There is a little over a month left before the final standings shake out and the playoff picture is set in stone. One of the teams battling for postseason contention is the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers currently sit 2nd in the Metropolitan Division with 70 points. Inconsistent play has marred the team all season long and it’s difficult to gauge whether they are contenders or pretenders at this point. Here are the some of the reasons to argue for and against the Flyers making the playoffs.
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3 Reasons the Philadelphia Flyers Won’t Make the Playoffs
1. Undisciplined Play
There has been one constant throughout the year for the Philadelphia Flyers: they take penalties…and lots of them.
Over the course of 62 games, the team has amassed a total of 948 penalty minutes (the most of any NHL team). That’s good for an average of 15.3 minutes of penalty kill time per game. The next closest team is the Vancouver Canucks by almost 70 less PIMs.
I don’t know much, but I do know being on the PK for a quarter of an NHL game does not bode well for any team. If the Flyers continue their frequent trips to the penalty box suite, that opens the floodgates for more goals and tired players down the stretch – a situation the team cannot afford when the playoff race is so tight.
2. Daunting Schedule
Take a gander at the Flyers schedule for March and April…
Philadelphia is in for one bumpy ride. They’ve racked up two division wins against the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals over the past week. In total, the Flyers have 20 games remaining. Nine of those games are against divisional rivals.
Of the remaining 11 games, 10 of them are against opponents who have a winning record. The majority of the games are against the top teams in the league – St. Louis (twice), Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston (twice), Tampa Bay, and Dallas.
The Flyers will have to show up every single night and play for a full 60 minutes if they want a fighting chance to make the playoffs.
3. The Defense
You just can’t say it enough. The defense the Flyers possess is just not a Stanley Cup caliber six-pack. Timonen is looked at as the leader on the backend and Braydon Coburn has played very well this season, but too much is being relied on those two blueliners.The defense doesn’t have the pop it once did with Chris Pronger and would have greatly benefited had Nashville not matched the offer-sheet for Shea Weber. Be that as it may, the current defensive corps is very limited in its capabilities.
The Andrew MacDonald trade may help the Flyers somewhat, but he isn’t the major puzzle piece the team needs. Niklas Grossman, as much of a workhorse as he is, has been brutal with the puck on his stick. Luke Schenn has been shown to be a defensive liability on a consistent basis. Mark Streit is all offense – and that’s about it. Andrej Meszaros has made a valiant return after an injury-plagued season and might be the 3rd best defenseman this year, but it may be for naught as he’s likely out the door in Philadelphia.
3 Reasons the Philadelphia Flyers Will Make the Playoffs
1. Line Combinations
Chemistry plays a huge role on any team and it seems to me the line combinations are concrete. The top line of Hartnell-Giroux-Voracek has been money ever since Giroux scored his first goal of the season against Edmonton back in November.
Coach Craig Berube finally decided to put Steve Downie on the wing with Matt Read and Sean Couturier. Earlier in the season that line was clicking cashing in on scoring opportunities left and right. Downie, albeit a loose cannon, does have more skill than people give him credit for. He also adds grit to a line that needs a hard-nosed player to go into the dirty areas.
Vinny Lecavalier hasn’t played too well of late, but the Olympic break might turn out to do wonders for him in the long run. He’s accepted his role as the LW accompanying Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds. He was even able to net the overtime winner in the thrilling game against the Capitals.
After playing on the first line for a portion of the year, Michael Raffl has slotted into the Flyers 4th line role and has helped Adam Hall and Zac Rinaldo on the offensive and defensive sides of the puck. Every competitive team in the NHL has a serviceable 4th line. With Raffl joining the mix, the 4th line has really stood out.
2. Steve Mason
The Columbus Blue Jackets sent and underachieving Steve Mason to the Flyers in exchange for Michael Leighton and a 3rd round pick. That trade is paying off dividends for the Flyers as Mason is posting his best numbers since his stellar Calder winning season in 2008-09.
Mason has regained his form and is playing confident in net. He gives the team a chance to win every single night, even when he plays average. Mason currently boasts a 2.57 goals-against-average and a .917 save percentage. He’s bailed out the defense countless times and is a reason the Flyers aren’t scraping the bottom of the barrel in the NHL.
If his play continues the way it has been all season, Philadelphia could shake up the playoff picture quite a bit.
3. The Metropolitan Division
Although the rest of the schedule is going to be a difficult task for the Flyers, they can take solace in knowing the Metro Division is the worst in the NHL. It’s truly a crapshoot.
A mere five points separates 2nd and 5th place in the Metro Division. Every divisional game is make it or break it. Washington relies too much on their scoring. The Rangers are a team built for John Tortorella’s style, not Alain Vigneault, and that’s evident. Other than a stellar goaltender, Columbus is a team with a lot of fight, but not much scoring threats or offensive skill. The Devils have been suffering from lack of scoring and defense. Fortunate for Philadelphia, they stack up well against all of those teams.
What say you Flyers fans? Do the Flyers make the playoffs or will they be on the outside looking in?
Follow Shawn Reznik on Twitter: @ShawnTHW