There’s a strong possibility the Flyers are going to miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third time in the last four years.
OK, we admit this is not breaking news. Between their anemic offense, awful special teams, mediocre defense and lack of consistency, the team has been mostly a mess through the first two months of the season and hasn’t resembled a playoff-caliber squad.
However, the most telling sign that rookie coach Dave Hakstol’s roster will likely remain home again after their regular season finale on Saturday, April 9 is where they stood in the standings on Thanksgiving. Yes, it seems a bit odd to quantify their postseason possibilities before Black Friday, but history is on our side here. Consider that since the 2004-2005 season, only less than a quarter of the teams not in a playoff spot on turkey day rallied to make the playoffs, according to STATS. Even harsher, in the Eastern Conference in the last seven years, only eight teams not in a playoff spot on Thanksgiving got in.
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Instituted two years ago, the new playoff format has the top three teams from each division automatically advancing, plus the next two teams with the most points in the conference move on as wild card teams.
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As everyone in Philadelphia sat down for their turkey dinner, the Flyers were in seventh place in the Metropolitan Division, trailed the Penguins by seven points for third place and were six points behind three teams that are tied for the two wild card spots.
There are still four-plus months of hockey left, and in 2013-14 the Flyers were one of those teams that overcame the odds to reach the postseason despite not sitting in a playoff spot on the fourth Thursday in November. They rebounded from a woeful 1-7 start to qualify before losing in seven games in the first round to the Rangers.
Plus, they have looked much sharper in back-to-back wins over the Predators and Rangers this weekend and have won three of their last four games. The 3-0 victory in New York ended a 10-game regular-season losing streak at Madison Square Garden and marked the first victory in that building since March 6, 2011. It was also the first time they nabbed consecutive wins since late October.
“I believe in this team,” backup goalie Michal Neuvirth said last week. “We’ve got good players and we just got to stick to the system and believe in ourselves.”