Dropping the Gloves: What awaits Flyers after the break
The Flyers beat the Rangers, 2-1, at the Wells Fargo Center earlier this season, but lost 4-2 at Madison Square Garden in January. (USA Today Images)
In truth, every game from here on out is a “key game” for the Flyers. They're currently in playoff position in third place in the Metropolitan Division with 66 points, but they’re far from a lock to make the postseason. With, say, a three-game skid, the Flyers could find themselves in seventh place –- fast.
What follows, though, is a list of five* remaining Flyers games that are significant. (Yes, the asterisk is on purpose.)
Note: I’m purposefully leaving out the March 16 and April 12 games against the Penguins. Those games are always intense and fun to watch, but the Penguins are 17 points ahead of the Flyers in the Metropolitan Division. We know what they’re capable of.
March 1: Rangers at Flyers
If things continue as they have been for the Flyers, it will be a battle to the very end for a spot in the playoffs. And it very well might be a battle to the end with the Rangers, just as it was in 2010. Despite their slow start, the Rangers had come on strong in the weeks ahead of the Olympic break –- they’re currently just one point ahead of the Flyers. This game is just the Flyers' second following their three-week break, and it’s critical for the team to start off the final stretch of the season successfully. The two teams play a final time March 26.
March 2: Flyers at Capitals/March 5: Capitals at Flyers
This is more of the same as above. The Capitals have had mixed success this season, but they are divisional opponents. The saying, of course, is that divisional games can seem like they're worth four points instead of two, especially when teams are close in the standings as the Flyers and Caps currently are. Add to that the fact that the two games are a home-and-home series for both teams, and you’ll see there’s a lot of potential Metropolitan Division realty at stake here.
March 30: Bruins at Flyers
Consider this game a chance for retribution. The only other time these two teams met this season resulted in a brutal 6-1 Flyers loss on home ice. They need to prove that they’re capable of keeping pace with this tough Bruins team, and they ought to do it in front of their fans. As impressive as the Penguins have been this season, the Bruins are arguably the scarier team. The Flyers will also travel to Boston April 5, and that game is worth keeping tabs on, too.
April 1: Flyers at Blues
The Blues? Yes, the Blues. I’m looking at it this way: The St. Louis Blues have been one of the best teams in the better conference all season. Add that to the fact that the team had a staggering nine Olympians compete in Sochi, including the particularly impressive David Backes and T.J. Oshie, and there’s no denying the game will be a big test for the Flyers. Consider it a benchmark – how the Flyers are able to handle the Blues, a team they seldom face, will tell us a lot about what they're capable of. Plus, this Blues team was my preseason pick to win the Stanley Cup, so ...
April 3: Blue Jackets at Flyers
Don't scoff. The Blue Jackets are just three points behind the Flyers, and they've also proven they can outskate them. The two points from this game could be the difference between a playoff appearance or playoff opponent. But this one is worth watching for another reason, too ... who will put in a more impressive performance between the pipes: Olympian Sergei Bobrovsky or Steve Mason?