Late-season push has the Flyers in the midst of the playoff race

Hot and not

RafflMichael Raffl, Philadelphia Flyers
Raffl scored twice in the Flyers' 4-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings, his second-straight mulitpoint game giving him seven total points in his past five games.

LehtonenKari Lehtonen, Dallas Stars
Lehtonen allowed four goals on 11 shots and was pulled just over a minute into the second period of the Stars' 5-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings. He is now just 3-4-2 in March.

Should we believe in the Philadelphia Flyers?

Pierre LeBrun@Real_ESPNLeBrun: When are people going to really believe in the Philadelphia Flyers? I would say it should be right about now, after the Flyers' 5-2 statement win over Detroit on Tuesday moved them to within a single point of the Wings for the last wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference (with two games in hand). Detroit's stumbles continue while the Flyers are surging, opening up an Eastern race that looked fairly locked-in about a month ago in terms of the top eight. The Pittsburgh Penguins won another big game, 2-1 in overtime over the New York Islanders, but with Evgeni Malkin out six to eight weeks, I think it also makes the Penguins vulnerable to the Flyers' chase. What do you say, gang? Do you believe in the Flyers?

Scott Burnside@ESPN_Burnside: Oh, I'd say the Flyers are for real my friend. And the Red Wings have been flirting with disaster recently -- coming from behind to wins against the Winnipeg Jets and the New York Rangers last week -- but it's caught up with them the past two games against the Flyers and Toronto Maple Leafs. The Wings have lost five of seven. Their goaltending is in a state of flux and the offense has been slow to respond. Which would be the bigger story, the end of the Wings' mammoth playoff run (they last missed the postseason in 1990), or a Flyers team most thought would be in the draft lottery making the top eight with a rookie head coach straight out of the college ranks? Get ready, Jack Adams voters, to consider Dave Hakstol. I disagree, though, that the Pens could fall out. They've stiffened in the absence of Malkin, and I can imagine the Pens settling into the top wild-card spot and a possible matchup with the Florida Panthers, which would mean a homecoming for former Penguins star Jaromir Jagr.

Craig Custance@CraigCustance: I'm willing to admit I could be wrong about the Flyers. Coming out of the trade deadline, I was convinced that the eight playoff teams in the East at that point would be the eight teams in the big dance. But the Flyers are absolutely charging, and I got a sense of how badly this group wanted to make the playoffs during a conversation last week with Shayne Gostisbehere. There's a real drive to get back in the playoffs right now in Philadelphia. Still, there's also a group in Detroit that doesn't want to be the first to miss the playoffs in forever, so motivation isn't a problem in either case. That fire to get in the playoffs is one Philadelphia general manager Ron Hextall has felt all the way up to the GM box. "We're hungry," Hextall said. "I'd say the last two-and-a-half months, there's very few times I've questioned the effort of our group. That's a good thing."

Joe McDonald@ESPNJoeyMac: The Flyers are definitely for real, and I'm not concerned about the Penguins, either. Even without Malkin, they should be fine. It helps that the Penguins are 70-46-11 all-time without the veteran forward in the lineup. The Pens and Flyers face off on Saturday in Philadelphia in what should be a rocking contest. Before that, the Flyers face the Blackhawks on Wednesday in Chicago, so that's back-to-back tough games for Philly. By the time the Flyers hit the road next week for games against the Islanders, Columbus Blue Jackets, Colorado Avalanche and Arizona Coyotes, the Metropolitan Division standings could be tighter than ever.

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