We're almost halfway through the Philadelphia Flyers 2011-12 season, and I think it might be safe to say that the team is sitting in much better of a position than anybody thought they would be. That's not an indictment on the team that Paul Holmgren put together this offseason, but I think that most people agreed things would be tough for the first few months of the season as the team got their sea legs with a bunch of rookies and newcomers.
That's not how things have gone, though. Through injuries to seemingly everybody on the roster, including the captain and the future captain (oh crap, did I say that out loud?) they're still atop the Eastern Conference and are in the running for the President's Trophy.
But what about the rest of the season? For me, the biggest question is if the rookies can keep up the solid play over the remainder of the year and the playoffs, and if the veterans asked to play extra minutes on the blueline without Chris Pronger can keep it up through the playoffs as well.
Luckily, we don't have to worry about a terribly difficult schedule the rest of the way as the team tries to answer those questions for us. The Flyers' strength of schedule the rest of the way out falls right around the league average. Let's take a look.
Dirk Hoag over at On the Forecheck always puts together these numbers based on his NHL Super Schedule, and we're quite happy to steal his data and spin it to a Flyers perspective. I did some leg work of my own using his data over at SBNation.com and came up with a simple ranking of teams based on the three metrics he compiled. According to that, the Flyers have the 16th toughest schedule in the NHL the rest of the way out.
But where do they fall in terms of each of those metrics -- miles of travel remaining, back-to-back sets of games left and opposing win percentage?
Miles to travel: The Flyers have 19,037 miles left to travel this regular season, which puts them near the bottom of the list in terms of how far they have to go. They always have some of the easiest travel in the league, and that's no different for the rest of the 2011-12 season. They do, however, have more travel left than every other Atlantic Division team. The Devils are at the very bottom of the list with just 11,627 miles left on their schedule, followed by the Rangers, Penguins, Islanders, Buffalo Sabres and then the Flyers.
Back-to-back games: Another category the Flyers have things relatively easy. They're not like the Edmonton OIlers, who only have five back-to-back sets (10 games total) remaining the rest of the way, but they do only have seven remaining. That's nothing compared to the Sabres, who have 12 back-to-back sets left on their schedule.
Elsewhere in the division, the Isles have 11 sets, Pittsburgh has 10, the Rangers have 10 and the Devils also have seven.
Opposing win percentage: Dirk used win percentage, not points percentage, as he doesn't see the need to judge teams on whether or not they can win or lose in OT/SO. When judging team strength, he's just going for straight wins and losses.
And the Flyers have had things really easy so far this season in that sense. To date, their opponents have a combined win percentage of .469, tied with Chicago for the third-easiest in the league. The rest of the way out, however, this balances itself, as the Flyers' opponents will have a combined win percentage of .514. That's tied with the Rangers for the fourth-toughest in the league.
By comparison, the Penguins' opponents have a .509 win percentage the rest of the way, the Devils' at .511 and the Islanders' at .502. Not so bad for the Flyers after all, it seems.
All in all, I'm not sure the schedule strength will matter too much for this team. It falls sort of in the middle for them in every regard, and there are many other questions surrounding the team that will make more of a difference the rest of the way.