Philadelphia Flyers: Battle with Tampa Bay for top seed

Philippe Myers, Philadelphia Flyers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Philippe Myers, Philadelphia Flyers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /
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The Flyers will look to secure the Eastern Conference’s top seed when they take on the Lightning.

Viewers of recent Philadelphia Flyers-versus-Tampa-Bay-Lightning games have seen some highly entertaining action. They have also seen the Florida-based team skate away with seven consecutive victories, including a 5-3 win on Feb. 15 that is notable for being the last setback the Flyers felt before going on a nine-game winning streak that ended just before the NHL’s coronavirus-induced hiatus.

With the past certainly on their minds but with the present being more pressing, head coach Alain Vigneault’s warriors will hit the ice today against the Lightning in their final Stanley Cup round-robin tilt. Should they win, the Flyers will claim the number-one seed in the Eastern Conference’s playoff bracket.

The postseason has proven quite productive for the Flyers, who outscored the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals by a 7-2 composite score in duels contested on Sunday and Thursday. While those triumphs provided huge emotional lifts, given those squads’ placement among league royalty, striking the Lightning down would probably be the biggest achievement of them all.

Coming off a campaign where they dominated regular season play yet faltered mightily in the playoffs, the Lightning put on an exceptional season in 2019-20, and, like the Flyers, enter unblemished in the round robin.

We learned yesterday that Steven Stamkos will not play for the Bolts, and while that might be cause for celebration owing to his sniper status, his team is still loaded, meaning Carter Hart will likely have plenty of opportunities to work on his reflexes. The second-year goalie will not have Jakub Voracek trying to propel the Fly Boys to the top seed, as the winger will not play.

In his absence, Joel Farabee will head to the first line, where we are hoping he will shine. The trio of Voracek-Claude GirouxSean Couturier failed to register a point in the Boston and Washington matchups, so seeing the captain and the Selke Trophy finalist return to form with Farabee’s presence could be another greater storyline.

With the qualifiers series nearing their conclusion, the excitement for playoff hockey will only grow as the 24-team format dwindles to 16. We could say that we would still be thrilled if the Flyers were to snare the second seed if, say, they lose a close game to the Lightning.

But since this team, including its exhibition win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, has won 12 of its last 13 affairs, we know just how much sweeter that holding the number-one spot would be. They could earn that by defeating a franchise that has clearly had their number lately.