Why the 1st Wildcard Should Be Desired Finish for Flyers
Four games remain in the Flyers quest for a playoff spot. It has been a season full of different possibilities.
At one time, a division title seemed to be within reach. The playoffs in general also were highly unlikely at another point in the season. The Flyers have essentially flirted with every possible fate in between too.
Once the dust settles after the final four games, there will be clarity in where this season goes from here. The Flyers win on Wednesday night made clinching a playoff even more of a reality. The Flyers are in a spot where no matter what the rest of the league does, win three of the final four games and you’re in.
But once they make the playoffs, is winning a playoff series a possibility?
In short, of course it’s possible. Anything is possible in the playoffs. But for the Flyers to have the best chance to play beyond the first round of the playoffs, being the first wildcard may be their best bet.
Currently, the Flyers hold that magic spot of being the first wildcard -- one point behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for third and two points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for second in the Metropolian Division.
That would set up another date with the Washington Capitals, just as it did two seasons ago.
Washington has opened up a five-point lead on Pittsburgh with four games remaining on their schedule. With two wins in the final four games, Washington wraps up another Metropolitan Division title.
That would lock them into the second seed in the Eastern Conference essentially. Washington would be guaranteed to take on the first wildcard.
This is an ideal matchup for the Flyers. Unlike other elite teams like Pittsburgh, Boston or Tampa, the Flyers are not subject to many mismatches in the Washington lineup. Throughout the season, the Flyers have shown that they can not only keep up with Washington’s speed, but also match their level of intensity and scoring.
The playoffs are certainly a different animal and a young Flyers team is going to learn that, but the same roster has played Washington four times this season, most recently on March 18, and won three of the four meetings. In the four games, the Flyers outscored the Capitals, 19-11.
In contrast, the Flyers went 0-2-2 against the Penguins, 1-1-1 against Tampa and have an 0-2-0 record against Boston entering Sunday’s final meeting with the Bruins.
Pittsburgh outscored the Flyers, 20-11. Tampa outscored the Flyers, 14-12. Boston has outscored the Flyers, 6-2.
Now obviously, it’s impossible to try to play for the specific position. The Flyers don’t want to jeopardize the playoffs to ensure a favorable matchup. Besides, a playoff team cannot go into a series scared of an opponent. Despite what the records and eye test may show about the Flyers four games against Pittsburgh, they insist they could hold their own in a playoff series with the Penguins.
A lot can still happen in this final week of the season that will shift the playoff picture. A Flyers-Capitals rematch would serve as the best fit.
There’s certainly every reason to be excited about the likely return of playoff hockey. It’s also fair to be concerned about the first-round matchup and wanting the most favorable situation.
By the standings, getting into the playoffs as a wildcard again isn’t all that glamorous, especially when the Flyers held the division lead for a day and challenged for it for the better part of two weeks. But being a wildcard will provide that matchup, and that’s what the team and fans should be hoping to see.
Kevin Durso is Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.