Weak Schedule Means February is Make or Break for 2017-18 Flyers

This season has seen some of the highest highs (Giroux and Voracek’s return to power, Couturier’s offensive emergence, Konecny OT winners) and some of the lowest lows (10 game losing streak) in recent memory. It’s been a roller coaster. But here we are with 30 games remaining, the trade deadline just 3 weeks away, and the Flyers are 1 point out of a wildcard spot. Exactly the position everyone assumed this team would be in at the beginning of the year; fighting to get into the post season.

With that in mind the Flyers should be looking ahead to the last 60 days of their 2017-18 regular season.

April (4 games in 7 days)

  • 3 games vs. direct competition (@NYI, CAR, NYR)
  • 1 game vs. Top-10 team (BOS)

I know I’m jumping ahead, but it’s possible this season boils down to the last week. 4 games with a rest day in between each game, 3 are at home, and 3 are against direct divisional rivals. The game against Boston could be free points if the Bruins are resting guys as they cruise into the playoffs, but they could still be fighting for home ice advantage if they can’t pull away from Toronto.

Some, or all of the games against the Isles, Canes, and Rangers may be meaningless to the Flyers by April, but looking ahead from today it’s a different story. All 4 of these teams are within 3 points of each other with the Islanders currently sitting at 58 points to lead the group.

Keep your eye on the last day of the season (April 7th) as we could potentially have a repeat of the 2010 shootout between the Flyers and Rangers for a playoff spot. That was of course the beginning of the insane 2010 run to the Stanley Cup Finals.

March (15 games in 31 days)

  • 6 games vs. direct competition (CAR, PIT, CBJ, @CAR, NYR, @PIT)
  • 6 games vs. Top-10 teams (@TB, @BOS, WPG, VGK, WSH, @DAL)
  • 3 games vs. other teams (@FLA, @DET, @COL)

Working our way backward, March looks ominous. A lot of action against teams that are clearly better than the Flyers and are definitely headed to the playoffs.

Image Courtesy of Frank Fimmano Photography

For starters the games against sub-par Florida and Detroit teams are must haves. Colorado (who are now missing Nathan MacKinnon for 2-4 weeks) may also be ripe for the taking by the time March 28th rolls around, but they’re still in the Western wildcard race. Speaking of the West there is some room for error with 4 games against Western teams, but Winnipeg, Vegas, and Dallas have looked dangerous this season. Those won’t be easy points.

Image Courtesy of Frank Fimmano Photography

Then there are 6 grueling games against divisional opponents, all of whom will have playoff ambitions until they’re mathematically eliminated. There’s a chance the Rangers decide to sell and bomb out the rest of the season. With Rick Nash submitting his no-trade list earlier this week it’s looking like they may be leaning in that direction. If they did there would likely be a market for Nash, JT Miller, Michal Grabner and David Desharnais (contract years). Not to mention Ryan McDonagh is starting to draw attention even though he has another year on his deal.

The other 5 games against Pittsburgh (2), Carolina (2), and Columbus stand zero chance of being easy games.

February (13 games in 28 days)

  • 6 games vs. direct competition (NJD, @CAR, NJD, @CBJ, @NYR, CBJ)
  • 1 game vs. Top-10 team (@VGK)
  • 6 games vs. other teams (OTT, MTL, @ARI, MTL, @OTT, @MTL)

Now we see why February is so important for this playoff run. The opponent load is much weaker.

There are still 6 divisional games which never go away as we progress through the schedule. At the very least splitting games against divisional teams from here on out will be necessary.

Image Courtesy of Frank Fimmano Photography

Philadelphia has only 1 game in February against a locked in playoff team (Vegas), and 6 games (5 remaining) against teams that are gasping for air. With March looking like an absolute grindhouse this team needs to pile up points now. 1 point has already slipped away with a shootout loss to the Senators. It’s easy to overlook at the end of the season, but let’s not forget that Nolan Patrick tying goal with 2 seconds left on the clock. That could be a very important point.

Montreal and Ottawa have had horrible seasons. Tampa, Boston, and Toronto are running away with the Atlantic division, and it’s had a crazy effect on the wildcard race among the Metro division teams (re: they’re ALL in play right now). For that reason the Flyers will need to squeeze as many points as they can from the 3 games against the Canadiens and the remaining visit to Ottawa.

Finally, this coming weekend’s back-to-back in the desert presents a great opportunity for the Flyers to take risks and add points. There’s no direct ramifications for losing to Arizona or Vegas so hopefully they take a page out of Doug Pederson’s playbook and just go for it. Arizona have looked abysmal (again) and Philadelphia will need that win on Saturday. Unfortunately the Flyers will need to recover quickly as they play a seemingly unstoppable Vegas team the following night.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.