Tonight is a pivotal night in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Boston, Florida, Buffalo, New Jersey, Washington, the Flyers, Pittsburgh, Montreal, the Rangers, and Carolina are all in action this evening. The standings look close, with teams seemingly right behind the Flyers for that ever-important home ice edge.
But the Philadelphia attitude (or maybe it's just my attitude, but nevertheless) doesn't seem all that concerned about the teams behind us. Is it because our team has dominated opponents in two straight games? Is it because we have played less games than every other team, and we're still in a more favorable position?
The answer is probably a combination, but for whatever reason, we seem to be looking ahead at the teams in front of us, rather than looking in that rearview mirror.
So, the question has to be asked, can the Flyers catch the New Jersey Devils and win the Atlantic Division?
As mentioned in a FanPost by Shagg, the Flyers sit seven points behind NJ with one game in hand. He also concluded that the difference between the two teams, as it presently stands, is seven shootout losses that could've been Flyer wins. If the Flyers picked up the extra point in the shootout a few more times, they're right there with Jersey.
But of course, Philly perennially sucks at the shootout, so we have to deal with the consequences. The question still stands, though. Even without the shootout wins and the extra points, can the Flyers catch the Devils?
There are five weeks left in the season. Let's break it down, week by week, after the jump.
This is a huge week right here. First off, Jersey regains that game in hand, so it's even more important that the Flyers take care of their own business. But that's not going to be easy. Detroit is a powerhouse, obviously, and they've only lost five games at home all season. Buffalo isn't a definite win but it's obviously possible, and the Pittsburgh game is absoutely huge. If you haven't noticed, they're right on our heels. It could be a must-win at that point. If Jersey goes 3-1 and the Flyers go 2-1, we're at a five point NJ lead with a game in hand. That's progress.
The Flyers absoultely, positively must win the head-to-head game. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about that one. It's going to be tough though as its the second game of a back-to-back. This week is flat out tough. Florida is right in the thick of things, and Boston obviously is tough. The Islanders have even been upset artists as of late. Let's say that the Flyers go 2-2, but one of those wins is against the Devils. If the Devils go 1-1 in their other games that week, the Flyers will sit three points back with the same number of games played.
On the surface, this looks like an easy week for the Flyers. They need to play it like it looks. Three wins here are necessary. If you can't beat the teams you're supposed to down the stretch, you don't deserve first place. Plain and simple. So let's say the Flyers go 3-0. They'd have 102 points and 77 games played. NJ beats the Rangers, Tampa, and Buffalo. They'd have 105 points in 78 games, heading into the final week.