Flyers looking to clinch essentially-clinched playoff spot in Florida

Flyers looking to clinch essentially-clinched playoff spot in Florida

If the Philadelphia Flyers pick up two points against the sad-sack Florida Panthers on Tuesday night, the orange and black officially clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Anything can happen after the puck drops, but not exactly the unlikeliest of scenarios versus the second-worst team in the NHL.

Of course, should the Panthers manage to play the role of spoiler tonight, it’s not like the Flyers don’t have the rest of the week to punch their ticket to the dance. Barring an epic meltdown, Philadelphia’s table in the postseason is already reserved.

The Flyers have a five-point lead and a game in hand over the New Jersey Devils and Toronto Maple Leafs, the two clubs currently on the outside looking in. That means the Bullies would have to lose all four of their remaining games in regulation, and either NJ or TOR would have to win three in a row.

We’re a long ways away from any real drama here.

Of course, a loss in Florida could still be very damaging to Philadelphia. For one, they’re still vying for the second-place finisher in the Metropolitan Division, which would ensure home ice against third place. Given that they’re currently on a collision course with the New York Rangers, and the Flyers can’t seem to buy a win at Madison Square Garden lately, that could wind up mattering quite a bit.

New York is currently in front by two points, though the Flyers have a game in hand. The Rags also own the first tiebreaker at the moment, which would be wins in regulation and overtime, but it’s close—39-37.

The Flyers and Rangers split the season series, so the final tiebreaker would be goal differential, which New York has a substantial lead in.

The Flyers also have to worry about the Columbus Blue Jackets nipping at their heels. Philadelphia holds a two-point lead, which is hardly insurmountable.

If the Blue Jackets manage to oust Philadelphia from third place in the Metro, the orange and black would claim one of the Wild Card spots instead. The end result of that could be okay—the short-handed Pittsburgh Penguins—or it could be devastating—the suffocating Boston Bruins—as far as first-round matchups go.

So, yes, tonight’s points do matter, but we won’t be throwing any parties for the Flyers just because they got into the playoffs. That’s felt like a foregone conclusion for at least the last few weeks.

Right now, the points only seem important insomuch as they could seal Philadelphia’s fate very early on in the tournament.

Doug Pederson: Dak Prescott knew he didn't have to win by himself

Doug Pederson: Dak Prescott knew he didn't have to win by himself

For the most part, Carson Wentz had a pretty successful rookie season. 

Sure, the Eagles finished with a 7-9 record, but Wentz did enough to continue the franchise's belief that he is indeed the quarterback of the future. 

Another guy in Dallas did the same thing with the Cowboys. Actually, Dak Prescott had an even more impressive rookie season, leading the Cowboys to 13 wins, while winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. 

Prescott, a fourth-round pick, had a great year, but didn't try to do too much. And that's what impressed Eagles head coach Doug Pederson the most. 

"[Prescott] understood this right away, that he didn't have to win the game for them," Pederson said on The Doomsday Podcast, hosted by Matt Mosley and Ed Werder. (Pederson also talked about running the Rocky steps). "He knew that he had a good defense, a tremendous offensive line, a great runner, he had some veteran players that he could rely on and he learned that early. As soon as he had the opportunity to play and that was early, from Day 1. 

"That's something that a young quarterback, sometimes it takes them a while to figure out the game that way. That's the impressive thing, that he learned how to handle that business that well, utilize the people around him and understand that he didn't have to go win the game."

While Prescott had plenty of help during his rookie season, it was pretty evident Wentz was lacking in that area. 

Prescott had a great offensive line, Dez Bryant, Ezekiel Elliott and others. Wentz had an offensive line that was missing Lane Johnson, an often-injured Ryan Mathews and receivers like Nelson Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham playing serious snaps. 

So it made sense when the team went out this offseason and signed Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, and recently LeGarrette Blount, as free agents, finally getting Wentz some real help. 

"We had opportunities to get those two guys and it was obvious last year, we were young at the wide receiver position," Peterson said. "We needed some leadership, some veteran presence there and we went out and got that with Torrey and Alshon. We still want to build through the draft, we still want to acquire young talent. 

"LeGarrette Blount now is a guy that gives us that big back, running back, that can come in and compete and hopefully he does everything he did at New England the last couple of seasons. He had 18 rushing touchdowns for over 1,000 yards and we just expect that same level of performance here."

Maybe having weapons will allow Wentz to do what made Prescott so impressive to Pederson in 2016: not too much. 

Tonight's lineup: Michael Saunders dropped to eighth in order

Tonight's lineup: Michael Saunders dropped to eighth in order

Pete Mackanin is still searching for answers to the Phillies' offensive woes following Sunday afternoon's disheartening 1-0 loss in Pittsburgh during which the Phils could only muster three hits.

The latest lineup twist as the search for an answer continues will see Michael Saunders bat in the eight-hole tonight as the Phils open a four-game series with the surging Rockies tonight at Citizens Bank Park (see game notes).

When he has started this season, Saunders has been a fixture within the middle of the Phillies' order. After all, the offseason free-agent signing was an All-Star last season for Toronto when he hit 24 homers and drove in 57 runs.

But this season hasn't gone as planned as Saunders is hitting just .232 with four homers and 15 RBI in 41 games with the Phils this season.

With Saunders' drop down the lineup, Tommy Joseph will bat fourth, Maikel Franco fifth and Odubel Herrera sixth against Rockies spot starter Jeff Hoffman.

Tonight's full lineup can be found below:

Phillies
1. Cesar Hernandez 2B
2. Freddy Galvis SS
3. Aaron Altherr LF
4. Tommy Joseph 1B
5. Maikel Franco 3B
6. Odubel Herrera CF
7. Cameron Rupp C
8. Michael Saunders RF
9. Jerad Eickhoff SP