clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Two O’Clock Number: 96

New, comments

The opposite of nice.

Heather Barry - SB Nation ©

96 - the number of standings points that the Flyers likely need to reach to make the playoffs.

One month ago the Philadelphia Flyers were eight points back of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. Since then, they’ve closed the gap to five points and have a new target in mind.

Going into last night’s contest versus the Washington Capitals, the Flyers had a 13% chance of making the playoffs according to Micah McCurdy, @IneffectiveMath on Twitter, and had the opportunity to increase their odds by five percent. However, as we know, they did not do that, and to make matters worse, their loss hurts them more than their win would’ve helped them. In fact, their chances of a post-season berth were cut almost in half, down to just 7%.

The last 30 days

The good news for the Flyers is that both the Montreal Canadiens and the Columbus Blue Jackets have been disappointing over the last 30 days. The Blue Jackets, who play at home tonight versus Hurricanes and tomorrow face the Bruins in Boston, are coming off a seven goal performance just two nights ago, but possess a record of just 7-8-0. For the Canadiens, things have gone even worse with just six wins in their last fifteen games; a not very nice 6-9-0. The saving grace for the Habs? They were able to win both of their contests versus the Blue Jackets and the Flyers. Two key victories over two very important opponents has allowed them to survive this rough run of games without falling out of the playoff picture. And the Flyers by comparison? Well, they’ve been a lot better, but it still hasn’t been enough.

The Flyers have played 13 games and gone 8-4-1 over that stretch. Undeniably good, but not good enough to be on pace to reach the mark we set for them in mid-February. It was then that we said that they’d have to take 74% of the standings points available to them, and so far they’ve managed only 65%. Not poor enough to take them out of the race, but also not good enough to get them into actual striking distance. The silver lining? It’s a figure that’s still obtainable, even if it’s gotten a bit tougher.

Now to achieve that 74% mark from before, the Flyers would have to do one of three things: they could win ten games and lose two in any fashion, they could win nine games and lose at least two games in extra time, or they can win eight games and lose all four games in extra time. Of course, they could perform above the mark set, but these are their bare minimum options. But wait, why are we chasing 74% again? That’s when our Two O’Clock Number comes into play.

The Columbus Blue Jackets, who currently hold the final Wild Card spot, are on pace to finish the season with 94.89 points, essentially making 95 points the playoff cutoff for the time being. However, given that it’s a bit unrealistic to expect the Flyers to have the regulation-plus overtime wins tiebreaker in their favor over any of the teams ahead of them, their number to reach remains 96. Speaking of the teams ahead of them, let’s look at the standings, find who their immediate targets are, and compare each of their schedules.

Eastern Conference Standings

Team GP PTS PTS % Pace PTS Avail. PTS needed PTS needed % 82-game pace
Team GP PTS PTS % Pace PTS Avail. PTS needed PTS needed % 82-game pace
x-Tampa Bay (1) 71 112 0.789 129.35 22 0.00 0.000 0.00
Boston (2) 71 93 0.655 107.41 22 1.89 0.086 14.09
Washington (3) 71 91 0.641 105.1 22 3.89 0.177 29.00
Toronto (4) 70 89 0.636 104.26 24 5.89 0.245 40.25
NY Islanders (5) 70 89 0.636 104.26 24 5.89 0.245 40.25
Pittsburgh (6) 71 87 0.613 100.48 22 7.89 0.359 58.82
Carolina (7) 69 83 0.601 98.64 26 11.89 0.457 75.00
Columbus (8) 70 81 0.579 94.89 24 13.89 0.579 94.92
Montreal (9) 71 81 0.570 93.55 22 13.89 0.631 103.54
Philadelphia (10) 70 76 0.543 89.03 24 18.89 0.787 129.08

It’s not as simple as the best eight teams in the conference make the playoffs, but with the top-three in the Atlantic Division all but locked in, the Flyers’ situation can be looked at from that perspective. Barring a massive collapse from either the New York Islanders or the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Flyers have but just two teams to chase; the Blue Jackets and the Carolina Hurricanes.

The path ahead

Toronto (2), Pittsburgh, Montreal, Chicago, NY Islanders, Washington, Carolina (2), NY Rangers, Dallas, and St. Louis. Right there are the Flyers’ opponents over their 12 remaining games. That’s nine games coming against teams that currently hold a playoff spot, plus another versus the Canadiens who, as we discussed, are right on the cusp of getting in. Easy is not exactly a word that comes to mind. Luckily for them, they’re not alone.

Eight of the Hurricanes’ 13 games are against teams currently in a playoff spot, plus they play the Canadiens once and the Flyers twice. That leaves them two games versus teams that are basically out of it in the Buffalo Sabres and the New Jersey Devils. Again, not an easy schedule by any means. The real winner of the schedule-aspect has to be the Blue Jackets, with just half of their final games coming against teams in the playoffs. They do play Montreal once as well, but even with that in mind they do possess the easiest schedule of the three teams. The Hurricanes and Blue Jackets face off tonight, with the worst case scenario for the Flyers being a Blue Jackets victory in overtime.

But maybe the most interesting team in the race is the one that’s directly ahead of the Flyers, the Canadiens. They play the Flyers, the Hurricanes, and the Blue Jackets in a span of nine days. Those three games could not only decide Montreal’s season, but could also be a deciding factor in the Flyers season. The Canadiens will have a big hand in whichever two teams wind up claiming the Wild Card spots in the East.

Despite having the easiest schedule, the Blue Jackets haven’t played well lately and it’s entirely possible that they continue to do so, giving the Flyers an opening. Or maybe Petr Mrazek remembers that he’s not that great and Hurricanes fall in the standings a bit, leading to a game 82 “win and you’re in” situation. Wouldn’t that be *long inhale* fun! Or, you know, or the Flyers go out and drop their next three games and the playoff chase is already over before the end of next week. Anything’s possible, and while the odds are still stacked against them, you can’t say they haven’t made this interesting.