Flyers Do-Or-Die Divisional Matchups

The Flyers are 57 games into the season and in third place in the Metropolitan Division as of Feb. 15. They have won four of their last five and have the most points in the division since Dec. 4. After a bumpy start that included a 10-game losing streak, the Flyers are in good position as they reach a critical juncture of the NHL season.

Of their final 25 games in the regular season, 13 of them will be against division opponents, all of which are fighting for a playoff spot. The last place New York Rangers are only seven points back of the Flyers. It is as tight of a race as it could be in the Metropolitan Division. The Flyers will have to be able to win against their rivals in order to make the playoffs.

Upcoming Metropolitan Matchups

Coming off a shootout loss to the Devils on Tuesday, Feb. 13, the Flyers will continue a stretch of divisional games that includes the Blue Jackets and Rangers. While there will still be 23 games left in the season after the Rangers game, 11 of which will be against division rivals, these games could make or break the Flyers’ season. It is critical for them to get points in these games. A three-game losing streak now could send the Orange and Black from a playoff spot to the bottom of the division.

Wayne Simmonds Flyers
Wayne Simmonds battles in front of the net against the Islanders. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

So far this season, the Flyers have played the fewest games against the division compared to their rivals. They are 6-4-5 in those games. They will have to be better than that in the final 13 division games. Their success against their rivals has varied this season.

New Jersey Devils

The Devils are the only divisional team that has finished its season series with the Flyers and they did it in a month.  The teams split the season series in terms of wins and losses, but the Flyers were able to take five points from the Devils compared to New Jersey’s four.

They won their first two games against them in January by scores of 5-3 and 3-1 and dropped the last two. Brian Elliott started in goal the first game, Michal Neuvirth the second and fourth, and Alex Lyon the third. The Flyers lost the third meeting after a late tip-in goal by Nico Hischier that went through the legs of Lyon. Lyon was quick to say “that’s on me” by tapping his chest after the goal.

Nico Hischier
Two goals and two assists against the Flyers is a strong start for Nico Hischier who will be seeing this team a lot in his career(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

There is a lot of young talent on the Devils who have been one of the biggest turnaround teams of the season. Flyers should be content with going 2-1-1 against their cross-river rivals.

Columbus Blue Jackets

The lone matchup of the year against Columbus was a competitive one that resulted in a 2-1 shootout loss for the Flyers on Dec. 23. The two teams have gone on very different paths since then with the Flyers heating up at the right time and Columbus trying to find themselves for the playoff push.

Both goaltenders were excellent in the first matchup with former Flyer Sergei Bobrovsky outshining Brian Elliott in the shootout. The Flyers top trio of Couturier, Giroux, and Voracek were all shut down in the shootout. Pierre-Luc Dubois was the hero for Columbus with a goal in the third round.

It was the second game of a back-to-back for the Flyers who showed some signs of fatigue during the game but still played well and managed a point. This time around they will be well rested with two days off prior. The Orange and Black should be able to take the season series from Columbus this year.

New York Rangers

The Flyers and Rangers have also only played once this season and it was all Rangers in the game. Perhaps the history and awe of Madison Square Garden got to the Flyers that day. Whatever excuse works to detract from the 5-1 loss they suffered on Jan. 16.

The Flyers will try to avoid being run over by the Rangers in their second meeting (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Overall, it was a forgetful game, but the blowout loss shouldn’t be connected with Ranger dominance over the Flyers. The Rangers capitalized on the opportunities given to them; however, many of the opportunities can be stopped this time around. Four of the goals were on a breakaway or odd-man rush situation, with the fifth goal being a power-play marker. The Flyers found themselves out of position or committing costly turnovers at their own blue line that led to Rangers goals. Cut down on easily fixable mistakes, and the Flyers can play with the Rangers.

The Rest of the Division

Against the Capitals, Hurricanes, Islanders, and Penguins, the Flyers are 4-2-3. The two regulation losses were a 5-3 loss in D.C. and a 5-1 loss at home to the Penguins. They have one more game against the Capitals in Philly. Three more against the Hurricanes with two at the Wells Fargo Center. One more game in New York against the Islanders and two more against the team from the other side of Pennsylvania.

Aside from the 8-2 beatdown the Flyers gave the Capitals in October and the aforementioned blowout loss at home to the Penguins, the divisional games against these teams have been competitive and close. The other three wins consisted of two overtime victories and a 6-4 win over the Islanders where the Flyers looked completely dominant for most of the game, but the Islanders played hard and battled back to make it a close game. The goal differential for the Flyers is plus-two against these four teams. With five games having already been decided in overtime, every game is going to be a must watch from here on out when the Flyers face one of these teams.

Metropolitan Division matchups are always tough, but the Flyers should feel confident that they can win most of the remaining matchups. They won more points than the Devils in the season series. They have taken every other Metropolitan team to overtime at least once, except for the Rangers. Of their losses, only two have been bad games or blowouts. There is no team the Flyers can’t compete with.

Worries for the Flyers

Philadelphia is playing winning hockey right now thanks to their competitiveness and consistency. You think back to the 10-game losing streak and wonder how high in the standings they would be had a few of those games gone their way. Even with it, they are looking like a serious playoff team.

When compared to other divisional teams in divisional games, they have been able to find success in some areas. Against the division, they are third on the power play behind Pittsburgh and the Islanders and they are first in faceoffs winning percentage at 54.3 percent. They also have played the fewest games against the division so far. That means there is room for improvement. The Flyers have played 15 games compared to the Capitals and Blue Jackets who have played 19 and 20 games, respectively. Some of the stats are skewed because of the number of games played.

Claude Giroux Sean Couturier Flyers
Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier will try to lead the Flyers to the playoffs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Other stats, however, are still a concern moving forward. The Flyers have not been disciplined and have committed the most penalty minutes in divisional games despite playing the fewest games. They are last in shots, which is expected, but they are 38 behind the next lowest team in the Hurricanes who have played the same amount of games. The Flyers are last in takeaways, one behind the Islanders and 14 behind Pittsburgh in one fewer game. And the penalty kill which has been a problem all season long HAS to be better. They give division rivals a lot of chances and only stop them 65.4% of the time, last in the division.

The Playoff Push

The Flyers have 25 total games remaining as of Feb. 15. There are 50 potential points. The lowest seeded playoff team in the Eastern Conference had 95 points last year. That means the Flyers need 29 points to end the season to reach that mark. That is very doable.

It comes down to winning against your biggest rivals. No one should expect them to win all of their divisional games, but they do have to get as many points as possible in those games. Consistency has been a key storyline for the Orange and Black all season long. They will need to continue their consistent play here in the final months of the regular season to hold on to that playoff spot.