dave Hakstol, the Flyers have developed a never-say-die attitude, which was on display Wednesday night in a hard-fought 3-2 win over the slumping Boston Bruins. The Flyers still can't score (they rank 28th in goals per game at 2.27) and their power play stinks (29th, 15.4 percent), but the win was Philadelphia's fourth in a row. Jakub Voracek contributed just his fifth goal of the season, and it's just a little mind-boggling that a guy who signed an eight-year, $66 million contract last summer is on pace for a 10-goal season. Voracek also had two assists, though, as the Flyers pulled to within two points of Boston, which currently owns (rents on the short-term?) the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Flyers also have a game in hand. So, is this sustainable from the plucky Flyers, or is this another case of a team raising its head briefly and then sinking out of sight as the second half moves along?

Craig Custance@CraigCustance: I liked Pierre's comparison, made during our Hockey Today podcast this week, of the NHL standings to a crushed beer can. We're at the point where any team that strings together a few wins gets swept up in the idea that it is knocking on the postseason door. I guess that's how the system is designed, even though the Flyers still would have to leapfrog four teams to get into the final wild-card spot. The impressive part of the Flyers streak is that it was done against four teams that are likely playoff teams. That's a good sign. And I applaud the effort turned in by Hakstol's team. We've seen no quit in non-playoff teams like Philly, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes this year, a credit to those players and coaching staffs. The Flyers are probably a year away from being a team I'd consider a real threat to make the playoffs. That takes nothing away from the fantastic work turned in by Hextall and his staff to clear salary space while piling up prospects. Hextall has shown a nice combination of patience and creativity, and it won't be long until Philadelphia has one of the best young defenses in the league. It's just not there yet.

Joe McDonald@ESPNJoeyMac: In past seasons, any time we've discussed the Flyers it always comes down to goaltending, and that could be the case again in 2015-16. Hakstol has done a fantastic job with this team and with its recent success, it's evident that confidence is growing and the players are finally comfortable with the new system. Are the Flyers a threat to reach the playoffs? Sure, any team on the bubble, especially in the Eastern Conference, has a chance, including the Flyers. However, I think it'll come down to goaltending again. Michal Neuvirth and Steve Mason are a solid pair between the pipes, even though their records may not indicate that, so to Craig's point, I agree that the Flyers are not there yet. Unless Neuvirth or Mason can step up and carry the team themselves the rest of the way.

Pierre LeBrun@Real_ESPNLeBrun: Parity, parity, parity! No one is out in this year's NHL derby. And that includes the Flyers. The guy who has impressed me this year for the Flyers is center Sean Couturier. He's taken his game to another level, and that has taken a little pressure of Claude Giroux's top line on some nights to do it all. Couturier has long been a very good defensive player, but he's found a little bit more jam in his offensive game this season. That's an important development for the Flyers.

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