The Philadelphia Flyers returned home last night and knocked off the 19-11-3 Montreal Canadiens. The Canadiens are not the Chicago Blackhawks, but they are a formidable opponent. The win put the Flyers at 31 points and in a three way tie for fourth place in the Metropolitan Division. With tiebreakers, the Flyers currently sit in fifth place behind, in order, the Penguins (43pts), Capitals (36pts), Hurricanes (33pts), and Blue Jackets (31pts).
The next four games on the Flyers schedule are critical. On Sunday, they play the first game of a home-and-home against the Capitals (the second game is on Tuesday) and on Thursday they start a home-and-home against the Blue Jackets (the second game is next Saturday). This is a great opportunity to gain ground in the division and take hold of a playoff spot.
The First Two
If the Flyers can win the next two games in regulation they will be one point behind the Washington Capitals. They have only played the Capitals once this season and the game was a disaster. The team should be out for revenge. Unfortunately, the Capitals have their superstar, Alexander Ovechkin, back. He did not play in the first meeting between these two teams. If the Caps can score seven goals on the Flyers without Ovi, I am scared to think of what they could do to the Flyers with him in the line up. The Flyers will have to be up on their skates if they want to knock off the Caps twice in a row.
Another thing that would come out of two wins against Washington is an above .500 record. Three times the Flyers have tried to break through the .500 barrier and have been unable to. They currently sit at 14-15-3, and with two wins they would sit at 16-15-3. The goal of the team is to make it into the playoffs regardless of their record, but to get over the .500 hump would help the psychology of the players and that of the fans.
The Next Two
The Columbus Blue Jackets have won four out of their last five games and shot up to fourth place in the Metropolitan Division. They may not be a great team, but they are young and they are on a hot streak. With Sergei Bobrovsky out of the line up, back up goalie Curtis McElhinney has stepped up and played very well. However, last night, he exited the Blue Jackets tilt against the Rangers after the first period with a lower body injury. Third string goaltender Mike McKenna came in and played solid to earn the Blue Jackets a win.
Another key cog in the Blue Jackets recent hot streak is center Ryan Johansen. The former fourth overall pick is riding a seven game point streak and has 25 points through 32 games. Despite this hot streak, the Blue Jackets are a beatable team. They have an identical record (14-15-3) to the Flyers, but should not be taken lightly.
The Flyers next four games could do wonders for them in the standings. They should expect each game to be dog fight (most division games are) and be ready to skate hard. If the Flyers come away with 6-8 points, they will be sitting in a good position and brimming with confidence. On the flip side, if they come away with <5 points, things could get ugly.
Opportunity is knocking. Will the Flyers answer the door?
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