Flyers vs. Devils preview: Lowered expectations

Bruce Bennett

The expectations are officially lowered for tonight's game against the Devils and, probably, the rest of the season.

You know, we've been pretty spoiled. Sure, the Flyers haven't won a Stanley Cup since 1975, but how many teams out there can count on their hands the number of years in their history they've missed the playoffs?

The Toronto Maple Leafs, for example, have missed the playoffs for seven consecutive years. The Flyers have missed the playoffs just eight times since 1967-68. We have it pretty good.

New Jersey Devils (13-9-5, 31) at Philadelphia Flyers (12-15-1, 25)
7 p.m. | Wells Fargo Center | South Philadelphia
TV: CSN Philly, NHL Network, MSG+, RDS | Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic
Get the New Jersey perspective at In Lou We Trust

That's probably why this season -- shortened and weird as it may be -- feels so frustrating. We're just not used to seeing our team sit so firmly out of playoff position as the weather begins to turn towards spring. It's not fun. But that's what we're faced with this year, and now with under 20 games to go, the Flyers are going to have to go on quite a stretch if they want to qualify for the postseason.

But is that what we want? The Flyers almost certainly aren't winning the Cup this season, and their chances of making the playoffs dwindle with every loss. Those chances are already under 10 percent. We're at that awkward point where we need to start thinking if we even want the postseason. Would a -- *gulp* -- higher draft pick be better than some meaningless inclusion in the playoffs?

We don't really need to get into that whole debate right now. The Flyers have a game tonight and we obviously want them to win that game. But I think I've reached the point -- and we'll all individually hit this stage at different points this season, I'm sure -- where the score at the end of the game isn't the most important thing. I want to see improvement form our young budding core. I want to see reassurance that Kimmo Timonen was worth signing for an extra year. I want to see Claude Giroux bounce back into the player we know he is. I want the small things in each game to give me hope for next season and beyond. Those things can happen regardless of a win or a loss.

I've lowered my expectations with this year's Flyers team, and I think that's going to help make the rest of this season a lot easier to bear. I want them to win tonight against the Devils, but I'm beyond getting upset and frustrated about a loss, and I'm not going to get terribly excited about victory. But hey, if they want to go on that run and make the playoffs...

Luke Schenn will return to the lineup after his battle with the flu kept him out of Wednesday's game in New Jersey. Kurtis Foster will sit. That's the only lineup change as far as we can tell for either side. Go Flyers.

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