A shortened hockey season means every game is more intense. With just 56 games on the docket, fighting for a playoff spot happens far earlier in the season than usual. There is very little room to do a mulligan if a rough stretch happens and the Flyers are finding that out first hand.
They jumped out to an early 7-2-1 this season and were, by hook or crook, beating every team in the East minus the Bruins, of course. They made it to an 8-3-2 record before their season was paused due to a covid outbreak on February 7. Even when the Flyers returned to the ice with a limited roster, they still posted a 3-1-1 record which led them to a weekend back-to-back series against the Buffalo Sabres when they pitched consecutive shutouts and it felt like a point in the season when the Flyers would tighten their grip and hunt down the first seed in the East.
But that didn’t end up happening. Ever since that series on February 27-28 the Flyers have gone 6-10-2 and have allowed five or more goals seven times which included two 6-1 losses, one 9-0 loss and one 8-3 loss.
The tailspin has lead to the Flyers being on the outside looking in as the fifth spot in the East Division with 39 points, currently four points behind the Bruins for fourth place, and Boston has two games in hand. Meanwhile the top three teams in the East, the Capitals, Islanders, and Penguins have all run away with the division as none of them has less than 50 points. The Flyers do have two games in hand on all three of those teams, but they are so far ahead that it doesn’t matter.
Now the Flyers have just 20 games left on the schedule and, according to moneypuck, have a %14 percent chance to make the playoffs. Three of their next four games are against the Bruins, who the Flyers are still winless against. If they lose two or more of those games, the Bruins could run away with a 6-10 point lead for fourth place in the East, a damn near impossible climb to make in such a short amount of time.
We’ll know by Tuesday night when the Flyers’ set of back-to-back games against the Bruins comes to an end where they fall in the standings. Luckily, these games take place a week before the trade deadline, and could determine whether the Flyers are buyers or sellers. If they can pull out two wins, they could very well sneak back into the playoff scene, if they lose, their playoff hopes go on life support and are just one or two more losses from ending up DOA. But hey, it wouldn’t be a late season in Philadelphia without foggy playoff hopes hanging by a thread, would it?
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: istockphoto.com