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The Flyers chances in the Atlantic Division

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Will the Flyers make the playoffs?

It’s a question that’s been heavily discussed in Philadelphia and across the league over the past few weeks.  With their proximity to eighth seed, the tight standings in the Eastern Conference, and struggles of late, the Flyers looked like easy pickings for teams like the Washington Capitals and the surging Florida Panthers.

Recent victories have obviously solidified the Flyers position in the standings, but the final six games will not be any easier.  The schedule includes 2 games against the Devils, 2 against the Penguins, and 1 against the Islanders.

 When I broke down these teams records within their own division, I uncovered some surprising stats.  Within the Atlantic Division:

Devils  10-13-4 (.370)

Flyers 14-11-4 (.483)

Islanders 14-13-0 (.518)

Penguins 12-15-2 (.414)

Rangers 15-6-2 (.652)

 Putting this in perspective for the Flyers:  The Islanders and the Rangers have the best record against Atlantic Division opponents.  However, the Flyers have dominated the season series with the Islanders, winning 6 of the seven games.  The only obstacle they should face in the final matchup will be Wade Dubielewicz, who has not yet faced the Flyers this season.

The season series with the Rangers is completed, leaving only conference position to be determined by the play of each club.  The Rangers face the Devils and the Penguins twice each in the final six games – teams that the Rangers have heavily dominated.  That’s not good news for the Flyers if they want to pass the Rangers in the standings. 

That leaves the Turnpike rivalries.  Flyers-Peguins matchups have been hotly contested throughout the season, partially because there is an extensive history between the two rosters.  Several members of each squad faced off during the lockout when the AHL affiliates (Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins and the Philadelphia Phantoms) met in a Calder Cup playoff round.  The Phantoms emerged victorious and went on to win the Cup.  Add to that the 06-07 series sweep by the Penguins, the drama attached to the Flyers’ 8-2 win in December, and the animosity surrounding Sidney Crosby – these games get very interesting.  Can the Flyers bounce back from the 7-1 game against the steam rolling Penguins?  I’d say they can win at least one of these two games.

And then we arrive at the Devils.  I don’t know why the Orange and Black struggle against the Devils, but it’s been a decade-long issue regardless of personnel changes.  But the Devils are only dominant within the division against the Flyers, and that could prove the crack in the armor.  The Flyers did shutout the Devils early in the season at the Wachovia Center. 

Whether you want to attribute that Flyers victory to their strong play in the opening stanzas of the season or the Devils weak start, two things stand out to me from that game.  Marty Biron stopped all 38 Devil shots and the Flyers played a physically aggressive game.  The Flyers may not have a solid identity – a defensive team or a run-and-gun squad), but these two themes keep coming back.  When the Flyers defend the blue line and boards with their bodies, they seem to generate more energy, more speed, and more scoring chances.  That energy up front coupled with great goaltending from Biron results in wins.

These late games are opportunity for the Flyers to make a statement.  With the Devils struggling, they could grab at least 2 points.  Four of a possible ten puts the Flyers at 92 points – the estimate need to make the playoffs.  But one win each versus the Islanders, the Penguins, and the Devils puts the Flyers at 94, safely within the playoffs.  Also, it shows the Flyers can beat any team and gives them greater momentum – that could prove a winning combination for a low seed in the wide open East.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Wednesday, March 26, 2008 2:15 pm

    100% gauranteed. The Flyers are in.

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