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NHL playoff race: Back to scoreboard watching on Friday

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The two teams right behind the Flyers in points in the East will be back in action tonight while the Flyers will be watching and hoping for them to lose.

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

A pretty low-key night on Thursday for the Flyers, who saw their chances at the first wild card spot shrink slightly but who otherwise were barely affected by the ten-game NHL slate. That will change tonight, though, as the two teams right behind the Flyers in the race -- the Red Wings and Bruins -- will be back in action after two nights off for each one.

What happened last night?

The Islanders snagged a 4-3 win over the Blue Jackets, tightening their grip on the first wild card spot and a chance to cross over into the Atlantic Division bracket for the first two rounds of the playoffs. They've put together a nice little run of wins since losing to the Flyers a week and a half ago, and it'd take a near-perfect run of play down the stretch at this point for the Flyers to catch them. It could happen, but we shouldn't exactly be counting on it.

That was about it in terms of what affected the Flyers. Elsewhere, Pittsburgh jumped up into the second spot in the Metropolitan Division thanks to a win and a Rangers loss. Can the Flyers knock them off of that perch this weekend? Let's hope!

How things look now:

Here's where the four teams in the race for the East's last three spots with last night's games accounted for, and what each team's chances are at a playoff spot.

(Standing) Team Points Games Remaining ROW Remaining Strength of Schedule (Points %) Teams in Playoff Race* Left On Schedule Back-To-Backs Left On Schedule
(W1) NY Islanders 93 6 37 61.0% 5 2
(W2) Philadelphia 89 6 35 56.3% 4 3
(A3) Boston** 88 5 36 57.9% 3 0
(W3) Detroit** 87 5 36 55.3% 4 2

* "Teams In Playoff Race" includes any team in or within two points of a playoff spot; in other words, the sixteen teams currently in playoff spots plus Detroit.

** Note that, despite being displayed ahead of both Boston and Detroit due to having more points, the Flyers cannot finish "ahead" of both of them as one of them is guaranteed to get the Atlantic Division's third playoff spot.

(Standing) Team Odds (SportsClubStats) Odds (hockey-reference) Odds (Hockeyviz) Odds (Moneypuck)
(W1) NY Islanders 99.8% (+0.4%) 99.9% (+0.9%) 99.8% (+0.8%) 99.82% (+0.43%)
(W2) Philadelphia 88.2% (-0.2%) 87.5% (+0.3%) 88% (0%) 88.93% (-0.28%)
(A3) Boston 73.3% (-0.3%) 69.9% (-4.0%) 65% (0%) 67.05% (-0.64%)
(W3) Detroit 38.7% (+0.2%) 42.5% (+2.6%) 47% (0%) 44.08% (+0.39%)

Again, nothing really changed except the size of the gap between the Islanders and everyone else. The Flyers still sit in a good position compared to Boston and Detroit.

Games that matter tonight:

Tonight it's the teams that are right behind the Flyers in the race that are back in action, as both Detroit and Boston will try and make up the deficits that they now find themselves in for a spot.

  • Detroit will host the likely-playoff-bound Minnesota Wild. With two days of rest against a Wild team that just last night lost at home to Ottawa, the Wings are probably a pretty good bet to make up the two points that the Flyers currently hold on them in the standings tonight (though, of course, the Flyers will have two games in hand on the Wings by the time the game ends no matter what). But who knows?
  • Boston, meanwhile, has a very tough task ahead of them, as they head into St. Louis to take on the red-hot Blues. Undoubtedly, this will be a tough one for the black and gold, and the Flyers have to like their chances to still be ahead of Boston by the time the night ends.

How much do tonight's games matter?

Here are the projected changes in the Flyers' playoff odds based on their game tonight:

MIN @ DET MIN Reg W MIN OT W MIN SO W DET Reg W DET OT W DET SO W
Sportsclubstats +4.5% +0.9% +1.0% -3.8% -3.8% -3.3%
Hockeyviz +5% +1% +1% -3% -3% -3%
BOS @ STL BOS Reg W BOS OT W BOS SO W STL Reg W STL OT W STL SO W
Sportsclubstats -2.6% -2.6% -2.6% +2.5% -0.3% -0.3%
Hockeyviz -3% -3% -3% +3% 0% 0%

As always, you know who to root for by now. A couple more inopportune losses by these teams and a couple more wins by the Flyers and the playoffs are a reality. It's go time.