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NHL playoff race: How the Flyers could control the Penguins' destiny on season's final day

The playoff race in the Eastern Conference is going to be extremely fun this week, and just because the Flyers are eliminated doesn't mean they can't have a major impact on how things shake out.

"Flyers goaltender Nicklas Grossmann!"
"Flyers goaltender Nicklas Grossmann!"
Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Before the weekend, I took a close look at the NHL playoff standings and realized that it was a whole lot closer than I had originally thought for teams like the Penguins and Red Wings.

This is all basically happening. The Pittsburgh Penguins lost to the Columbus Blue Jackets and (of course) the Philadelphia Flyers, while the Ottawa Senators collected three of four points from their games this weekend against the Capitals and Maple Leafs. Here's where we sit after the weekend:

nhl standings april 6 15

As noted, the Penguins and Senators play head-to-head on Tuesday night ... and hooooo boy, does that game matter or what? (The Red Wings and Bruins are just praying things don't go to overtime.)

It would have been a little more precarious for Pittsburgh had Ottawa gained two points against Toronto on Sunday night. As a result, the Penguins still control their own destiny even if they lose to the Senators in regulation on Tuesday since they still hold the ROW tiebreaker.

But Tuesday is still a huge game. Here's how the schedule works out the rest of the season:

  • Penguins at Senators
  • Hurricanes at Red Wings
  • Bruins at Capitals
  • Senators at Rangers
  • Bruins at Panthers
  • Red Wings at Canadiens
  • Islanders at Penguins
  • Senators at Flyers
  • Penguins at Sabres
  • Bruins at Lightning
  • Red Wings at Hurricanes

Because it makes the hypotheticals more fun, let's assume Ottawa beats Pittsburgh in regulation -- and with the way the teams are both playing right now, that's not exactly far fetched anyways. They tie with 95 points.

Let's play the odds and say Pittsburgh beats Buffalo on Saturday. Even if that happens, Ottawa can still get in and it wouldn't even be that hard. If Ottawa beats the Rangers on Thursday and the Penguins lose to the Islanders on Friday, Ottawa would have 97 points and Pittsburgh would have 95 entering the final day of the season on Saturday.

And then ....

So here's a hypothetical for you: the Senators can get into the playoffs and eliminate the Penguins by beating the Flyers on Saturday night (regardless of what Pittsburgh does in Buffalo), would you root against the Flyers? Would you want the Flyers to throw the game?

Consider the benefits:

1. The Flyers could get a slightly better draft position and better odds at winning the lottery, as they're currently sitting right with the Columbus Blue Jackets in points and could pass the Colorado Avalanche if they keep winning. More losses this week means better odds at winning the draft lottery, even if those odds are small no matter what.

2. The Penguins miss the playoffs and the City of Pittsburgh probably burns to the ground. Considering that the Penguins were taunting the Flyers on the ice about their playoff chances after last Wednesday's game in Pittsburgh, it would be pretty sweet to see the Penguins join the Flyers for an early tee time.

3. This would require Penguins fans to root for the Flyers if they want to see their team in the playoffs. lolololol

4. Pittsburgh doesn't have lottery protection on its first round pick this year, which was traded to the Oilers earlier this season. So there's no chance of them getting Connor McDavid, even if they were to miss the playoffs and win the draft lottery.

Of course, the Flyers' pride would be on the line, and obviously they don't want to go down without a fight in their final game of the season. But could you imagine how big the legend of this team would become if they flat out tanked this final game under this scenario? I mean ....

That would be one extremely epic way to end the season. The year is over and the team is not very good -- yet they still swept the season series against their biggest rival AND threw a game just to keep said rival out of the playoffs? ESPN could make a damn 30 for 30 documentary about that.

Of course, this whole scenario is complicated by the Bruins and Red Wings, who could fall out of current playoff positioning and give both Pittsburgh and Ottawa a clear path to the postseason. But we expect things to be tight all the way through until Saturday, and this is all a very realistic possibility.

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