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Complete Guide to the Philadelphia Flyers' Playoff Push

Michael PizzutilloCorrespondent IIIApril 16, 2013

Complete Guide to the Philadelphia Flyers' Playoff Push

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    The NHL season is coming to an end and the Philadelphia Flyers are fighting for their lives to remain in playoff contention.

    In a roller-coaster season filled with more downs than ups, Philly is trying to end its abbreviated season on somewhat of a high note. With only six games remaining and the Flyers trailing the eighth-seeded New York Rangers by seven points, a positive ending will be extremely difficult.

    But not impossible.

    Here is the complete guide to the Philadelphia Flyers' playoff push.

1. Star Players Must Step Up

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    The Flyers faced many trials and tribulations this season; being flooded with injuries and poor defensive play all year. But now is the time for the team's stars to put the past behind them and rise to the occasion.

    Three specific players must elevate their play during the final stretch of Philly's schedule to help the team advance into the postseason: captain Claude Giroux, Danny Briere and Ilya Bryzgalov

    There is no question, Giroux was pressing his play early in the season. Whether it was due to his first year as captain or sorely missing ex-teammate Jaromir Jagr, G was off. Lately, the Flyers' superstar has compiled 10 points in his last eight games and is now tied for the team lead in points. 

    Philadelphia will now only go as far as its captain will lead them. Giroux must continue his hot play, leaving everything on the ice. This will not only help the Flyers' postseason goal, but expose his true identity as the team's leader.

    Briere is an interesting case for the team. The veteran forward, known for his postseason dominance and gritty power play, recently played in his first game since March 18—due to a concussion.

    Since his return, Briere has played in two games, tallying an assist and averaging a little over 15:50 minutes on the ice. The Flyers will be leaning on his late-season experience to help propel them into the playoffs. If Briere can play to his capabilities, the versatile forward may be the much-needed spark Philly is looking for.

    Last and most important, is the play of goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. Through all the headlines, interviews, rumors and benchings, Bryz must find a way to become a rock in net. It is crucial that he plays his best hockey during the final days of the regular season, even if reserve goalie Steve Mason were to spell him in during the stretch.

    The eccentric player must now focus on the prize at hand, to sure up his future in Philadelphia and contribute to its postseason run. Fortunately, four of the last six games will be at home—where Bryz has played much better in the net. 

    If these players can step up their play, it could benefit the Flyers' attempt at the postseason.

2. Help from Others

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    There are two levels of teams vying for the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. 

    There is the "A" group, which consists of the New York Islanders and New York Rangers, who are currently positioned in the seventh and eighth spots, respectively. Then there is the "B" group, made up of the Winnipeg Jets, Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils and the Philadelphia Flyers—all competing to jump into the "A' group.

    It's black and white for the Islanders and Rangers. They win and they're in.

    The Flyers still have two extremely important games against both Atlantic Division opponents. Philly will play at home against the Rangers tonight followed by an April 25 matchup with Isles in Philadelphia. 

    Philly must win both to be serious contenders for the postseason.

    The Rangers have seven games remaining and four will be on the road, where they sport a sub .500 team record.  The Islanders have six remaining games, including five away games in a row, yet the Isles have played much better away from home this season with a 12-5-2 record.

    As far as the "B" group is concerned, the Flyers will be playing the Devils on April 16—in a must win game. Buffalo may have the hardest remaining schedule with five games remaining and four against teams currently seeded for a playoff spot.

    The Devils have an equally challenging end of the season with six games still to be played, including matchups with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Montreal Canadians and two games against the Rangers. 

    Last, the Jets may have the easiest end of the season with six remaining games, including three against opponents that are sitting outside the playoff bubble. But again, anything could happen.

    It's extremely important for the Flyers to handle their "A" group games, while the "B" group beats each other up, eventually leading to a possible playoff berth.

3. Win

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    The most important stat, game plan, strategy or outcome...

    Win.

    The Flyers have put themselves in a difficult situation to end the season—beginning with a difficult start out of the gate, battling a number of injuries and failing to play complete games.

    Yet, after all the lows from this abbreviated season, Philadelphia is still not mathematically eliminated from the postseason and could pull off a slight miracle. 

    As mentioned before, the Flyers have six remaining games and four are at home. The most the team has won all season is four games in a row, so asking for six may be a stretch.

    So we'll ask for five and a lot of help.

    Go Flyers. 

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