As of Tuesday, only the Pittsburgh Penguins had as many
games played as the Flyers in 2013, a category the Orange & Black have been
leading the NHL in since the regular season began back in January. But by the
time Philly’s run of five days off is over on Sunday, the rest of the Eastern
Conference will have caught up to them, and their view in the standings will
only be bleaker still.
At one time there might have been a debate over whether being
idle for so long would do more harm than good to the team’s cause. Sure, the
Flyers were going to be well-rested heading into the stretch, their fresh legs
potentially giving them an advantage over weary opponents as they jockeyed for
playoff positioning. However, it can be tough to maintain concentration and return
in mid-season form following such a lengthy break.
Rest assured there is no argument anymore. The Flyers cannot
help themselves by sitting at home, least of all under this compressed 48-game
schedule. Every team is going to have a chance to increase their lead or gain
ground on the Flyers, and since it’s all inter-conference play this season,
that means not a single point will be lost out west.
Philadelphia is at 27 points, which currently puts them five
out from a playoff spot. By the time they return to action though, they’ll
likely fall between a bare minimum of seven-to-nine back of the eighth seed
with only 18 tilts remaining.
To make matters worse, it will be right back into the frying
pan when the Flyers return. When they resume play on Sunday, five games in
eight days await them, including clashes with the Penguins, New York Rangers,
and Boston Bruins – the trio of rivals that just beat up on the Bullies in
succession two weeks ago.
Oh yeah, and even if they manage to top the Pens and Bruins,
with 44 and 41 points respectively they probably can’t realistically catch up
to either one of them anyway. The two points are still beneficial, but won’t necessarily
help the Flyers move up in the standings unless the other clubs vying for lower
seeds lose as well.
While the deficit is not technically insurmountable, the
Flyers’ path to the postseason has become extraordinarily difficult to see.
Unless they hit the ice on Sunday like they’ve been fired out of a cannon and
get on a big points streak, their season is effectively finished – if for all intents and purposes it hasn't ended already.
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