The 2019/20 season is at a halt, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Flyers. Winners of nine of their last 10, Philadelphia finds themselves one point behind the Metropolitan Division leaders, the Washington Capitals. The Flyers were in the midst of an absolutely dominate run until the season was suspended indefinitely. Now, what happens next?
If the playoffs were to start today, the Flyers would have the two-seed in the Metro Division. That puts them in a first-round matchup against their hated rivals, the third-place Pittsburgh Penguins. Washington, Toronto, Tampa Bay, and Boston make up the six teams at the top of the Eastern Conference divisions, while Carolina and Columbus would be the wildcard teams.
Let’s say the season resumes play, and the Flyers play out the remaining 13 games of the season. It’s time to take a look at the current playoff teams, and see who the Flyers would rather face, and who they would want to avoid come the push for Lord Stanley’s Cup.
The Flyers and Bruins have a rich playoff history together. From the inception of their playoff rivalry in 1974, to the historic comeback in 2010, this series is always good for some fireworks. This season, however, the Flyers have the Bruins number. Going 2-1-0 against Boston, the Flyers hold the edge against the league’s best.
Dating back five years to the 2015/16 season, the Flyers are 8-7-0 against the Bruins. Despite the winning record, the Flyers goal differential against Boston stands at a -6 (39 goals for, 45 goals against.) Flyers captain Claude Giroux typically shows up big against Boston, posting 10 goals and 19 assists in 39 career games against the Bruins. Jakub Voracek has six goals and 21 assists in 31 career games against Boston. In Carter Hart’s one and a half years of NHL experience, he’s gone 4-1-0 against Boston, posting a .910 save percentage and 2.71 goals against average.
Boston would prove to be a lethal matchup for the Flyers. With one of the best lines in hockey (Pastrnak, Bergeron, & Marchand,) Boston is riding high, being the only team with 100 points in the standings. The Flyers likely wouldn’t meet the Bruins until the later rounds, if both teams make it that far. Given the Flyers’ record against Boston this year, and Hart’s success against the Bruins in his career, the Flyers could put up one heck of a fight against the best the league has to offer.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay presents likely the hardest matchup for the Flyers, if they meet in the playoffs. They’ve beaten the Flyers both times they’ve faced off this season. Pair that with the Flyers’ 4-6-4 record against them over the last five seasons, and that creates a big problem for the Flyers. Tampa also holds the edge in goals for, scoring 53 in that span to the Flyers’ 42.
Claude Giroux, once again, more than holds his own against the Lightning. He has six goals and 32 assists in 37 career games against the Bolts. Defenseman Ivan Provorov has been a part of 11 games against Tampa Bay, and has four goals and five assists to show for it, while averaging 24:01 time on ice. Carter Hart has faced the Lightning three times, losing all three tilts. His .867 save percentage and 3.83 goals against average are some of the lowest numbers against a single team for the sophomore goalie.
Much like Boston, the Flyers wouldn’t see the Lightning unless they both reached the later rounds of the playoffs. Given Tampa Bay’s dominance over the Flyers, and Hart’s struggles against the Bolts, Tampa proves to be the toughest challenge for the Flyers if they were to meet in the playoffs.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Toronto would be a solid matchup for the Flyers, if they were to meet in the playoffs. After multiple shootouts this season, the Flyers hold a 2-0-1 record against the Leafs this season, and an 8-5-2 records against them over the last five seasons. Despite the winning record, the Flyers have given up one more goal than they’ve scored against Toronto in that span (51 goals for, 52 goals against.)
Furthermore, Claude Giroux has been excellent against the Maple Leafs, posting 13 goals and 23 assists in 37 career games against Toronto. Even better, Carter Hart holds a 2-0-0 record against the Maple Leafs. He also owns a .929 save percentage and 2.40 goals against average against Toronto. Jake Voracek has been solid as well, posting six goals and 14 assists in 29 career games against Toronto.
With Toronto going 5-5-0 in their last ten, they could end up limping into the playoffs. Again, the Flyers wouldn’t meet the Leafs until the later rounds if they both make it past the first. However, they would be a favorable matchup for the orange and black.
