It’s that time of the year again. Everyone is playing out possible playoff scenarios in their heads, and having a little bit of fun in the process.
For Philadelphia, that process is a little bit different. The Flyers aren’t in the playoffs yet, but they are streaking and looking to move themselves into a wild-card spot.
With that being said, there are a couple of teams the Flyers could end up facing-off against in the first round of the playoffs, and despite what many believe, the Washington Capitals may not be the only team they could end up playing.
The Flyers still have two games left against Detroit, who currently sit four points ahead of the Flyers, with two fewer games remaining. They also still have three huge games left against Pittsburgh, who sit three points ahead of them in the standings, with a game at hand.
The one thing the Flyers will have going for them if they make the playoffs, is that they will be hot at the right time, and in hockey that is a huge difference maker.
So who might the Flyers have a date with in the first round? Let’s take a look.
The Washington Capitals
This is probably the match up no one in Philadelphia would want to see. The Capitals are far and away the NHL’s best team and will no doubt bring home the Presidents’ Trophy this season. However, if the Flyers were to end up playing them, that could be a blessing in disguise.
Philadelphia is 1-2-0 against the Caps this season, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. The overtime win was one of the best team efforts out of the Flyers all season, and in their most recent loss, they played a very good game, but just didn’t get the bounces they needed.
A matchup with the best team in the NHL is never something any team wants to see in the first round. That being said, it isn’t necessarily an awful thing. If this were to happen, you have to keep in mind that the Capitals have been in cruise control since late January, the Flyers will have been in playoff mode for well over a month. That can be an advantage.
If guys like Brayden Schenn, Sam Gagner, and even Nick Cousins and Scott Laughton keep up the good play, the Flyers could match up with some of the depth the Caps posses, and that would be huge in a seven-game series.
If the Flyers finish in the second wild-card spot, they will play the Caps.
The Boston Bruins
The Bruins would be an interesting matchup for the Flyers. They are a team that has a very dynamic first line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand teaming up to be one of the highest-scoring duos in the NHL. That has propelled them to be the third highest scoring team in the NHL with 210 goals on the season. However, the B’s have had their woes on the blue line. The loss of Johnny Boychuk has really hurt and Zdeno Chara is showing his age this season.
The other thing the Bruins lack is their will to win on home ice. They are 15-16-5 at TD Garden this season, which is bad enough for one of the NHL’s worst at home. That’s something the Flyers could take advantage of come playoff time.
This would be a very intriguing matchup to say the least. The Flyers are 2-1-0 against the Bruins this season, and all three games have been good ones. The Bruins have plenty of experience, and the core of their team has been through the thick and the thin. They are also fortunate to have Tuukka Rask playing well in goal. This would be an extremely physical and most likely high-scoring series, certainly one that would have no shortage of entertainment.
The Florida Panthers
Aside from the Capitals, the Flyers’ least desirable opponent is probably the Florida Panthers. The Panthers demolished the Flyers at the beginning of the season by a score of 7-1, and subsequently followed that up by being shut out by the Flyers, 1-0. Both of these games came before Florida really started to hit their stride.
The Panthers don’t have one superstar, but they are an extremely balanced team. They have six players with more than 40 points (Jagr, Barkov, Huberdeau, Jokinen, Trochek and Smith) and three of them have over 20 goals. They also boast a good blue line anchored by Aaron Ekblad and Brian Campbell. And of course, Roberto Luongo has been stellar all season between the pipes.
The only thing Florida has going against them is that aside from Jagr and Luongo, they are severely lacking any experience in the playoffs, so that may be an advantage if the Flyers were to play them.
Other than that, if I’m the Flyers, I want no parts of the Panthers in the playoffs.
The Tampa Bay Lightning
Contrary to what was said above, I think the most favorable matchup for the Flyers would be the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Flyers opened the season by playing a very good game against the Bolts, but ultimately ended up losing in the first 3-on-3 overtime in NHL history.
Fast forward to this past week, and the Flyers steamrolled the defending Eastern Conference champs. Did I mention they were in the midst of a nine-game winning streak? The Flyers were outshooting the Lightning 31-9 after two periods, and were clicking on a cylinders throughout the whole game. It also benefits the Flyers that Claude Giroux is a point-per-game player against the Lightning over the course of his career.
The Lightning have been hard to put their finger on this season. They are a very streaky team, even down to player personnel. The triplets line started out slow, but has been on fire as of late. But now, Stamkos has been relatively quiet in a time when the Lightning need him most.
If the Flyers have a chance of winning a playoff series, their best shot is probably going to come if they end up playing the Bolts. However, for that to happen, the Flyers would need to snag the first wild-card spot and the Lightning would need to win their division.
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Matt is a contributor for the Philadelphia Flyers at The Hockey Writers. He has previously covered the Flyers for GrandstandU. He enjoys playing hockey and making music in his spare time.