Here we are, staring down yet another “must-win” game amid a
season that’s felt like a never-ending string of them. Although time is running
out, the truth is a loss to the Islanders on Tuesday night wouldn’t necessarily
be the final straw for the Flyers. If they do intend to sneak into the playoffs
however, they will have to climb over the gatekeepers eventually.
The Flyers may be five points back of a playoff berth with just
10 games to play, but the schedule actually allows for a lot of ground to be made
up quickly, beginning tonight in New York. The Isles are currently perched in the
eighth seed, so depriving their Atlantic Division rivals of even one little
point could go a long way in the race to the finish line.
The series between the two franchises has been incredibly
lopsided through the years. Philadelphia owns a 29-3-2 record over New York
dating back to the 2007-08 season, including a 7-0 victory back in February of
this year. That said, the Islanders picked up a 4-3 shootout win in their
last meeting less than two weeks ago. They are a dangerous opponent, going
6-3-1 over their last 10 games.
The Orange & Black recently managed to get hot
themselves, running a season-long win streak to four games before collapsing in
Winnipeg over the weekend. That may have taken some of the wind out of the
Flyers’ sails, but they’re not in bad shape all things considered, earning nine
points out of the last 12 possible.
Plus it’s open season on teams fighting for those final two
or three playoff spots. Eight of the remaining 10 contests are against clubs
within seven points of Philly: two dates with the Islanders and Senators, and
one each with the Rangers, Devils, Sabres, and Hurricanes. There is potential
for the Bullies to do some real damage down the stretch.
Of those six teams, sixth-seeded Ottawa suddenly appears to
be among the most vulnerable, currently mired in a four-game pointless streak.
Carolina has essentially fallen out of the race already, losers in 9 of 10.
The Isles, Rangers, Devils, and Sabres are huddled together in the standings,
all of them leading the Flyers, yet there is something perversely fun about the
idea that the road to the postseason travels through New York/New Jersey.
The opportunity is the Flyers’ for the taking, but can they
capitalize? Even with Saturday’s loss, one that came at the hands of yet another
opponent fighting for a spot, the effort of late instilled a glimmer of hope.
Let’s be realistic, they weren’t going to win out then, and they probably won’t
win out from here. The Flyers do have the chance to knock out several of the teams
in their path though, which is really all anybody can ask for at this point.
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