Getting to the Metropolitan Division, we come to the Capitals. The Flyers have taken care of business when it comes to Washington this year. They own a 3-0-1 record against the leaders of the Metro, but are 9-9-2 against them over the last five seasons, 11-13-2 including the playoffs.. The Flyers have allowed 11 more goals to the Caps than they have scored over that span (65 goals for, 76 goals against.)
Claude Giroux is a point-per-game player against the Capitals. His 22 goals and 23 assists in 45 games are some of his best numbers against any team in the NHL. Voracek is teetering around a point-per-game against Washington. He has 15 goals and 19 assists in 39 career games against the Capitals. Carter Hart’s 1-1-1 record against Washington isn’t something to brag about, but his numbers are. He’s putting up a .926 save percentage and 2.29 goals against average against Washington.
The Capitals present a unique challenge. In years past, the Caps have had the Flyers’ number. This season, things are reversed. If the Flyers find themselves taking on Washington in the playoffs, they could pull it out. It won’t be easy, but Alain Vigneault & his crew seem to have found a way to beat Washington consistently.
The dreaded Pittsburgh Penguins. The western counterpart to the Battle of Pennsylvania. The Penguins hold the edge over the Flyers this season, taking two of the three contests. Over the last five seasons, the Flyers are 7-9-3 against Pittsburgh, and 9-13-3 including the playoffs. Over that span, the Penguins have scored 25 more goals against the Flyers than vice versa (69 goals for, 95 goals against.)
Both Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek are point-per-game players against the Penguins. Giroux has 16 goals and 35 assists in 51 career games, and Voracek has 23 goals and 20 assists in 43 career games against the Pens. In Carter Hart’s young career, he holds a 1-1-0 record against Pittsburgh. However, his .936 save percentage and 2.15 goals against average instills confidence that the Flyers could handle a playoff series against Pittsburgh
This is the toughest potential series to judge. If the season was ended today, this is the Flyers’ first round foe. The Penguins are 3-7-0 in their last 10 games, and aren’t very far removed from a six-game losing streak. On the other hand, they always seem to find a way to show up and absolutely battle the Flyers. It could be the perfect time for a Flyers/Penguins playoff series if you want the end result to be the Flyers advancing.
The Flyers have weathered the Hurricanes this season, going 3-0-1 against Carolina. Over the last five seasons, the Flyers are 12-7-2 when taking on the Canes. The Flyers have scored 66 goals against Carolina, while allowing 65.
Claude Giroux, yet again, is a point-per-game player against Carolina. He has 13 goals and 32 assists in 44 games against the Canes during his career. Ivan Provorov has four goals and five assists in 17 games, and is averaging 23:20 time on ice. Carter Hart’s record against Carolina is an even 2-2-0 over his career. He also boasts a .911 save percentage and 2.69 goals against average when taking on the Canes.
While this may seem like a walk in the park for the Flyers, NEVER count out the Canes. Carolina showed last year that when they capture lightning in a bottle, they can make some noise. While this wouldn’t be an easy playoff series for the Flyers, it is certainly winnable.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Flyers have been nothing short of dominant against Columbus this season. In four contests, the Flyers have taken all of them, scoring 19 goals and only allowing 10. Over the last five seasons, the Flyers hold an 8-6-6 record head-to-head with the Jackets, and have scored one more goal than Columbus (58 goals for, 57 goals against.)
This is beginning to sound redundant, but Claude Giroux is once again a point-per-game player, this time against Columbus. He sits at 11 goals and 22 assists in 33 career games versus the Blue Jackets. Defenseman Ivan Provorov has had a good bit of success against Columbus as well, tallying one goal and eight assists in 16 career games against the Jackets. He also averages 23:50 time on ice against Columbus. Carter Hart is 1-1-0 in his career against the Blue Jackets. His .896 save percentage is less than stellar, but his 2.54 goals against average is pretty solid.
Columbus’ magic has to run out at some point, right? They’ve lost so much between last year and now, and one has to wonder when they’re going to come back down to earth. Given their success against Columbus this season, a series against the Jackets could be one the Flyers end up winning in convincing fashion.
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