The Flyers sure have looked like a team headed to the playoffs over the last three weeks.
They are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games after Wednesday’s thrilling 3-2 win over the defending champion Blackhawks and have leapfrogged the Red Wings for the final wild card spot.
So, with 13 games left will they keep up the pace or fade down the stretch? Here are Metro’s three reasons the Flyers will and won’t make the playoffs.
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Why they will make it:
The Flyers’ playoff fate rests in their own hands as they play the Red Wings and Penguins, the two teams they are battling for the final two wild card berths, four times over the last three weeks of the season, including three games in the final week. Each of those games represents a possible vital four-point swing.
Coach Dave Hakstol is going to need all hands on deck, and with all-star forward Jake Voracek slated to return on Saturday against the Penguins – after missing the last nine games – the Flyers are relatively healthy for the stretch drive. The only player unavailable is defenseman Michael Del Zotto, who is out the rest of the year with a hand injury.
A Total Team Effort
The reason the Flyers are even in a position to make the postseason is due in part to contributions from every player on the roster. No longer just a one-line offensive threat, the Flyers are getting secondary scoring, the defensive pairings are clicking at both ends of the ice and goalies Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth have been outstanding.
Why they won’t make it
Yes, they get to face the Red Wings and Penguins, but the rest of the schedule is daunting. Ten of the games are against teams already in a playoff spot or within six points of one, and the Flyers must play four sets of grueling back-to-back games.
Inconsistent Special Teams
The Flyers have converted just five of their last 32 chances (15 percent) and rank 15th overall in the league at 18.7 percent on the power play. Meanwhile, their penalty kill, which has killed off 13 of the last 14 power plays, is a meager 22nd (80.1 percent). At this time of the year, special teams can mean the difference between making the playoffs and staying home.
Lack of Experience
Nearly half of the Flyers’ roster, and their head coach, has never experienced a pressure-packed sprint to the finish line to make the playoffs. They will be learning on the fly – and from the veterans who have gone through it – the mental and physical temerity that is required.