Andrew Amodei| staff writer
The NHL is quickly heading toward the end of the regular season and toward playoffs. Teams are going through their highs and their lows as they race toward the postseason. The Flyers have already clinched their spot in the playoffs; it’s now just a matter of how the Flyers play heading into the playoffs and also what seed they eventually end up with. Right now they are in-between the fourth seed and the fifth seed fighting for position with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Flyers are scrapping for a very important position and if the number one seed New York Rangers still continue to slip, the Flyers could continue to climb the ladder of the Eastern Conference. The Flyers will face tough competition from each of the other seven teams who are trying to qualify for the playoffs.
The Flyers also have certain strengths and weaknesses that they have to contend with when the playoffs begin. The Flyers’ one strength right now is their goaltending. However, this can change very quickly. The Flyers high profile goalie pickup Ilya Bryzgalov has been very up and down this season, but recently he has been like his former self, showing why the Flyers invested all of that money in him. The Flyers have been picking up steam as of late and that is a good sign heading into the playoffs. In their last 16 games, the Flyers are 11-5 and a lot of their wins have come against potential playoff competition such as the Boston Bruins and the Pittsburgh Penguins. This is a good sign for the Flyers as they have been able to play consistently down the stretch and have shown they can be consistent which is one of their keys to having a great playoff run.
Also encouraging for the Flyers, is that their offense and defense is picking up toward the end of the season. The Flyers have been consistently scoring goals and have also consistently stopped goals as well. The Flyers have only given up more than two goals four times in the last month, which is a great rate for any defense. The Flyers, no matter whom they face, will face enormous competition from any of the teams in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The other seven teams the Flyers could potential face to come out of the east are the Boston Bruins, the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Florida Panthers, the New Jersey Devils, the Ottawa Senators and the Buffalo Sabres. All of these teams are very tough, very competitive teams that the Flyers will need to go through, and there are no easy out for the Flyers.
The good news for the Flyers is that they are 34-19 against teams from the Eastern Conference. That is an outstanding record against one’s own conference. On a side note, the Flyers are 11-5 against the Western Conference but they will only have to face one Western Conference team in the playoffs and that’s only if they make the Stanley Cup Finals. The Eastern Conference playoffs look daunting but the Flyers have shown they can handle most of the teams that they could potentially face. The one team that poses a serious threat to the Flyers would be the current number one seed, the New York Rangers. The Rangers have defeated the flyers all five times that they have met this season. This is worrisome but in the playoffs anything can happen.
The Flyers have spilt the season with the Bruins, but against every other Eastern Conference playoff team the Flyers have a winning record, including being 3-1 against the dominant Pittsburgh Penguins. Even though the match-ups may favor the Flyers, they must play to their full potential and all of their key players must play to the best of their ability as well. That means players such as Claude Giroux, Danny Briere and of course their goalie Ilya Bryzgalov will have to play above and beyond to get the Flyers to the championship.
All in all, the postseason is actually setting up pretty favorably for the Flyers, as they have shown they can play with and beat any team when they are playing their best. The Flyers must bring their strongest play and try to eliminate all of their flaws to stay in the mix down the stretch. This will be difficult but championship teams are supposed to do this. The Flyers have been the kind of team that always knocks on the door but can’t quite make it. If this is to be the year for the Philadelphia Flyers, than they must get on the ice and show that they can be the best team in the whole NHL, and when the dust settles, they may be holding Lord Stanley’s Cup.