Ed Note: Updated for reality, bumped for relevance. Flyers are in the second round, bitches.
As a team in the No. 4 vs. No. 5 match-up, the Flyers are in the unique position of being able to play any of the other six remaining East teams in the second round. No other match-up allows for this.
There are eight possible scenarios that could play out in the rest of the first round. Here they all are, and how they affect the Flyers' likely second round match-up.
#1 NYR, #2 BOS, #3 FLA win = Flyers play #1 NYR -- The Rangers should be the team the Flyers least want to play in these playoffs, and therefore, the team the Flyers least want to play in the second round. That said, if the Flyers aren't too bruised by a potential sweep of Pittsburgh, and the Rangers get chewed up a bit by Ottawa, it might it be nice to play New York sooner rather than later. That, my friends, is how you look at a glass that barely has the bottom covered -- from the bottom up so you have no idea how much is in it.
#1 NYR, #2 BOS, #6 NJD win = Flyers play #2 BOS -- Ugh, Boston. I'm so sick of these people. This is probably the most likely scenario, because it assumes that the teams with more regular season points win the remaining series. A series against Boston for a third straight year would be deja vu all over again ... all over again. The Flyers have played the same team in the playoffs three years in a row twice before, against the Maple Leafs in 1974-76 (all first round wins) and the Rangers in 1985-87 (all first round, winning two of the three). Want an irrelevant plus? The Flyers made the finals in five of the aforementioned six years. Familiarity breeds ... success ... or something.
#1 NYR, #7 WSH, #3 FLA win = Flyers play #3 FLA -- This is where you'll start to see how much you should be rooting for the Capitals right now. Unlike the Senators, the Capitals would actually seem to have a chance to pull off the first round upset, AND they also match up well against the Rangers in their recent history, so they could do a lot of the Flyers' dirty work for them without ever seeming like a real threat to beat the Flyers in the Conference Finals (Montreal 2010, anyone?). The Flyers haven't played the Panthers in the playoffs since 1996, when the Cats shut down the Spectrum in double overtime. It was a dark time. The Panthers also were a sub-.500 team this year, so there's no reason not to want them to hang around, or to face the Flyers.
#1 NYR, #7 WSH, #6 NJD win = Flyers play #6 NJD -- Similar to the previous scenario, the Caps winning really protects the Flyers in the second round. After some bad luck against the Devils in the pre-Hitchcock era, the Flyers have won their last two Turnpike Series in 5 games. It wouldn't seem to be a worrisome match-up, especially since Martin Brodeur is now SO DAMN OLD. Seriously, no one is talking about how old he is. He's super, super old.
#8 OTT, #2 BOS, #3 FLA win = Flyers play #3 FLA -- This and the next three scenarios all involve Ottawa upsetting the Rangers, which is an amusing, tantalizing possibility. The Senators do technically have home ice in that series now, so I guess they're the favorites. Right, conventional wisdom? If that does happen, everything gets real exciting. Again, it's hard to see the Flyers losing to the Panthers, who are a sub-.500 team that worships Kris Versteeg like he's their god. I do still like me some Scottie Upshall though, even after everything he did to my Wolf.
#8 OTT, #2 BOS, #6 NJD win = Flyers play #6 NJD -- This is actually sort of a cool scenario. It would leave the Bruins playing the Senators, which is a division rivalry that has never once consummated itself in the playoffs. The Flyers could then comfortably feel like they were probably in the driver's seat in the East while at the same time staying somewhat under the radar (whatever that means).
#8 OTT, #7 WSH, #3 FLA win = Flyers play #7 WSH -- This is Dream Scenario No. 1. If all three teams with fewer points win, the Flyers would become super-overwhelming favorites to win the East. That Florida-Ottawa series would the lowest-quality second round series probably ever, and the Flyers would get to face the winner of it should they survive the Caps, in what would be a combative series that *shouldn't* be too competitive. Dale Hunter has been horrible, Alex Ovechkin has been horrible, Mike Green has been horrible, Alex Semin has been horrible, and Braden Holtby can't last much longer (right?).
#8 OTT, #7 WSH, #6 NJD win = Flyers play #8 OTT -- And this is Dream Scenario No. 2. The Flyers would suddenly become the highest remaining seed in the East, would get home-ice for the next two series guaranteed, and would again be hugely overwhelming favorites. An Ottawa team that is playing well enough to beat the Rangers could be a little scary, but so is a Flyers team that just crushed the Penguins, amirite? A Devils-Caps series would probably average 0.5 total goals a game, so maybe it's best not to wish that on the viewing public.
Discuss away in the comments. Which scenario do you think is most likely to happen, and which scenarios do you think are best for the Flyers?