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NHL playoff race: Flyers still in decent position, but lose key ground in Detroit

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The Flyers couldn't cash in on a chance to essentially lock in a playoff berth last night, and are back on scoreboard-watching duty tonight even as they play a crucial game of their own.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Wednesday night's loss in Detroit wasn't the end of the world. The Flyers still control their own chances, as five points in their last six games would get them into the playoffs no matter what happens elsewhere, and if Detroit or Boston slip up a little bit in their final games, their chances grow even more.

But make no mistake: that loss was a colossal opportunity wasted by the Flyers.

What happened last night?

Do we really need to keep f*cking talking about it?

How things look now:

Here's where the Eastern Conference playoff picture stands with yesterday's games accounted for. We've taken the Islanders out as they are now just one point away from officially clinching a finish ahead of the Flyers -- it is second wild card or bust territory now.

(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
(A3) Detroit 93 2 39 59.4% 2 1 7
(W2) Philadelphia 91 3 36 55.6% 2 2 n/a
(W3) Boston 91 2 37 54.4% 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.

That extra game in hand is the Flyers' saving grace right now, and with the way things are setting up -- especially considering the fact that the Flyers are unlikely to win a tiebreaker over Boston if it comes down to it -- they're probably going to need it.

Chances:

(Standing) Team Odds (SportsClubStats) Odds (hockey-reference) Odds (Hockeyviz) Odds (Moneypuck)
(A3) Detroit 85.1% (+19.5%) 87.4% (+17.6%) 89% (+15%) 88.51% (+16.63%)
(W2) Philadelphia 60.1% (-19.5%) 63.8% (-19.2%) 65% (-17%) 64.12% (-17.65%)
(W3) Boston 54.8% (0.0%) 48.8% (+1.6%) 46% (+2%) 47.38% (+1.02%)

Of course, the big losers of the day were our own lovable losers. (Was that too mean? It probably was. I'm bitter today.) But yes, the Flyers' loss knocked their own chances at making the playoffs down substantially, which should not come as a surprise. Boston actually comes out a bit ahead on the day, as their big victory was the fact that the Flyers-Wings game didn't go to overtime.

Games that matter today/tonight:

There are two. You may already know what they are, but we'll review them anyways:

  • The Flyers are back in Philadelphia as they face the Toronto Maple Leafs. With Edmonton's win last night, the Leafs fell into sole possession of 30th place in the standings this year. Given the fact that their team has lost four games in a row and has essentially tanked this season, let's not mince words here: this is, absolutely, a game that the Flyers need to win. This would be true no matter what, but with the playoffs still within reach it is a game that they by no circumstances whatsoever can afford to lose. Simple as that.
  • Meanwhile, last night's victors, the Red Wings, head over to Boston for a game with huge ramifications in the wild card race. The best-case for the Flyers would be for the Wings to win in regulation, which would lower the Flyers' magic number to 3 independent of what they do against Toronto. I'm about as excited to turn around and root for Detroit after that trainwreck of a game last night as you are, but it's what we gotta do, folks.

How much do tonight's games matter?

This much.

TOR @ PHI TOR Reg W TOR OT W TOR SO W PHI Reg W PHI OT W PHI SO W
Sportsclubstats -31.1% -3.7% -3.7% +12.9% +12.9% +12.8%
Hockeyviz -28% 0% 0% +14% +14% +14%
DET @ BOS DET Reg W DET OT W DET SO W BOS Reg W BOS OT W BOS SO W
Sportsclubstats +16.5% +3.8% +3.8% -6.9% -14.6% -13.7%
Hockeyviz +16% +4% +4% -10% -16% -14%

Like I said ... a loss tonight would be catastrophic. You know this. I know this. The Flyers know this. Get a win, boys.