That was a huge win for the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday afternoon in Washington. A strong road win against a really good team, the Flyers somehow held the Capitals to just 13 shots despite giving up six power plays in the game.
Losing Steve Mason in the game hurts a lot, especially if it's a longer-term injury. But while we'll admit it's a long shot, a quick glance at the schedule does give room for at least some blind optimism when it comes to the Flyers and a potential playoff spot.
Here are what the standings look like as of right now on the morning on Monday, February 9:
|New York Islanders||53||34||18||1||69||27|
|New York Rangers||51||30||16||5||65||28|
So the Flyers sit 12 points out of the last spot in the Metropolitan Division playoffs, but just nine points out of the wild card playoffs. Of course, we say "just" with a little bit of laughter, since making up that ground will require two pretty real things: the Flyers need to go on an absolute tear, and one of those teams ahead of them needs to fall.
I was talking with Ryan Gilbert last night about that (long) chances that this could happen, and he mentioned the Flyers schedule over the rest of February. It's, uhh .... kind of a cake walk. So let's look at the Flyers schedule vs. the other opponents in the playoff hunt here just to see if it's possible that things could fall the Flyers way here.
|Date||Philadelphia Flyers||Washington Capitals||Boston Bruins||New York Rangers|
|Sun, Feb 8||Win @ Washington||Loss vs Philadelphia||Loss vs Montreal||OTL vs Dallas|
|Mon, Feb 9|
|Tue, Feb 10||@ Montreal||vs Dallas||@ Toronto|
|Wed, Feb 11||@ San Jose|
|Thu, Feb 12||@ Colorado|
|Fri, Feb 13||@ Columbus||@ Vancouver|
|Sat, Feb 14||@ Los Angeles||@ Arizona|
|Sun, Feb 15||@ Buffalo||@ Anaheim||vs NY Islanders|
|Mon, Feb 16||@ Calgary|
|Tue, Feb 17||vs Columbus||@ Pittsburgh|
|Wed, Feb 18||@ Edmonton|
|Thu, Feb 19||vs Buffalo||vs Winnipeg||vs Vancouver|
|Fri, Feb 20||@ St. Louis||@ Buffalo|
|Sat, Feb 21||vs Nashville||vs NY Islanders|
|Sun, Feb 22||vs Washington||@ Philadelphia||@ Chicago||vs Columbus|
|Mon, Feb 23|
|Tue, Feb 24||@ Carolina||vs Vancouver||vs Calgary|
|Wed, Feb 25||vs Pittsburgh|
|Thu, Feb 26||@ Toronto||vs Arizona|
|Fri, Feb 27||@ Carolina||@ New Jersey|
|Sat, Feb 28||vs NY Rangers||vs Arizona||@ Philadelphia|
The one thing that stands out here to me: the Flyers play the Capitals again in two weeks, and in between now and that game, Washington has a brutal trip that includes a California leg and a game in Pittsburgh. After Tuesday's game in Montreal, the Flyers have four straight against Buffalo and Columbus and a tough one against Nashville.
We're certainly not saying that any of those Buffalo or Columbus games are locks for the Flyers, but the schedule certainly works out in Philadelphia's favor over these next two weeks.
Let's go through and label all of these games based on likelihood of victory. Games in yellow are toss-ups, games in green are likely wins, and games in red are likely losses. We'll calculate points in the standings as we go -- obviously, it's all a ballpark exercise here because this is hockey and things never work out the way you'd expect them. Three point games make it all even more complicated. But again, a ballpark exercise:
|Date||Philadelphia Flyers||Pts||Washington Capitals||Pts||Boston Bruins||Pts||New York Rangers||Pts|
|Sun, Feb 8||Win @ Washington||54||Loss vs Philadelphia||66||Loss vs Montreal||63||OTL vs Dallas||65|
|Mon, Feb 9|
|Tue, Feb 10||@ Montreal||55||vs Dallas||63||@ Toronto||67|
|Wed, Feb 11||@ San Jose||66|
|Thu, Feb 12||@ Colorado||69|
|Fri, Feb 13||@ Columbus||57||@ Vancouver||64|
|Sat, Feb 14||@ Los Angeles||67||@ Arizona||71|
|Sun, Feb 15||@ Buffalo||59||@ Anaheim||67||vs NY Islanders||71|
|Mon, Feb 16||@ Calgary||64|
|Tue, Feb 17||vs Columbus||61||@ Pittsburgh||68|
|Wed, Feb 18||@ Edmonton||66|
|Thu, Feb 19||vs Buffalo||63||vs Winnipeg||70||vs Vancouver||71|
|Fri, Feb 20||@ St. Louis||66||@ Buffalo||73|
|Sat, Feb 21||vs Nashville||63||vs NY Islanders||71|
|Sun, Feb 22||vs Washington||65||@ Philadelphia||71||@ Chicago||66||vs Columbus||75|
|Mon, Feb 23|
|Tue, Feb 24||@ Carolina||67||vs Vancouver||68||vs Calgary||76|
|Wed, Feb 25||vs Pittsburgh||72|
|Thu, Feb 26||@ Toronto||69||vs Arizona||78|
|Fri, Feb 27||@ Carolina||74||@ New Jersey||70|
|Sat, Feb 28||vs NY Rangers||69||vs Arizona||72||@ Philadelphia||79|
|Possible results||8 wins, 2 losses, 1 OTL||69 pts||2 wins, 4 losses, 4 OTL||74 pts||4 wins, 5 losses, 1 OTL||72 pts||6 wins, 2 losses, 2 OTL||79 pts|
The moral of the story: Yes, there's a path for the Flyers to climb back into the race.
They need to take care of business against bad teams, they need to beat Washington again and it'd help if they could upset Montreal or Nashville or the Rangers too. But there is a scenario in which the Flyers are back in the playoff hunt by the March 2 trade deadline, and it wouldn't even necessarily require other teams to totally fall apart. Boston for example could play .500 hockey for the rest of the month, and if the Flyers take care of business against mostly bad teams, it could be a tight race at the deadline.
It's a long shot, no doubt about it. A lot has to go right, and with Steve Mason out ... maybe things won't go right. But the Flyers have been playing good hockey since the All-Star Break, and who knows? If you want to be optimistic about watching Flyers playoff hockey this spring, here's your guide.