Written By: Mark “The Hard Hitter” Ritter
The Philadelphia Flyers lost in embarrassing fashion to the Pittsburgh Penguins yesterday by a score of 4-1, inching them closer and closer to becoming a team that is on the outside looking in come playoff time.
Comparatively, the team that is chasing them—the Atlanta Thrashers—beat up on the Carolina Hurricanes by a score of 4-0, inching them closer to the eighth and final playoff spot in the lowly Eastern Conference.
For the Flyers, every game is crucial going forward. Over the past 10 games the Flyers have completely fallen apart, completing the transformation from playoff contender to playoff pretender.
Over the past 10 games the Flyers have compiled a record of 2-6-2, proving once and for all what many fans and NHL pundits have felt about the Flyers for quite some time—the Flyers are a very average team that fails to play passionate hockey.
For their part, the Thrashers have put together a decent run of 5-3-2 over their past 10 matches, including back-to-back victories over the Flyers by a combined score of 8-3.
Injuries aside, the Flyers have consistently shown a lack of desire to pay the price on a nightly basis. On far too many occasions the Flyers' top stars take nights off and, for the most part, have failed to deliver when their teammates needed them most.
In light of Saturday’s loss, the Flyers now sit just two points ahead of the Thrashers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East and it’s not going to be easy for the Flyers to outpace the Thrashers down the stretch.
The Flyers and Thrashers each have seven games left on the schedule.
The Flyers play the New Jersey Devils tonight, followed by tilts against the New York Islanders, Montreal Canadiens, the surging Detroit Red Wings, the suddenly terrific Toronto Maple Leafs, followed by a home-and-home series against the New York Rangers—a team that would love to play the role of the spoiler.
As tough as the Flyers' final seven games will be, the Thrashers' final seven will be akin to Mission Impossible as they will face many of the NHL’s premiere teams down the stretch.
The Thrashers schedule over the final two weeks shapes up like this: the Thrashers play at home against the Hurricanes, Devils, and Penguins; and on the road against the Leafs, Capitals (twice), and Penguins. As one of our readers (Jonathan Weiss ) points out "This is possibly the most difficult schedule faced by any of the five teams contending for those final three playoff spots in the East". (Thanks for the heads up!)
In the end, it may be that the Thrashers' schedule is just too tough to make up the two points on the Flyers. Needless to say, if the Thrashers do muster up enough good play to pass the Flyers, they will have earned it.
Anyway you slice it, the Flyers will be hard-pressed to make the playoffs. In the end, if the Flyers do make the playoffs they will play the Washington Capitals in the first round, which will surely be a butt-kicking by the Caps over the Flyers.
Either way, this season is over for the Flyers—a season that has had as many ups as downs, a season that, to many fans, has been wasted.
For more NHL news and notes check out my blog at www.theslapshot.com
Until next time,