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.