Last night the Philadelphia Flyers lost to the Columbus Blue Jackets to put themselves back at .500, 16-16-4, and back out of a playoff spot. A week ago, I wrote that the Flyers had a great opportunity this week. They played four divisional games. In every game they were either tied or leading at some point in the third period. Prior to these games, it was difficult to try and predict how the Flyers would perform against division foes. We have seen this team look great (comeback against Detroit, 5-0 win over Ottawa, etc) and we have seen them look terrible (7-0 loss to Washington, 6-2 loss to Chicago, etc). What this week taught Flyers nation is that they are insistent on being an average team.
The Flyers went 2-1-1 in the four games of their two divisional home-and-home sets, earning five points. Last week I said that to get six or more points out of the games would be a success while getting four or less would be a disappointment. Well, five points fits into neither category. The Flyers gave up a big lead in the first game against Washington and they erased a lead against Columbus on Thursday night. Therefore, to say that they should have only earned six points or that they should have only earned four points misses the point. When all was said and done, the Flyers are fourth in the Metropolitan Division and are one of three teams in the division with a .500 record.
Right now, three points separate third through seventh in the Metropolitan Division. After the games were settled last night the New Jersey Devils sit in third place with 37 points (15-15-7). The Flyers and Hurricanes have 36 points while the Rangers and Blue Jackets have 34. Even the second place Washington Capitals are only a few points ahead of the pack with 42 points. The bottom line is this, no team has taken control of that third place spot.
Make no mistake, even as an average team, the Flyers are playoff contenders. Before last night’s game, they sat in third place in the division. The Flyers have been inconsistent and therefore unable to stay near the top of the division. However, neither have any of the other four teams battling for the same spot. If the division continues down this path, the third place spot, with it’s automatic playoff qualifier, will go to the team who is on a hot streak at the end of the season. However, if any of the five competing teams can find consistency, they will take the third place spot by the horns and run away with it.
The Flyers can take that third spot. They have the talent to do so. However, if they continue to insist on being average, they will be left watching the playoffs at home.