Based on raw talent alone, the Philadelphia Flyers probably shouldn't be so entrenched in a playoff battle this year.
But it's performances that matter, and no team has gotten more out of its supporting cast as the regular season winds down than the Flyers.
Philadelphia has weathered injury setbacks to a handful of its best players (Sean Couturier missed a month in February, Jakub Voracek missed a few weeks recently) down the stretch. Now the team is doing it again. Michal Neuvirth carried the team as it began its latest hot streak, but fell to injury last week and is done for the regular season.
So the Flyers turned to Steve Mason, who shook off an otherwise inconsistent season to go 5-1-1 in his last seven starts. He was excellent again on Monday against the New York Islanders with 23 saves. The rest of the secondary cast stepped up, too, as Philly's stars took a backseat. Sam Gagner and Nick Cousins widened the gap, then Brandon Manning got his first goal and the game-winner in a win with massive wild card implications.
Philadelphia is 11-3-2 in its last 18 games and hasn't lost back-to-back games in regulation since the first week of February. That's a helluva accomplishment and it's been built on the back of ordinary players stepping up in unlikely ways in the second half. They'll get blitzed by the Capitals in the first round, but all that feels worthy of at least a playoff appearance, no?
Flyers 4, Islanders 1
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3 things we learned
1. Bono likes Mike Fisher
I mean, I get the country stars. It's Nashville. And Carrie Underwood is his wife.
But Bono? And Mike Fisher?
I don't know. I just thought that was a strange note. That's like Eric Comrie and Hilary Du-oh yeah. Whoops.
2. William Nylander is already excellent
The blue-chip Leafs prospect continues to impress in his brief debut in the NHL. Nylander's terrific backchecking and forechecking led to at least one of his three points on Monday. He even added a game-winning goal to top the night off. How he dropped to eighth overall in the 2014 draft is a mystery we'll have to sort out for years.
3. But the Leafs are still unintentionally hilarious and sad
Just look at this GIF and tell me it doesn't sum up the season in Toronto.
Oh, I don't know, how about the moment where a referee almost AMPUTATED HENRIK LUNDQVIST'S ARM?!?
dangerous and should probably be banned in 10 countries great!
This may take a couple of reads to wrap your head around but it's impressive nonetheless: