Flyers still facing long playoff odds after win over Penguins

Flyers still facing long playoff odds after win over Penguins

It's gotten rather bleak for the Flyers over the past week.
 
The last-second loss in Boston last Saturday afternoon was devastating, and coupled with the Islanders picking up points this week, the Flyers fell behind by seven points in the wild-card heading into Wednesday's game against visiting the visiting Penguins.
 
The 4-0 rout over road-weary Pittsburgh left the Flyers just five points out of the playoff picture as of Thursday morning.
 
So close … yet so far.
 
The Flyers now have 72 points. With 13 games left, they can max out at 98 points -- if they win out.
 
That's not going to happen.
 
They're going to need approximately 93 points to have a realistic shot. That's based on the Islanders, who have played one less game and are on pace to finish with 92 points.
 
Mind you, the Isles hold the second wild-card spot. Just to get to them, however, the Flyers have to leap frog over Florida, Toronto and Tampa Bay.
 
The Flyers' win over the Penguins moved them a point over the Panthers, who have a game in hand on Dave Hakstol's club.
 
If the Isles continue at their pace, the Flyers have to amass another 21 of 26 points, or essentially win 10 of their remaining 13 games and get a point with a loss outside regulation play.
 
It's not impossible, but it is highly unlikely. That's what the Flyers are up against, and since they only have one head-to-head meeting left with the Isles, they need help from other teams -- in some cases, teams ahead of them are playing head to head with a chance at a three-point game that hurts them.
 
"It's not over till it's over," Wayne Simmonds said after Wednesday's emotional victory over the Penguins. "We have full faith in here."
 
Sportsclubstats.com, which ranks playoff possibilities, among other things, gives the Flyers a 0.3 percent chance of making the playoffs.
 
The Isles have a 36.6 percent chance.
 
The Flyers choose to ignore those stats. Can they do the seemingly impossible?
 
"Yeah, absolutely," Shayne Gostisbehere said. "The way we played [against Pittsburgh], we didn’t give them much. There's not a lot of room.
 
"Teams don’t want to play against teams like. It’s something we know is in this room. If anyone is gonna do it, it's to be us."

Flyers-Bruins 5 things: Latest in long line of must-win games

Flyers-Bruins 5 things: Latest in long line of must-win games

Flyers (31-27-8, 70 points) at Bruins (35-26-6, 76 points)
1 p.m. on CSN, CSNPhilly.com and streaming live on the NBC Sports App 

Time is running short on this season for the Flyers, who are in Boston on Saturday afternoon to meet the Bruins in yet another critical game in the wild-card chase.

It's a big one for both clubs as both are fighting for their playoff lives.

Let's take a closer look at Saturday's matinee matchup.

1. Gotta have it
The Flyers will enter Saturday afternoon's contest five points behind the New York Islanders for the final wild-card spot in the East with 15 games to play. Needless to say, destiny is not in the Flyers' hands.

And that's why the Flyers need these two points on Saturday. Think of the consequences if the Flyers fall to the B's. If the Flyers fall in regulation and the Isles beat the Blues in St. Louis on Saturday evening, the Flyers would be seven points back of New York with 14 games to play. And they would need plenty of help along the way as they'd still likely have to jump Tampa, Florida and Toronto.

Now, it's really desperation time.

"Going into Boston, it's going to be huge for us," Shayne Gostisbehere said after Thursday’s loss in Toronto. "It's going to be a playoff-like atmosphere for us. We're going to need two points."

The term "must-win" has been thrown around a lot recently with the Flyers, and rightfully so with time winding down in the season. But if they drop this one, the consequences could be devastating.

If things weren’t tough enough, the Flyers will see a Bruins team hungry to hang on to the third spot in the Atlantic Division and not fall into the wild-card cluster.

2. Momentum kill
The Flyers' power play snapped out of an 0-for-14 funk Thursday with Wayne Simmonds' deflection in the first period against the Leafs. But as one special-teams unit showed a pulse, the other continued to flat-line.

After giving up two power-play tallies to the Sabres on Tuesday, the Flyers allowed two more to the Leafs on Thursday, including an absolute backbreaker by Mitch Marner late in the third period that made the score 3-1 in favor of Toronto.

The power-play goals against the Flyers the last two games have been momentum killers in important moments.

But the Sabres and Leafs also have the top two power plays in the league. The Bruins check in at 13th with the man advantage. So still another formidable test for the Flyers' PK. 

