5 Must-Win Games Left for the Philadelphia Flyers
The Philadelphia Flyers are on a roll.
Tuesday's come-from-behind 3-2 overtime triumph over the Chicago Blackhawks was Philly's third straight win and 10th victory over the team's last 13 outings.
Since February 1, the Orange and Black have claimed 21 of a possible 26 standings points and now occupy sole possession of second place in the Metropolitan Division.
What's more, Philadelphia's recent run includes wins over Western Conference powers Los Angeles, San Jose, Colorado and aforementioned Chicago in addition to home-and-home sweeps over both Washington and Pittsburgh.
However, the Flyers still have a long way to go.
Philly has 14 games remaining, many of which will go a long way to determining this team's playoff fate. Here's a look at the five must-win games left for the Orange and Black.
Wednesday, March 26 at New York Rangers
The Flyers and Rangers have just one regular-season meeting remaining. This one.
The two sides appear to be on a collision course for an opening-round postseason matchup, so expect this final regular-season tilt to have a playoff-type atmosphere.
Philly and New York have met just three times this year, with the Flyers holding a 2-1 edge over the Blueshirts. The home team has won each of the prior three get-togethers and a raucous capacity crowd at Madison Square Garden could make life difficult for a Flyers squad coming off a four-game homestand.
Philadelphia presently holds a one-point edge over New York in the Metropolitan Division standings with still two games in hand. A win at MSG would go a long way toward creating some separation between the bitter rivals.
The Rangers are just 4-5-1 in their last 10 games, a run which began with a 4-2 setback in Philly in their most recent meeting.
Friday, March 28 vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
Toronto has had Philadelphia's number this season.
The Flyers opened the 2013-14 campaign with a 3-1 setback at home to the Maple Leafs. Even an inspired comeback on the road earlier this month netted Philly just a single point in a 4-3 overtime loss.
As it stands, Toronto occupies the first of the two wild-card spots in the Eastern Conference with 80 points. The Leafs trail the third-place Tampa Bay Lightning by one point in the Atlantic Division and are three points back of the second-place Montreal Canadiens.
Toronto is even in games played with Montreal while the Leafs have already played two more games than Tampa Bay, so time is running out for the Maple Leafs to secure one of the divisional playoff spots.
Should the Flyers fall out of the top three in the Metropolitan, they'll be battling a club like Toronto for one of those two final wild-card spots.
As such, Philly will need to find a way to topple the Leafs sooner rather than later to keep its playoff hopes alive.
Thursday, April 3 vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
Speaking of wild card teams, if the playoffs started today, the Columbus Blue Jackets would be the last of the eight teams to qualify.
Obviously, there's still a long way to go, but the Jackets are poised to make just their second postseason appearance in the team's 14-year history.
Like Philadelphia, Columbus has played just 68 games to date. Also like the Flyers, it has critical games in hand on other Metropolitan contenders like New York and Washington.
The Blue Jackets have taken two of three from the Orange and Black this season and have already netted 15 goals in just three head-to-head meetings between the two. The one the Flyers managed to salvage from Columbus required an epic five-goal third period and a goal-of-the-year candidate from captain Claude Giroux.
Philadelphia will get the Jackets on home ice at the Wells Fargo Center, where the Flyers have won six of their last eight games and are 20-12-1 overall this season.
Saturday, April 5 at Boston Bruins
At 47-17-5, the Bruins own the best record in the Eastern Conference and are just two points back of the league-leading St. Louis Blues. Tuesday's 4-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils pushed Boston's winning streak to 10 straight and the B's have now outscored their opposition 41-15 during their recent run.
Boston dismantled the Flyers 6-1 at the Wells Fargo Center back in late January in their only previous meeting, but the two sides will clash twice in the season's final two weeks.
A rematch back in Philly comes first on Sunday, March 30 before this critical road test for the Orange and Black.
No team has won more home games than the Bruins (28), who have won five straight tilts at the TD Garden and eight of their last nine at home. Meanwhile, the Flyers have claimed four of their last five road outings and are three games over .500 overall on the road this season (16-13-6).
Philadelphia hasn't won in Boston since a 2-1 triumph on October 6, 2011. This would be as good a time as any to get another win in Beantown.
Saturday, April 12 at Pittsburgh Penguins
The Flyers aren't going to catch the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Of course, with 14 games remaining, it's mathematically possible for Philadelphia to make up the 15-point differential, but it's just simply not going to happen.
By April 12, Pittsburgh will have already secured its eighth consecutive playoff berth while Philadelphia's postseason fate may still be up in the air.
This will be the Flyers' final road game of the 2013-14 regular season and, strangely enough, will come in a building in which they've had significant success in recent years. Philly is 7-2-1 in its last 10 trips to the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.
The Flyers are 3-1 against the Penguins this season and are coming off an impressive sweep in a home-and-home series last week which saw Philadelphia outscore Pittsburgh 8-3 in a 24-hour period.
Philadelphia outplayed the Penguins in every phase of the game last week and will need to maintain that level of dominance late in the season to ensure that it finds its way back into the NHL playoffs.