VOORHEES, N.J. — The Flyers' 5-4 regulation loss Tuesday to the Islanders certainly raised more questions than answers. To their credit, it was the first time Dave Hakstol's team failed to earn a point since a 5-3 loss to the Blue Jackets on March 15.
Since then, the Flyers have reeled off a 5-1-3 record, but a record that’s rather deceiving. On March 15, the Flyers maintained the third playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division, one point better than the Devils with a four-point cushion on the Panthers.
Now, they’re the second wild-card team behind New Jersey and Florida is still four points out with one game in hand.
Still very good. SportsClubStats.com gives the Flyers a 93 percent chance of reaching the postseason. However, that number's down 5.8 percent following their loss to the Islanders.
The Panthers' tragic number is three, the same number the Flyers need to clinch their playoff berth. Any combination of Flyers wins or Panthers losses would contribute to that outcome.
The Flyers have a much easier path with home games remaining against the Hurricanes on Thursday and the Rangers Saturday, two teams eliminated from playoff contention. However, the Rangers are planning on starting Henrik Lundqvist against the Flyers.
The Panthers play two of their remaining games against the Bruins (Thursday and Sunday), who are still battling the Lightning for the top seed in the Eastern Conference, and one game with the Sabres.
If the Flyers' lead is trimmed to one, or even two, points following Saturday’s games, then the Panthers' regular-season finale Sunday will determine the East's final playoff spot.
I’d have three different reservations in your itinerary with a trip to Washington, Tampa Bay and Boston. According to Sports Club Stats, the Flyers have the greatest chance of meeting the Capitals in the first round at 36.7 percent, followed by the Bruins at 26.7 percent and the Lightning at 10.9 percent.
With Tuesday’s loss, you can be almost certain (if they clinch) the Flyers start the Stanley Cup Playoffs on the road with Game 1 starting Wednesday, April 11, or Thursday, April 12.
Who starts Thursday?
Brian Elliott said after Wednesday’s optional skate he hadn’t ruled out playing Thursday but would certainly prefer to come into a low-pressure situation given no game action since early February.
Hakstol mentioned he had made a decision in his mind but wouldn’t disclose who he would play against Carolina. Elliott and Alex Lyon were the two goalies on the ice for Wednesday. Michal Neuvirth remains day to day and isn’t an option right now.
It appears to be Petr Mrazek, who has won just three of his previous 14 appearances with a 3.70 goals-against average and a .880 save percentage.