It’s hard to find a month more enjoyable than October. Our Philadelphia weather is cool and crisp, the colors of the fall foliage are magnificent, and Dunkin Donuts offers a pumpkin flavored, uh well, pretty much a pumpkin flavored everything.
For sports fans, October really rocks. NFL football is offered all day Sunday and on both Monday and Thursday nights. College football is also available nearly as often. On most nights we are able to witness the drama of MLB postseason baseball. In addition, hope springs eternal for many basketball fans as another NBA season is about to begin.
On the other hand, in the past this month has not been much of a treat for Flyers fans. In fact, most recent Octobers have been much more like a Nightmare on Broad Street than a month of enjoyment and excitement.
This is a problem that goes back a number of years. In fact, there has been only one October since 2007 where the Flyers have had a record over .500 for their first 10 games (2010). In every other year since 2007 the Flyers’ slow starts have caused them to be fighting an exhausting uphill battle the rest of the way. By the time March and April have rolled around, the tired team often looked more like The Skating Dead than an energetic playoff contender.
Goalie Steve Mason recently commented to columnist Jay Greenberg about this very issue:
“Clawing our way back (two seasons ago), it was like we had had a 40-game playoff run already (when the playoffs started). We can’t put ourselves in that position. We want to be the team that is being chased.”
So what kind of start have we had so far this season? Currently the Flyers are sitting at a respectable 4th place in the Metropolitan Division with 9 points and a decent record of 4-2-1. But in this case, the numbers don’t tell the whole story.
The Orange and Black battled tooth-and-nail with three top-flight teams that were clearly superior in terms of pure talent – Tampa Bay, Chicago, and Dallas. In those games Philadelphia earned 3 of 6 possible points. And more importantly, as the Flyers faced these three excellent early season opponents they certainly held their own, playing with confidence and teamwork – a couple of things that have been lacking from the early season in years past.
In addition, their other early season wins were actually pretty impressive. In a home and home series with Florida they bounced back from a 7-1 beating two nights earlier to shutout the Panthers 1-0. They also came back from a third period two-goal deficit to beat the Boston Bruins in overtime and they also defeated their long-time nemesis, the New York Rangers in a shootout. In each of those games, they combined well-coached team play and very good goaltending.
Yes, I know – it is only October – there are still a lot of games to go and there will be plenty of ups and downs as the season progresses. But for once it is nice not to be buried already.
And if these early tendencies continue on a consistent basis, and the Flyers somehow make the playoffs, Flyers fans could end up looking back on this particular October as a month that turned out to be even sweeter than a double pumpkin-spice latte.