The Philadelphia Flyers seem to enjoy making things difficult on themselves. After Thursday’s loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the orange and black will enter the playoffs without a chance at home ice advantage in the first round. But overcoming obstacles is nothing new to this Claude Giroux-led team. But with the Flyers growing accustom to taking the scenic route, one must ask, how many lives, exactly, do they really have?
Flyers Growing Uneasy?
After recently qualifying for the playoffs, the Flyers turned their attention to staying ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets in the standings, while trying to avoid a first-round date with either Boston or Pittsburgh. Jakub Voracek removed any speculation by articulating that point a day after Philadelphia secured their postseason spot.
“Even though we made the playoffs, we don’t want to fall to the bottom where Boston or Pittsburgh is waiting there,” admitted Voracek.
“We got to make sure we keep winning these last three games and hope we catch the Rangers. We got to hold off the Blue Jackets first.”
With two games remaining in this year’s regular season, dates with Pittsburgh and Carolina will not only determine who they’ll see in the first round, but how much momentum they’ll carry with them. The Flyers now have two games to boost their morale since they’re now winless in five of their last six games.
“We kind of took our foot off the gas,” said captain Claude Giroux after clinching a playoff berth. “We only have three games to kind of work on our game and be ready for the playoffs.”
With one down and two to go, the Flyers will have to relocate the proverbial gas pedal if they do, in fact, want to avoid Boston and Pittsburgh. If Philly can win out, they’ll all but secure a first-round matchup with the New York Rangers; a 95 percent chance to be exact. But even more important, winning the last two will mathematically eliminate a quarterfinal meeting with the NHL’s top team, the Bruins.
Even if Philadelphia is able to take care of business, drawing the Rangers first, they’ll still be faced with the first two games, and a possible game-seven, at Madison Square Garden. Yes, the building that has crippled the Flyers since Feb. 20th, 2011. But with Boston and Pittsburgh posing bigger muscles in the standings, this is the matchup Craig Berube’s team wants.
“Since February 20, 2011, Madison Square Garden has been hell on earth for the Flyers. They have lost eight in a row in New York, and have been shut out twice.
“Although the loss last night hurts, the Flyers can win in MSG. It does happen. Just, well, just not in awhile. And Time Machine Thursday reminds us of the time when that did happen.” — Broad Street Buzz
Frustrating hockey is frustrating. Flyers can't beat the Rangers. Rangers can't beat the Penguins. Nobody can beat the Bruins.
— Yo (@FlyGoalScoredBy) April 11, 2014
Flyers Growing Fond Of Consol Energy?
Despite Voracek’s sentiments, the Penguins pose the least first-round threat. With three games down, the Flyers have already taken the season series from the Pens with one game remaining. Pittsburgh last downed the Flyers on October 17th as Craig Berube settled into his new position with the Broad Street Bullies.
Philly has gone on, however, to win the last three straight, including a weekend home-and-home series in March. If they Flyers can continue tormenting the Penguins, especially in Pittsburgh, they’ll definitely leave something in the back of Dan Bylsma’s team’s mind.
“I think playoffs are a little different than the regular season,” said Flyers forward and Penguin-killer, Matt Read.
“When you win back-to-back games here on the same weekend, it’s got to be something in the back of your mind when we would play them [if we met] in the playoffs.”
How lopsided has the season series been exactly? Consider the numbers, which heavily favor the orange and black. The Flyers have out-shot the Pens 121-114, while killing off 16 of the league’s best 17 power play chances. And despite Sidney Crosby’s 52.4 faceoff percentage, Philly owned the circle, winning 131 of 233 faceoffs.
Individually, Pittsburgh’s only multi-goal scorer is Sidney Crosby, who has found the back of the net twice against the Flyers. Philly, on the other hand, showcased three multi-goal scorers, with Matt Read, Wayne Simmonds, and Brayden Schenn notching three goals apiece. And while Marc-Andre Fleury struggled, allowing 10 goals on 101 shots on goal, Steve Mason has stood tall, winning in both games of the home-and-home, which also included a shutout.
Although Pittsburgh comfortably clinched the Metropolitan Division, a potential playoff series against the Flyers isn’t a hypothetical the Pens are taking lightly.
“I think it will be mentioned,” said Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik. “It was definitely mentioned when we played Washington the past couple of games, because they were sitting one point out of eighth.
“Even if it isn’t said, I think everyone’s aware of where they are in the standings and what the possible matchups are. I don’t even know if you have to say anything, really.”
Flyers miss good chance to AVOID Pens in first round TB beats them So with 2 games left for each team.Philly, CBJ and Det. all 91 pts
— Bob Pompeani (@KDPomp) April 11, 2014
— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) April 11, 2014
The Flyers will all but avoid the Pens in the opening round should they continue their dominance at Consol Energy Center on Saturday. Their odds of meeting their despised rival in the first-round would only increase significantly if the Penguins figure out how to beat the Philly at home, which would be counterproductive to the Flyers. In other words, the Flyers would be running the risk of maintaining their overwhelming advantage over the Pens, which has been held in tact since Consol Energy Arena opened.
“The Flyers, on the other hand, seem to have people shivering in fear. Maybe for good reason. The numbers aren’t pretty. The Flyers are 10-2-1 all-time at Consol Energy Center (including playoffs) and have beaten the Penguins three times in four tries this season.
“On special teams — where the Penguins have done their best work this season — the Flyers have dominated. They are 5 for 13 on the power play and 16 for 17 on the penalty kill against the Penguins. They also irritate the Penguins like a 3 a.m. car alarm, exposing their frayed fuses like no other team can.” — Trib Live
Whether it’s the Rangers, Penguins, or even Bruins, the 2013-14 season has illustrated the Flyers growing used to adversity. It may not make sense; it may drive the fan base bonkers. But it just may work. And after all, you don’t fix what’s not broken.