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The Flyers are at the point where missing the playoffs would probably require a collapse

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How things change in just two months.

“I think we’re going to the ‘yoffs, Shayne!”
Kate Frese / SBNation

Early December wasn’t that long ago, was it? The Flyers had just suffered through a 10-game losing streak that seemed to have sunk this season before it could really even get going, and the fanbase, as a whole, was pretty high-strung.

Here was some idiot, on December 6, talking about how unlikely it was that anything was going to come of this season:

Sure, there’s time to turn that around. Your last two playoff teams both shook off ghastly Octobers or Novembers to get back on track. If Claude says it’s a playoff team, he has earned the benefit of my doubt that it could, in theory, happen.

But you also know that even with that time that’s left, you all are facing tall odds to make yourselves a relevant team in this year’s playoff picture. The odds don’t all agree with how tall those odds are, but when you really look them — 23 percent, 14 percent, eight percent — you can’t really concern yourselves with the differences, because you realize we’re talking about the difference here between how tall Ben Simmons is and how tall Joel Embiid is. Pretty damn tall, either way.

(Me. The idiot was me. I did it.)

Anywho, it’s February 19, and it’s about time that we take another look at what those playoff odds are, as we sit today, 48 days away from the last day of the regular season schedule. We’ll take a look at what the various playoff prognosticators out there are saying the Flyers’ current chances at making the playoffs are.

Those prognosticators (and their models) include the following:

So what do these keen mathematical minds think about the Flyers’ postseason chances? We’ll look at the Flyers’ current odds, along with those of several other teams in the East whose playoff fates could somewhat realistically be considered undecided. (Three of the teams listed below will make the playoffs; we’re considering all of Washington, Pittsburgh, Tampa, Boston, and Toronto in, while all of Buffalo, Ottawa, Montreal, Detroit, and the Rangers are considered out.)

Eastern Conference Playoff Race and Projections (2/19)

Team Points Games Left ROW Sports Club Stats Hockey Reference Athletic Corsica Hockeyviz Average of All Models
Team Points Games Left ROW Sports Club Stats Hockey Reference Athletic Corsica Hockeyviz Average of All Models
Flyers 70 23 29 95.4% 93.4% 84% 89.0% 89% 90.2%
Devils 70 23 27 89.8% 86.7% 73% 79.2% 73% 80.3%
Blue Jackets 63 23 23 27.0% 31.2% 57% 49.6% 41% 41.2%
Islanders 64 22 26 34.4% 35.8% 36% 21.4% 37% 32.9%
Hurricanes 64 22 24 23.7% 27.4% 30% 47.3% 28% 31.3%
Panthers 58 26 24 24.0% 20.5% 22% 13.0% 24% 20.7%

The Flyers do, indeed, lead the way here, as they and the Devils have pretty much separated themselves from the pack. (It’s worth noting that, while the Flyers and Devils are in the exact same spot in the standings — 70 points with 59 games played — every model likes the Flyers’ playoff chances more than they like the Devils’ chances. This could be because the Flyers currently lead in the regulation/overtime wins tiebreaker. It could also be because they’re a better team than the Devils. I like to think it’s the latter. Anywho...)

So the picture looks pretty smooth. In fact, purely from a look at the standings, the Flyers are closer to the top of the Metropolitan Division right now (four points away from the Penguins, who have played two more games than the Flyers) than they are to missing the playoffs, which is absolutely wild when you consider how this season has gone.

Still, if there’s a blind spot here, it’s that most of these models don’t have a way to account for the Flyers’ current goaltending predicament. Philadelphia is currently without its two starting goalies, and will be without at least one of them (Brian Elliott) until late March. While a trade or some sort of external move is likely to come soon to shore up the area (and we’ll talk more about that in the near future), there’s certainly some uncertainty at play here that most of these projections either can’t take into account or haven’t yet had the chance to.

Couple that with the fatalistic Philadelphia sports-related fear that is perpetually inside of us, despite the Eagles having just won the Super Bowl (hey, did you guys hear about that?), and it’s fair to ask what could happen if things really go south during the season’s final seven weeks. So let’s try another way to put into words just how unlikely it is that the Flyers miss the playoffs at this point.

The Flyers have 23 games remaining, which means they’ve played 59 games this season. That means that they’ve had 37 different unique 23-game stretches during this season. Their single worst performance in one of those stretches saw them post just 19 points.

Unsurprisingly, that nadir came at the very end of the 10-game losing streak. (If you haven’t noticed, things have been trending upwards since then!)

So if you want to assume the worst, as we often do, let’s say that the Flyers’ final 23 games are as bad as the worst 23 games they’ve had all season, and that they collect just 19 points in those games. It’s probably unlikely, given that this team has three productive forward lines and one of the best defensive pairs in hockey (which those November/December teams did not have), but sure, let’s roll with it. That would put them at 89 points on the season, well below their current point pace of 97.

That would, rightly, have Flyers fans nervous about their current standing in the playoff race. No team has made the playoffs in the East since the 2013-14 divisional realignment with fewer than 93 points. Heck, no ninth-place team in the East has finished with fewer than 90 points in that time. It is not a mark that should get a team into the playoff race nowadays.

Yet in this current season, one in which mediocrity abounds (and is hailed as “competitiveness” and “depth” and “parity”, but that’s a discussion for another day), 89 points would still be a better point total than the paces that each of the four teams currently fighting for the last wild card spot are on. [NOTE: The below table has been updated to reflect the Islanders’ 5-3 loss to Minnesota on Monday afternoon.]

Eastern Conference Playoff Race Point Paces

Team Points Games Left Current Year-End Point Pace
Team Points Games Left Current Year-End Point Pace
Blue Jackets 63 23 87.6
Hurricanes 64 22 87.5
Islanders 64 21 86.0
Panthers 58 26 84.9

All of which is to say that even if the Flyers fall off a bit from their current pace, be that because of goaltending problems or other causes, it seems likely that they’d need to fall off a lot for their spot to really be in danger. And even if they fall off a lot, they’d need two of the above four teams to step up from the paces that they’ve spent three-quarters of the year playing at to lose their perch in a playoff spot.

Could it happen? Sure. Things can change quickly. Shit, we all know where this team was at this time just over two months ago. But let’s be clear: a lot would have to go wrong. Not just goaltending, not just regression/slumps in other areas, not just other teams stepping it up — probably all three of those things would need to break the wrong way for the Flyers’ current positioning to be in peril. It shouldn’t come to that.