3. New bench boss, new Bruins
An era ended last month when Boston axed Claude Julien after 10 years on the job and the 2011 Stanley Cup.

Enter interim head coach Bruce Cassidy and the Bruins have taken off under his watch. 

Under Julien, the Bruins were averaging 2.56 goals per game. However, in the 12 games since Cassidy took over, the B's have scored 3.75 goals per game. It's been an offensive renaissance that has helped the Bruins earn 18 points in the standings since Cassidy took over and has propelled them from the outskirts of the playoffs into the top three in the Atlantic.

Combine the offensive outburst with all-world goalie Tuukka Rask and you have the Bruins' recipe for success.

4. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: We'll go with Gostisbehere. He has just looked so much more confident on the ice over the last several weeks. And he's hitting the net more, too, so that obviously helps. But a confident Gostisbehere is a dangerous Gostisbehere. He's got some of that swagger that we saw last season back. And he was great against the Leafs with a goal and an assist. He's now up to six goals and 23 assists on the year.

Bruins: Have to go with the guy everyone loathes but wishes was on their team, Brad Marchand. "The Little Ball of Hate," as he is lovingly known, is in the midst of a spectacular season with 32 goals and 38 assists for 70 points. You always have to know where Marchand is on the ice, and it's usually not hard to find him as he'll be causing a ruckus or getting under someone's skin when he's not putting the puck in the net. He's got nine goals and 10 assists in 24 regular-season games vs. the Flyers.

5. This and that
•​ Saturday's game will be the rubber match between the Flyers and Bruins this season. The Flyers took a 3-2 shootout decision in Philadelphia on Nov. 29. The Bruins ran over the Flyers en route to a 6-3 win on Jan. 14 in Beantown.

•​ Steve Mason is expected to start in net for the Flyers after Michal Neuvirth started Thursday in Toronto. Mason was excellent in the shootout win over Boston in November with 45 saves. 

•​ Simmonds' goal in Toronto was his 14th power-play goal of the season, which tied him with teammate Brayden Schenn for the league lead.

•​ If you haven’t read it yet, check out CSNPhilly.com Flyers Insider Tim Panaccio’s story on what Jake Voracek had to say about the NHL’s indecision on playing in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. It’s an interesting look from the players’ perspective and Voracek had some very passionate quotes about the situation and wanting to play for his native Czech Republic.

After loss to Maple Leafs, Flyers desperately need 2 regulation points in Boston

After loss to Maple Leafs, Flyers desperately need 2 regulation points in Boston

TORONTO -- It won’t be easy going into Boston now.
 
Not after Thursday's 4-2 loss to the Maple Leafs that put the Flyers in a deeper hole in their attempt to earn a wild-card playoff spot (see game recap).
 
In other words, Saturday's matinee at TD Garden is a must-win even more than it was 24 hours ago.
 
"Absolutely," said Shayne Gostisbehere. "Obviously, [Thursday] was a must-win for us. And going into Boston, it's going to be huge for us.
 
"It's going to be a playoff-like atmosphere for us. We’re going to need two points."
 
The Leafs moved into the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with 74 points and the Islanders kept pace as the wild-card leader by virtue of an OT win in Vancouver late Thursday night. So the Isles (75 points) now have a five-point cushion on the Flyers in the wild-card chase. The Lightning (71 points) jumped the Flyers thanks to a 4-1 win over Minnesota on Thursday.
 
Regardless, the Flyers lost a golden chance to gain ground.
 
Ironically, the Flyers went into Boston right around the same time -- March -- back in 2015.

They were 15 seconds from winning a game in regulation play and ended up losing to the Bruins, 3-2, in overtime.
 
It was a crushing defeat that left Craig Berube's club emotionally drained. So much so, they went into New Jersey the next day and got slammed, 5-2, ending their playoff hopes.
 
The Flyers don't want to see this turn into another lost weekend like that one did.
 
"In the past when there was pressure, guys elevated their game," Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. "We can't be pouting. We have to put this behind us and be ready for Boston."
 
They need to take two points from the Bruins in regulation play. They still have to surpass the Leafs, directly in front of them.
 
"It's not that much. We’re just four points behind [Toronto] and we got games left," Sean Couturier said.
 
"Doesn't matter. It's still tight. We got to take it one game at a time and win. Still games left."