Flyers playoff picture: Could winning too much ruin their postseason hopes?
The Flyers could hurt themselves by winning their next six games — and setting up an unfavorable playoff match up.
The Flyers are on the inside of the NHL playoff picture as of right now. And according to projections by sportsclubstats.com, they have more than a 90 percent chance of making the postseason — with a 36 percent chance of finishing third in the Metro (they are currently tied with the Blue Jackets for third with six games remaining).
There is mobility, however, with a seven percent chance that the Flyers can make up the three points between them and Pittsburgh, a 10 percent chance of finishing ninth in the conference and missing the postseason, and a 57 percent chance of landing one of the two Wild Card spots.
There is a big benefit for Philly toward staying out of the No. 3 seed in the Metro Division. If the season ended today, with Philly in wild card spot, the Flyers would face the Capitols in round one — a team they have gone 3-1 against this season. That could easily change, as a slide down one slot (into the second Wild Card) will land the Flyers a date with the top team in the conference in Tampa.
If they can move up a peg to the third slot in the Metro, they could pull an opponent like Pittsburgh — a team that swept them.
Six games is a lot in the NHL. The Flyers fell from first in the Metro (after an impressive win streak) to battling to just make the postseason in almost that same span. As hard as it is to avoid, the Flyers can't scoreboard watch or attempt to hold onto their position with so many other moving parts at play.
"You know we saw what happens when you lose a few, it can go the other way in a hurry," Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald said last week. "We were battling for the top of the division and then next thing you know other teams caught up to us after that streak. I think we’re just focused on each game at hand moving forward and it’s gonna be the most important thing down the stretch."
The Flyers have three games at home and three games on the road left. They play two teams headed to the playoffs — the Avalanche and Bruins, and four who will be staying home — the Stars, Islanders, Hurricanes and Rangers. They may not be able to clinch their seeding until the final homestand (against the aformentioned Canes and Rangers), which means they really cannot afford to take any of their upcoming competition lightly.
"They have nothing to lose, they’re just playing good hockey and having fun," Flyers forward Travis Konecny said after Philly's most recent victory against the Rangers. "Especially like tonight, we knew these guys were not up in the standings so they were just going to play hockey and keep it simple. We talked about that, make sure we stick to our game plan and not get playing pond hockey.”
If the Flyers can play "pond hockey" for two more weeks, they'll be playing playoff hockey for potentially several weeks after. And hopefully the hockey gods give them a favorable match up.