The Flyers are currently sitting in 5th place in the Eastern Conference. They are 4 points behind Pittsburgh, and 5 points behind New York. They are also 6 points ahead of New Jersey. While these teams are all in our division, they are also the only ones that we could potentially and likely change positions with. So let’s look at the scenarios and the potential matchups.
Florida Panthers/Washington Capitals – One of these two teams will win the pathetic Southeast Division. Florida has a 3 point cushion and a game in hand over the Caps, so they’ll probably hold onto the lead, and the 3rd spot in the east. So for us to play them, the Devils would have to overtake us. It’s unlikely, but it can happen. If it does, we match up pretty well against both SE teams. The Panthers have no star players, and I’m not even sure how they win too many games. Meanwhile, Washington has been a huge disappointment this season, but it looks like they are getting healthy and stronger. Alex Ovechkin is at a goal-a-game pace over the last 2 weeks or so, which is scary. Their success over the last few regular seasons came from their offense. They were bounced from the playoffs every time because they couldn’t defend very well, and that remains an Achilles heal for them. However, new coach, new system, you never know what they can do. Still, neither of these potential and unlikely first round opponents seems like they can upset us.
New Jersey Devils – Given the current standings, this is another matchup that probably won’t happen. Either the Rangers or Penguins would have to fall flat on their face, and both the Flyers and Devils would have to pass them for the 4th and 5th seeds in the conference. The Devils are a strong team, they’ve pretty much kept pace with us throughout the season. In head to head games, we went 4-2 with a pair of shutouts. However, prior to the final season series 3-0 win, we lost 4-1 in a stifling performance by them just days earlier. I’m not blown away by Martin Brodeur anymore, but their team defense is very good. Again, I like how we match up against them. However, I’m always weary of the Devils because they won quite a few Stanley Cups without a ton of big name players, just a bunch of guys who stepped up when it mattered most. It has been a while since they won though, and it’s a completely different group of players. But if a team can defend well, anything is possible.
New York Rangers – They were crushing everyone and had a huge lead in the standings. Then, they started free falling, and now are just a point ahead of the Penguins. If those two switch spots, then we face the Broadway Blueshirts. What a season series it’s been so far between us and them. It’s been one-sided, in their favor. We’ve been shut out once, and scored 2 goals each of the other games. It has been complete domination by them. It was sickening to see how much better than us they were. The last time we played them was in early February, when they were still marching through just about anyone. They aren’t as dominant anymore. It’s hard to say how well we stack up against them now, but we’ll have a game on April 3 to get a better idea of things. I have a better feeling now than I did after the last time we played them, mostly because we tightenend up on D, and Ilya Bryzgalov looks like the goalie we thought we’d signed last July. The series can go either way, and for either side to have an easy time with the other would be unlikely. A month ago, I would have predicted defeat for us. Now, I’m not giving up on anything yet.
Pittsburgh Penguins – They’ve gotten hot, and might overtake New York for 1st place. Or they might not. If they don’t, then it’s still possible we can catch them and get the 4 seed and home ice advantage. Either way, it would take one hell of an effort to beat them. I know we just came back from a 2-0 deficit in which we looked dead and beat them in overtime. And I know we’re 3-1 against them so far. Crosby was back for the last game, but he’s not back to full strength yet. Forget the fact that he’s racking up a bunch of points lately. I consider him back when I can see that he’s just dominant on the ice. And it looks like he’s close to that level. We still have 2 more games left against them, which gives both sides a very good chance for some final scouting. It’s not secret though that thy rely on Crosby and Malkin to lead the charge on offense. With Crosby out for pretty much the last year and a half, Malkin hasn’t slowed down at all. Neither has the team. They tied us in points last year, and will prob finish ahead of us this year. They do many things well. Our best shot will not be trying to go goal for goal with them. We have to find a way to keep things low scoring. And also punch them in the face a lot. Seems like they don’t like that.
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Tags: 2011-12 Nhl Season 2012 Playoffs 2012 Winter Classic Alex Ovechkin Evgeni Malkin Florida Panthers Ilya Bryzgalov Martin Brodeur New Jersey Devils New York Rangers NHL Philadelphia Flyers Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby Washington Capitals