Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Other Playoff Race

While the Sixers are playing inspired basketball and gaining momentum going into the playoffs, the Flyers are slumping their way out of the playoffs. If the regular season ended today the Flyers would be in as the 8th seed set to play the NJ Devils, who have owned the Flyers this year and many years before. However, Buffalo sits one point behind the Flyers with Washington and Florida only two back. The next nine games for the Flyers are going to be huge, especially after they were beat 7-1 today in a laugher in Pittsburgh, a team they place twice more this season. Thrown in two games against the Devils, the Rangers, and the Islanders, and Tuesday's game against Atlanta and thats the season. The Flyers pretty much have to beat the Thrashers, sweep the Islanders, and maybe the Rangers too (they have three more points than the Flyers and could be passed in the standings) in order to have a chance. If they can pull off a win against either the Devils or Pens it would be huge. If they can win six games they have a good shot to be in the postseason, maybe five if they can force some overtime games (1 point for an OT loss).

The Flyers have gone 5-6 since their terrible 10 game losing streak but have lost their last 4, two in overtime, giving up 2 and three goal leads each time. Just as the team seemed to be getting back to health, Mike Richards returned with a goal on Satuarday and Joffery Lupul is back, they lose Darien Hatcher for the rest of the season with a broken leg and RJ Umberger is reported to be out for a week or two after spraining a knee in todays game. Randy Jones is also out and of course, Simon Gagne is out with Eric Lindros-esque concussion symptoms. The defense is really thin right now.

Its tough to pinpoint what this team is or isn't doing now that it was when they were winning and once upon a time on top of the entire Eastern conference. Marty Biron hasn't looked good lately, yet Nitty has only had a handful of starts over the past ten or so games. The powerplay isn't what it was earlier in the season but the Flyers still rank 2nd in the league. Scott Hartnell has gone silent. Hopefully Richards' return will really help the lineup. Overall, the Flyers seem to lack consistent effort throughout games, having defensive lapses and allowing teams to get back into games. Is that on John Stevens as a coach? A lack of leadership in the locker room? I'm not sure.

The next three weeks will determine everything for the Flyers. Earlier this season they seemed like Philly's best shot at a championship while now they are fighting just to get in to the playoffs. I suggest tuning in to a game, particularly one of the Rangers or Penguins games (if you want to see a fight), even if hockey isn't really your thing. The Flyers are a good Philly team and they deserve the support of the City. Hopefully they make the playoffs and surprise somebody in the first round, but I am getting ahead of myself. One thing is for sure, the Flyers newest enforcer, Riley Cote, (seen in three pics here) is a great fighter and fun to watch, he used to wear my favorite number (33), and not a bad player to go with it. By the way, the man being punished by Mike Richards is NHL points leader Alex Ovechkin, not exactly a fighter.


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