I can’t believe I’m saying this, but you should root for the Devils to win their last two games as well as for the Flyers to lose their last two games. What!?! I’m serious if that scenario takes place the Flyers would then finish in sixth and would play* the Florida Panthers in the first round (*Florida hasn’t clinched the division just yet, but they only need one point in their last two games to clinch the third spot). I know the Flyers-Pens series is what every Flyers fan wants because of what took place this past Saturday, but seriously ask yourselves this: Which is the better matchup in the first round Florida or Pittsburgh?
Let’s take a look at both scenarios:
Flyers finish fifth; open up against the Penguins
This is the more likely of the two matchups because the Flyers only need one point in their last two games to lock up the fifth spot and a series against their cross state rivals. Somewhere Gary Bettman is grinning his ass off because this is the best possible first round matchup for the NHL ratings wise (aside from Hockey Day in America and the Winter Classic, the Flyers-Pens game from this past weekend had the highest ratings in more than two years), which means that at least one of these games will be played in the afternoon on NBC; not exactly the best case scenario for the Flyers considering their record in afternoon games this season (5-8-2, 1-1 against the Pens). Even with that aside, Philadelphia would be playing one of the most dangerous teams in the league. Yes the series would be extremely fun to watch and could provide a bench fight between the coaches, but whoever survives this series would have to go on and most likely play either the Bruins or the Rangers.
If the Flyers beat the Pens in the first round they would most likely draw the Bruins in the conference semi-finals because it’s likely that the Devils will beat the Panthers in the first round, thus drawing the Rangers in the next round. The defending champions are going to be an extremely tough out, but they aren’t the invincible monster that they were last post season. Philly came in to that series against Boston with bulls eyes on their backs after the miracle that took place in ’10. Now it’s the Flyers turn to use that same motivation (the crew at the TD Garden swept up the remains of Philadelphia) and take it to Boston.
The Flyers would then draw the Rangers in the conference finals…. Get the picture? It’s like going through murder’s row of hockey teams. Even if the Flyers are to get past the Penguins I find it doubtful that they would then be able to get past Boston and then the Rangers, forget about it.
Flyers finish sixth; open up against the Panthers
Now I don’t want to knock the Panthers too much. They have held onto that third seed for most of the season, but c’mon this years’ Southeastern division might go down as one of the worst ever. The Flyers haven’t exactly dominated the Panthers this season (the 3-1 record is nice, but one of those wins was in a shootout, one was a 3-2 game, the other a 5-0 blowout), but the Flyers are a much better team. The Panthers might be able to squeak one game away from under Philly’s nose, but it would be highly unlikely for a sixth game to take place. The series wouldn’t be a very physical one, thus saving the Flyers bodies for the next round and trust me they would need all the energy they could possibly get because…
The Rangers would be awaiting the Flyers in the second round. You all know that the Flyers haven’t beaten the Rangers all season, but the playoffs are a different animal. Maybe Scott Hartnell, Rinaldo, and Giroux can do enough to get under the skin of New York to a point that it throws them off. Maybe the return of Meszaros and James van Reimsdyk is enough to put Philly over, but right now those are just a bunch of what ifs. This would be the hardest opponent for Philadelphia.
Major if, but if the Flyers pull off a minor miracle and beat the Rangers they would most likely get either the Bruins or the Penguins. Imagine a Flyers-Pens Eastern Conference final after everything that has recently taken place between the two teams, again cut to Gary Bettman but this time he’s uncontrollably drooling like a dog that is staring at dinner being made.
Let’s recap; if the Flyers finish fifth this would most likely be the order of teams they would play barring upsets: Pens-Bruins-Rangers (by that point whoever comes out of the East is going to beat so beaten up that if Vancouver doesn’t win the cup the fans really do have a reason to riot this year). Compare that to what would happen if they finish sixth: Panthers-Rangers-Bruins/Pens. Either way the Rangers are going to have to be beaten by a team that hasn’t been able to do just that all season. Let’s all just hope that either a motivated Ovechkin or the wall or Ryan Miller shows up in the first round.
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