So this is all kinda weird. We've written eulogies for this team, what, five different times this year already? Including maybe three times in the last month alone?
You'd think that would keep us from still looking at the possibilities of playoff hockey, because we've been burned so many times already...yet when you check the standings and see the Flyers only four points away from the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, you've gotta wonder at least a bit, right?
Washington Capitals (16-17-1, 33 pts) at Philadelphia Flyers (14-17-3, 31 pts)
6:00 p.m. | Wells Fargo Center | South Philadelphia
TV: CSN-PH, CSN DC, RDC | Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic
Get the Washington perspective at Japers' Rink
Sure: the Flyers enter today tied with the Lightning for 13th place in the Eastern Conference, and their playoff odds are still pretty comfortably low (around 5.7% entering today). And if they lose today, they'll find themselves alone in 14th -- and with this being the final game before the trade deadline on Wednesday, a loss to the 11th-place Capitals may set off a few deadline sell-offs for Paul Holmgren and company.
But shortly after yesterday's highly improbable win over the Bruins, the eighth-place Rangers and ninth-place Islanders both took regulation losses, and now a mere four points (and, yes, five other teams) separate the Rangers and Flyers in the standings. A Flyers win today would bump the team up to 11th place, giving them juuuuuust enough flexibility that they'll probably be seeing what they can do to extend their playoff chances a bit farther.
So can the Flyers win today? Really, who the hell knows. Basically every hockey fan on the planet shuddered when they saw the Flyers' defensive pairings before yesterday's game, and yet they were a single rebound goal away from shutting out one of the East's best teams. Maybe they can continue to postpone it, but it kinda seems inevitable that eventually the bottom will fall out on this defensive unit.
But even so, a lot of good things happened yesterday that need to keep happening. Newcomer Oliver Lauridsen played a perfectly adequate game yesterday in his NHL debut, and they'll need him to do it again. Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn both got off their point schneids and looked good the whole game -- again, something that they need to keep doing. Back in net, Ilya Bryzgalov was outstanding and is on a pretty nice run of games since the break last week, and assuming he's back out there today, a similarly strong effort would be appreciated.
The Capitals have been on a pretty solid run of play themselves lately. They've been playing well ever since a 4-1 loss that they took at the Flyers' hands in late February and are currently on a 6-3-0 stretch that's taken them from cellar-dwellar to right back in the playoff picture. Alex Ovechkin's looked like the Alex Ovechkin of old in some recent games, so if he can keep that up, then who knows what they can do.
Projected Flyers lineup:
Read - Giroux - Voracek
Simmonds - Schenn - Hartnell
Rinaldo - Couturier - Talbot
Gagne - Fedotenko - Knuble
Timonen - Gervais
Lauridsen - Schenn
Gustafsson - Foster
EDIT: Via Sam Carchidi, new acquisition Kent Huskins is in the lineup tonight. Not even gonna try and guess the pairings, in that case. We'll know more right before gametime.
Capitals' lines from yesterday at Japers' Rink, via the Washington Post. No idea if they'll be the same today.
Goalie matchup tonight of Braden Holtby and Ilya Bryzgalov, because duh.
Questions to Answer:
- How does the Kent Huskins, The Savior™ era begin?
- The team defense, while horrifying on paper, was far, far better yesterday than we anticipated. Another pleasant surprise in this one?
- Alex Ovechkin's on a seven-game point streak. Wanna end that?
- Coming off of one of his better all-around games this season, what do we get from Brayden Schenn today?
- The Flyers now have converted five straight (!) power plays. How's the man advantage look tonight?
- BONUS QUESTION: Union vs. Quinnipiac at 6:30 in the NCAA Tournament this evening. Epic battle for Flyers fans between, uh...Shayne Gostisbehere and Travis Hughes. Who gets the win?
Go Flyers. And happy Easter if you're celebrating.