Despite a five-game losing streak and dropping seven of eight earlier this month, the Flyers were still never in any serious danger of falling out of a playoff spot. Thanks to a successful stretch in January and February, they had built a nice cushion in the standings and were able to withstand the rough patch.
Following Tuesday’s 3-2 overtime loss in Dallas, though, their buffer has vanished. The Flyers no longer control their own destiny.
They had 90 points and sat in the first wild card position heading into Wednesday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche. While they are up two points on the New Jersey Devils, who have played one less game, the real concern for the Flyers is the Florida Panthers. The red-hot Panthers have 85 points but have played three less games – which means the long-term math no longer favors the Flyers.
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So, it’s officially time to focus on just making the playoffs instead of whether the Flyers will finish in one of the top three spots in the Metropolitan Division or as one of the two wild card spots. We have highlighted three reasons the Flyers will, and will not, make the playoffs.
They will because …
Strength of Schedule
Of the final five games remaining for the Flyers, only one (Sunday at home against Boston) is against a team currently in a playoff position. Meanwhile, the Devils have three of their six remaining games, and the Panthers play five of their last eight games, against teams ready to print playoff tickets.
The Flyers withstood a 10-game losing streak and 0-6-2 skid this season. They have not panicked and shown a determination when their backs have been against the wall – and will again over the next 11 days.
The captain has shown exceptional leadership on and off the ice since training camp. Expect him, if needed, to carry this team beyond the first week of April.
They will not because …
Strength of Schedule
Although they face mostly teams just playing out the reminder of the season, the Flyers have played down to their competition in overtime losses against Detroit and Dallas and barely escaped with wins over Carolina and the New York Rangers.
The Devils and Panthers have it. The Flyers don’t. New Jersey is on a three-game winning streak and has won six of its last eight games. Florida is 10-4 this month and has won four of its last five games. The Flyers, on the other hand, have picked up points six straight games but have lost three of their last four in overtime.
Since Brian Elliott and Michael Neuvirth landed on injured reserve, the Flyers have received mediocre and inconsistent performances between the pipes from Petr Mrazek, acquired in a trade with Detroit, and rookie Alex Lyon.