Even though they’re coming off perhaps their best November in franchise history and continuing their fastest overall start since 2011-12, the Flyers insist they don’t want to start thinking big picture.
That’s probably code for dreaming about the playoffs and maybe winning a series for the first time since that aforementioned season seven years ago.
The Flyers appear to have their swagger back under first-year coach Alain Vigneault.
They went 10-2-4 for 24 points in November, the most for the month by any NHL team.
Winning four games in six days has moved the Flyers all the way up to a seeded position (third) in the Eastern Conference standings.
While all that’s impressive, Vigneault doesn’t want his team to get too far ahead of itself.
“We’ve just been trying to have that focus on one game at a time mentality,’’ Vigneault told reporters after Monday’s practice at the Skate Zone.
“Tomorrow we’re going to focus on Toronto (the Maple Leafs play at the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night). And then after we’re going to move on to the next game. That’s been our mindset and I think that keeps the guys in the moment. You don’t look at a whole bunch of things, you look at what you need to do that day.’’
The Flyers have struggled with uneven starts practically every year since 2011-12. It would be a welcome change not to have to make an annual playoff drive and only have to worry about playoff seeding.
At 15-7-5, the Flyers have the fifth-fewest regulation-time losses, trailing only three division leaders (Boston, Washington, St. Louis) and one second-place team (the Islanders).
>Staying out of the box
Much attention has been paid to the Flyers’ vastly improved penalty kill which, under new assistant coach Mike Yeo, has moved all the way up to third in the NHL at 85.7 percent.
But there’s something else tied into that statistic which the Flyers are doing much better at as well, namely staying out of the box.
Going into Monday’s action, the Flyers were the sixth-least penalized team in the NHL, having gone to the penalty box just 77 times (some teams are at/over 100).
When teams play smart, position-sound hockey, they take fewer penalties, which allows time to rest key players who kill power plays, such as Ivan Provorov, Matt Niskanen and Kevin Hayes.
That penalties-taken number will only become more important as the season moves along.
>Maple Leafs challenging
The Flyers expect a tough test when the Leafs arrive. The team recently changed coaches, dumping long-time bench boss Mike Babcock in favor of AHL coaching whiz Sheldon Keefe.
Toronto recently won three straight to move back into third place in the Atlantic Division.
The Flyers and Leafs have already split two games, both going to shootouts.
“They’re coming off a coaching change and they’ve been playing pretty well since then,’’ Shayne Gostisbehere said. “They’re a highly skilled team and they feed off one another. I think if we stick to our game, we should be good.’’
Added Hayes: “You have to bring your best and, if you don’t, they’re going to exploit you.’’
Carter Hart will start in goal for the Flyers vs. Toronto. . .Vigneault hasn’t decided which six defensemen he will use. The decision as to which player sits likely involves either Philippe Myers, Gostisbehere or Robert Hagg. “You don’t expect players to be happy when you tell them they’re not playing,’’ Vigneault said. “But at the same time, this is a team game and we have decisions to make that we feel are in the team’s benefit.’’. . .Vigneault dropped rookie Morgan Frost off the first line late in Saturday’s win at Montreal but expects to have him back with Claude Giroux and Travis Konecny on the top unit against the Leafs.