Just for fun, and because I'm apparently sadistic, I decided to go look at all the Stanley Cup Playoffs predictions I could find this morning. And look, I expect the Flyers to be the underdog in this series against the Washington Capitals. We'd be silly to expect otherwise.
But let's be honest here: this series is much closer than it seems with just a quick glance at the standings. The Flyers have legitimately played better hockey than the Capitals on the whole over the last 2-3 months. Steve Mason has been outplaying Braden Holtby of late. The Flyers penalty kill has been elite in 2016 (particularly in March), and could serve as a perfect antidote for Washington's great power play.
That doesn't mean the Flyers win the series. That doesn't mean they deserve to be favored. But it does mean they have a fighting chance. And they probably deserve just a bit more respect than they're getting from around the league.
In those predictions -- which I found simply by using Google and opening up every link I saw in the first few pages -- a total of three people picked the Flyers. THREE. Out of 70 total predictions I found.
- ESPN: 10 people made predictions, all 10 picked the Capitals. (Two did say it will go seven games, however.)
- USA Today: Five people made predictions and all five picked the Capitals. Three of them say the Caps will win as quickly as in five games.
- Defending Big D: 10 writers all have the Capitals, including four who think the series will be a sweep.
- CBS Sports: Just two picks here, but both were in favor of Washington in five and six games respectively.
- Puck Daddy: Caps in six.
- Sports Illustrated: Of four brackets predicted, all four are in favor of Washington.
- Bleacher Report: They have the Caps in five.
- NHL.com: 20 people on their staff picked the Capitals. Only Arpon Basu picked the Flyers.
- Second City Hockey: Seven picks, all for Washington.
- The Score: One of seven pick the Flyers.
- NESN: Caps in five.
- HockeyBuzz: Todd Cordell has the Flyers in seven on the heels of their strong play heading into the playoffs.
- TSN: Scott Cullen has the Capitals in six.
I'm sure I missed plenty of other predictions, but ... this sample feels pretty telling. The Flyers will shock the world if they beat the Capitals, even if a win wouldn't necessary be all that shocking.