A Flyers Fans’ Guide to the 2023 Playoffs

DENVER, COLORADO - JUNE 14: The Conn Smythe Trophy and the Stanley Cup are on display during the 2022 NHL Stanley Cup Final Media Day at Ball Arena on June 14, 2022 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
DENVER, COLORADO - JUNE 14: The Conn Smythe Trophy and the Stanley Cup are on display during the 2022 NHL Stanley Cup Final Media Day at Ball Arena on June 14, 2022 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
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The NHL Playoffs are upon us and once again, the Philadelphia Flyers are on the outside watching. But that doesn’t mean you have to. Playoff hockey is the most fun hockey to watch; especially when you get into some of those crazy overtime games.

But if the Flyers aren’t in it, who should you root for? Hopefully this guide will help you out. Some teams have former Flyers on them. Others, well, it’s just who do you hate the least.

The Eastern Conference

Because many of the teams in here are rivals, it makes it hard to actively root for any of them. Some are easier to hate than others. So, in terms of Flyers fans likeability, here is who is playing:

Carolina Hurricanes

This is probably the easiest team for Flyers fans to root for. Yes, they are in the Metro Division and yes they have dominated the division for the last few seasons. And for whatever reason, they have dominated the Flyers a lot over the last few years.

But the team does have Rod Brind’Amour as head coach. He was a Flyers fan favorite during the 1990s and has molded this team around his style of play.

However, the team’s Achilles’ Heel this season is the offense. While they have the one of the best penalty kill units in the NHL and probably the best overall defense in the league (in terms of points allowed and scoring), they have trouble scoring goals. And when forward Andrei Svenchnikov got injured, that weakness became magnified.

The Canes should get out of the first round as they face the Islanders. After that, it’s all depending who is standing in their way.

Tampa Bay Lightning

The Bolts have dominated the Eastern Conference for years. So, many people would argue that their time has come and gone and someone else should do it.

Yes, I agree. However, if I am looking for a team in the East that I can root for, it’s most likely not going to be a Metropolitan team. That doesn’t give me too many options. Out of the Atlantic Division teams that are left, this is the one that is the most easily tolerated.

They are a well oiled machine filled with some great players. They are fun to watch and know how to step it up. They are the reigning three time Eastern Conference champions. They may not make it that far this year, but they know how to win big games. This is still a fun team to watch and for that reason they are up this high on this list. The battle between them and Toronto should be fun.

Florida Panthers

A month ago this team was dead in the water. Last year’s President’s Trophy winner wasn’t going to make the playoffs. This team went on a 6-1-1 run in their last eight games in order to leap frog over some teams that were struggling; such as Pittsburgh. After an offseason in which they made some major moves, it looks as if they are putting it all together. Better late than never.

Teams that get hot in March and April are dangerous teams. They could give Boston some fits if the Bruins look past them.

Part of what is helping them out is former Flyers goalie Alex Lyon. He has taken over the duties in net and hasn’t lost, in regulation, since a 6-3 drubbing by Philly. Looks like he’s finally put it together too as he’s replaced former Flyer Sergei Bobrovsky in net as starting goalie.

Other former Flyers on this team include Nick Cousins and Radko Gudas.

If you like a feel good story, the ascension of Lyon is a good one. The Panthers won’t get far in the playoffs, but it is nice to see Lyon finally getting his chance.

Toronto Maple Leafs

I firmly believe that most major sport leagues secretly want certain teams to go to the championship because it is “good for the game”. For example, MLB would rather see a Yankees-Mets World Series than a Mariners-Brewers World Series. Toronto is one of the teams that I know the NHL would LOVE to root for this year to make the finals.

And yet, the Maple Leafs can’t get out of their own way. They always seem to stumble and bumble their way through the first round, if they are lucky, before being utterly destroyed in the second round. They are the Buffalo Bills of the NHL and it is hilarious.

They have a talented lineup with a great star in Auston Matthews. They have built this team in order to make a deep run. At the same time, if they fail again, they may have to make more changes.

However, they have they longest Stanley Cup drought at 55 years. The Flyers currently have the fourth longest at 47 years. So, while it might be nice for Toronto to hoist the Cup, we can wait until after we do it.

Boston Bruins

We are in the bottom of the list here. Boston is perfect. Boston is good. Boston has been given the Cup back in November. Now they have to earn it.

It’s a team that is easy to both admire and hate at the same time. They have no flaws. They have no weaknesses. And that’s why it it easy to root for an underdog to dethrone them. How funny would it be to set all those records and fall short.

At the same time, there used to be a huge rivalry between the Bruins and Flyers (Montreal too). But that was in the 1970s. Times have changed. Teams have been realigned again and again. The rivalry between the Flyers and Bruins has died down a bit.

As disgusting as it would be to say “Root for Boston!”, look at the remaining choices: Rangers Devils, and Islanders. I’m cheering on Boston any day of the week over those teams. And I think most Flyers fans would agree with me there.

New York Islanders

New York City sport teams come in pairs: one good and one hysterically lousy. You have the Yankees and Mets, Giants and the Jets, Knicks and Nets, and the Rangers and Islanders.

At one point, the Islanders were one of the top teams in the NHL. That point was in the early 1980s when Atari, Cyndi Lauper, and Police Academy Films were all popular. Since the 1980s, the Isles have been a laughingstock of the NHL. At least they got a sweet new arena back on Long Island instead of playing in Brooklyn.

The Isles have the potential to be fairly competitive for years to come after the Bo Horvat trade. Instead of making moves during the offseason, they made their moves during the season. Adding Horvat to a lineup that includes Flyers killer Mat Barzal, they have the making of a decent team.

While no Philly sports fan can root for a New York team, you can always root for the team that is usually comically inept over the team that is usually decent. In this case, that means rooting for the Islanders over the Rangers. However, the Islanders will probably get crushed by Carolina, so you won’t have to worry about them for too long.

New York Rangers

This is a team loaded with talent, from young stars to grizzled vets. They have a top tier goaltender in Igor Shesterkin who has helped everyone forget about Henrik Lundqvist. They have a lot of fire power on their front lines. They are a lot of fun to watch…

…Except that they are the Rangers. The only NHL team that I hate more than them are the Devils. It was great seeing them be a terrible team all that not long ago. Then they got good again…REALLY good. And I’m sure that the Rangers are deep down good human beings, but I still can’t root for them. Just ain’t going to happen…but they are playing New Jersey, so dang…not sure who to cheer on there. But with the Rangers and Devils playing each other, that means one of them is a first round out.

New Jersey Devils

I’m not sorry for putting them at the bottom. I can’t get over the bitter feelings I have for this team. I hated that they had the Flyers number all the time in the 90s. I hated seeing them win Cup after Cup. I hated that Scott Stevens wrecked Eric Lindros and ruined his career.

For that reason, I have them at the bottom. Well, for that and the fact that they immediately turned their team around into a legit contender overnight. I hope Daniel Briere is watching because Philadelphia needs to turn the team around like they did.

This is a young team that got good really quick. I hate that. It was a joy to see them lost and lifeless ever since they lost Martin Brodeur. I can’t wait for that day to happen again.