Knuble! (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
SO THAT HAPPENED. We finally have another team in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. And it's somehow the Washington Capitals.
Undecided on how you feel about that? Let's flashback to my initial scenarios post:
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 Caps winning was huge for this team's prospects in the next round. They not only took the Bruins out of the playoffs altogether, they become a worse-seeded team than the Flyers in the second round, meaning that they will face a higher ranked opponent than we will. Like, for example, the Rangers, who the Flyers can no longer face before the conference finals.
For a full TEN DAYS after the Flyers went up 3-0 and all but guaranteed themselves a spot in the second round, the Flyers could have still played any of the other six teams alive in the East. That number of teams has finally shrunk from six all the way to...four. It's a start. Depending on how tonight's two Game 7s play out, here's what could still happen:
#1 NYR, #3 FLA win = Flyers play #3 FLA -- Things are much simpler now. If the Rangers win, the Flyers will play the winner of the Florida-New Jersey Game 7. And while the Rangers remaining lurking isn't ideal, playing the winner of Florida-New Jersey might be. Have you seen that series? It's horrendous and they both look terrible. Unlike playing Washington or Ottawa, playing Florida or New Jersey wouldn't be as likely to lull the Flyers into cockiness, since it would be a division opponent in one scenario and a division champion with home ice in the other. Florida got something like 2 shots in Game 6 against New Jersey. They suck. Bring 'em on. Even if this is the only scenario in which the Flyers don't get home ice.
#1 NYR, #6 NJD win = Flyers play #6 NJD -- As I pointed out in the initial discussion of this possibility, the Flyers have won their last two Turnpike Series in 5 games. The Devils are not a great playoff team at all since the lockout, and Martin Brodeur really is a fraud at this point. He is so very old, and not very good. The Devils don't play anything like the defense they once did, so he's far more exposed. His backup Johan Hedberg is far better, so if the Flyers do play the Devils let's hope they never get the cojones to start him. The Flyers know the Devils well so it's unlikely they'd underestimate them, even if it's hard to imagine them losing that series.
#8 OTT, #3 FLA win = Flyers play #7 WSH -- If this scenario happens, the Flyers would be the only franchise left in the whole playoffs that has ever won a Stanley Cup. I had this listed as "Dream Scenario No. 1" in the original post, and that would still seem to stand. This would be all three teams with fewer points advancing, and would leave the Flyers with a collection of teams that all finished nine or more points lower in the standings. That said, the Caps are playing better playoff hockey right now than they have in over a decade, and Braden Holtby looks incredibly solid when he's not letting rebounds that sit behind him for forever in Game 7 (my God, that was terrible). Going from the basketball-type scoring of the Penguins series to the medicine ball the Caps play could be a jolt, but the Flyers would have to love their chances in the Conference Final should they get through the Caps.
#8 OTT, #6 NJD win = Flyers play #8 OTT -- And this is how the Flyers could be the top remaining seed in the East, get home ice through the next two rounds, and suddenly become overwhelming favorites. Is that a good thing? Sure! Ottawa is a tough team to nail down in these playoffs, and Craig Anderson has been great, but can you really turn down an #8 seed that plays in a quiet Canadian arena? No, you can't. Also, nothing makes me feel quite like an anthem in Franglais. That shit's the best. The Senators are the only team in the league that the Flyers have played more than once in the playoffs and never beaten. Vengeance now!
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 in the second round and beyond?