So as we discussed yesterday, THE SKY IS FALLING as the Flyers' three straight losses and two straight shutouts against show that they are doomed to fall out of the playoffs. And as we also discussed yesterday, the sky is not actually falling and the Flyers are still in a pretty good situation as far as clamping down a playoff spot in the East. They picked up a bit of help with Columbus and Washington both taking regulation losses last night, so they enter today's game in a slightly better position than they entered Friday night's action in.
Despite getting shut out on Thursday and Tuesday, things probably haven't been as bad as the W/L columns may indicate. The Flyers have pretty much gone step-for-step with the Bruins, Blues and Blue Jackets in their last few games -- matching each of their opponents chance-for-chance for most of their games and never really looking out of it until the third period of Thursday's game (in which they really couldn't get much of anything going) but, at the same time, finding themselves unable to put the puck in the back of the net. 120 shots on goal in that time ... and only three goals, all coming against the same Boston team that they'll face today.
So it's not all bad, and you'd like to think it'll get better before it gets much worse. Of course, if you're looking for teams that will help you break out of an offensive slump, the Bruins are pretty darn close to the bottom of the list.
Philadelphia Flyers (39-28-9, 87 points) at Boston Bruins (52-18-7, 111 points)
1:00 p.m. | TD Garden | Boston, Mass.
TV: CSN Philly, NHL Network | Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic
Get the Boston perspective at Stanley Cup of Chowder
Yes, the Flyers' opponent today is the best team in the Eastern Conference by a fairly wide margin, no matter what your criteria of ranking is -- standings points, goal differential, scoring, defense, possession metrics -- and with a win today they would wrap up the top spot in the East and the home-ice advantage that comes with it. There isn't a lot that they do wrong. They give you nothing easy and as such you can expect today's game to be a tough one -- and they themselves are coming off of two straight losses, so they'll probably be pretty focused coming into this game. Wonderful timing, that.
That said, we've already mentioned that these teams played just six days ago, with the Flyers scoring a last-second game-tying goal in the third period before ultimately losing in a shootout. That was actually a rather impressive performance for the Flyers, who poured on the shots (52 of them!) and chances against a team that never allows much of either, and probably could have had two points if not for Tuukka Rask's typically outstanding game in net.
It was kinda cool. It may be a bit tougher this time around, though, as the Bruins are the home team and they won't be playing on the tail end of a back-to-back the way they were then. So we'll see.
From the Flyers' end in terms of lineups, the only change that seems possible/likely today might be the return of one Steve Downie into the forward lines. Downie hasn't played since a collision with Patrik Berglund at the very beginning of the Flyers' game against the Blues on March 22, missing six games with an upper-body injury. Apparently Berube hinted that it's likely he'll return today, though, so that's something to look forward to.
If that indeed is the case, Downie probably draws in for Tye McGinn, who has no points and just three shots on goal since his return to the lineup following Downie's initial injury. Whether Downie slots in on his usual spot (the wing next to Sean Couturier, where Michael Raffl currently is), McGinn's current spot (the second line, next to Schenn and Simmonds), or the fourth line (potentially setting off other changes) remains to be seen. If Downie can't go, we'll expect the lines (and the defense) to remain the same.
In net, Ray Emery will go for the Flyers. It's his fourth start since the break, with the other three coming against Chicago, L.A., and St. Louis. Given that ridiculous gauntlet, it may not be surprising that Berube is going to him again today against another elite team, though I had expected Mason to get this one and Emery to take Sunday night against Buffalo. Instead we get the opposite. Fine with me. No Boston starter confirmed as of yet, but given that backup Chad Johnson started in the Bruins' OT loss to Toronto on Thursday night, Rask starting today seems like a safe bet.
As I've made clear by now, I'm not horribly worried about these past few losses, as all teams go through scoring slumps on occasion. And if the Flyers do lose today, it's still not the end of the world (no, that would come with a loss to Buffalo tomorrow night...) given how good Boston is. But wouldn't it be nice to make up for the unfortunate past week with a win here? If you believe the fine folks at sportsclubstats.com, a win here would jump the Flyers' playoff odds all the way up to 99.6 percent. Wouldn't it be cool to do that, the Flyers? Especially against the best team in the East?
I think it'd be cool. 1:00 p.m. start, because as you know it's written in the Constitution that every Flyers-Bruins game will be an afternoon game on a weekend. NHL Network nationally, CSN Philadelphia locally. Go Flyers.