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NHL playoff race: Bruins get one point as Flyers inch closer to playoff spot

The Bruins took their Tuesday night game to a shootout before ultimately losing out, and that one point they missed out on moves the Flyers a bit closer to a playoff spot as they head into the biggest game of their season.

Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

At this point of the season, you hear a lot about how Every Game Is The Biggest Game On The Schedule, especially when you're a team right on the bubble of the playoff race the way that the Flyers are. Tonight? That's actually true, as the Flyers will face off with the Detroit Red Wings as one team will likely come close to locking in its place as a playoff team in the Eastern Conference.

And both of those teams are a bit closer to that place as a playoff team, thanks to what happened last night. Let's break it down.

What happened last night?

  • BRUINS LOST TO CAROLINA IN A 2-1 SHOOTOUT. They went down 1-0 in the first period, fired relentlessly at Cam Ward for most of the rest of the game, and scored a goal early in the third on one of the worst line changes you'll ever see from Carolina. But the visiting Hurricanes held on through the third and OT, and from there Cam Ward managed to shut down all five Bruins he'd face in the shootout before Noah Hanifin would bury the winner. While Boston getting one point kept the night from being a total disaster on their end, the fact that they couldn't get two is unquestionably a good thing for the Flyers.
  • The Islanders, meanwhile, would get a win, coming back from a 3-1 third-period deficit to beat the Capitals 4-3 in overtime. The win clinched them a playoff spot, and put a significant amount of distance between themselves and the Flyers in the standings. Their "magic number" to lock themselves in ahead of the Flyers is now just three points, meaning a whole lot would have to go right for the Flyers to get there at this point. (More on that in a second.)

How things look now:

Here's where the Eastern Conference playoff picture stands with yesterday's games accounted for.

(Standing) Team Points Games Remaining ROW Remaining Strength of Schedule (Points %) Teams in Playoff Race* Left On Schedule Back-To-Backs Left On Schedule Magic Number
(W1) NY Islanders 97 3 39 56.5% 2 1 n/a
(W2) Philadelphia 91 4 36 56.3% 3 2 n/a
(A3) Detroit 91 3 38 59.0% 3 1 7
(W3) Boston 91 2 37 54.1% 1 0 5

* "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 Boston.

The Bruins' shootout loss slides the Flyers' magic number down to just five points, which means that any combination of Flyers points gained and Bruins points lost that equals five will make the Flyers a playoff team.

However, the picture is even a bit rosier than that. Because of the way the schedule is laid out this week, the Flyers have a chance to really put a dent in that number quickly. A win tonight in regulation would lower the Flyers' magic numbers to three relative to either Detroit or Boston. And on Thursday night, Detroit and Boston play each other, meaning at least one of those teams is going to lose out on a point (and hopefully two) and lower that number even further in the process.

Which would then mean that two points on Thursday night against Toronto would put the Flyers in the playoffs, no matter who actually wins that Detroit-Boston game and no matter what happens on Saturday and Sunday. (One point would even do the trick if Detroit-Boston doesn't go to overtime, but let's try to get two points against the team that's currently 29th in the standings, yeah?)

Essentially, the Flyers have two options to clinch without needing any sort of help elsewhere:

  1. Get five points in their next four games, regardless of which ones they are.
  2. Beat Detroit in regulation tonight and get two points in the remaining three games.

It's there. It's right f*cking there. Go get it, guys.

With that, here are your updated playoff chances, with change from yesterday in parentheses:

(Standing) Team Odds (SportsClubStats) Odds (hockey-reference) Odds (Hockeyviz) Odds (Moneypuck)
(W2) Philadelphia 79.6% (+1.2%) 83.0% (+3.3%) 82% (+1%) 81.77% (+0.71%)
(A3) Detroit 65.6% (+5.7%) 69.8% (+8.0%) 74% (+5%) 71.88% (+6.39%)
(W3) Boston 54.8% (-7.1%) 47.2% (-11.3%) 44% (-6%) 46.36% (-7.19%)

Detroit -- who is fighting with Boston for the third spot in the Atlantic Division -- is your big winner for the evening, as they pick up most of the ground that the Bruins lost by way of their defeat yesterday. But the Flyers also pick up a bit of room across the board by virtue of that same loss.

As for that first wild card, it's nearly out of the question with the Isles' win last night in Washington, but nonetheless here are the Flyers' odds at reaching that perch:

SportsClubStats: 3.63 percent
Hockeyviz: 2 percent
Moneypuck: 1.7 percent

Games that matter today/tonight:

The Flyers head to Detroit to play the Red Wings. That's it. You knew that already. It's the biggest game of the season. While the Bruins are the team closest to the bottom right now, any distance that the Flyers can put between themselves and their competition for the last two playoff spots would obviously be a good thing. Beating Detroit would qualify as that.

How much do tonight's games matter?

Here's how much tonight's Flyers game matters.

Sportsclubstats +17.6% +15.4% +15.2% -18.8% +1.6% +1.6%
Hockeyviz +15% +14% +13% -17% +2% +2%
Moneypuck +15.5% +13.5% +13.5% -17.5% +1.5% +1.5%

Interesting to see that even an overtime loss will help the Flyers out slightly tonight. Still, I really think the Flyers should try and win this hockey game. That's a controversial take, I know, but I really do think it's the truth.