Now that we're close to February and the playoff chase is heating up, this is going to be a daily feature around here. The Flyers are in a bit of a weird position right now. See, there are pretty much three groups of teams in the Eastern Conference. One, there are the team's that have no shot -- Tampa Bay, NY Islanders, Ottawa, Toronto, and Atlanta. Two, there are the teams that are right on the cusp of the playoff picture -- Carolina, Pittsburgh, Florida, and Buffalo. And then there are the teams that have distanced themselves from that pack behind them -- Boston, Washington, New Jersey, Montreal, and the Flyers.
But the Flyers are toward the back end of that pack. They are only four points behind New Jersey for third in the conference and first in the Atlantic. But, they sit just four points ahead of Buffalo and just eight points ahead of the eighth-place Panthers. Yes, Tuesday night's game may have been a lot more important than we could've thought.
Last night, there were only two games in the Eastern Conference, but both affected the look at the playoffs. It's rare that a Penguin win is a good thing for the Flyers, but that was the case last night as Pittsburgh rolled over the Rangers 6-2. With the win, Pitt moved one point ahead of Carolina and one position up in the standings. They now sit with 52 points, tied with Florida, but they have played two more games then the Panthers.
But it also meant a loss for the Rangers. That adds another game to their conference-leading total of 50, and another loss, giving the Flyers an extra game to pick up those three points they trail the Rangers by.
The other game that mattered saw Buffalo, the team directly behind the Flyers, fall in Calgary by a score of 5-2. A Sabres win in that game would've made things a lot more interesting and would have brought them closer to that next echelon of teams. They would've been just two points behind the Flyers and just three behind divisional rival Montreal. Instead, they're just three points into the playoffs as we currently stand.
The next couple games are very important for the Flyers, as they will set the tone for the month of February. They need a win against Tampa Bay on Friday night. It is absolutely imperative, not only because of the playoff situation, but because they need to prove to themselves that they can beat the lesser teams they are supposed to beat. Also, this game and Saturday's game against St. Louis come right before a home-and-home stretch with Boston. Losses against Tampa and the Blues could quickly turn into four straight, and then we've got to worry.
Programming Note: If you missed the AHL All-Star Game and Phantom Jared Ross' all-star performance and you're in the Philly area, you can catch a replay at 7 PM on Comcast SportsNet.