The Stanley Cup Playoffs may actually be happening. Let’s let that sink in before getting to the heart of this piece.
It was announced on May 22 that the NHL and NHLPA agreed to the 24 team playoff, but there are still hurdles to overcome. Hub cities, seeding for teams ranked 1-4, and above all else, the overall format of the playoffs. Two options are being discussed.
The playoffs will be conducted either under the current bracket, with teams advancing and sticking to those parameters. They could also be held with reseeding after every round, having the top seeded team play the lowest seeded team every round.
This article aims to explore the best route for the Flyers to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals between the two formats. Let’s take a look at the road to the Stanley Cup Finals via two separate formats.
Laying the Groundwork
First off, it’s worth explaining that, again, this is meant to show the easiest route for the Flyers to make the Stanley Cup Finals. For those that are following along, that means the Flyers are going to win every round, regardless of their seed. For continuity’s sake, the Flyers will remain the four seed heading into each scenario.
The other three seeds in the Eastern Conference will remain the same as well. Boston will be the top seed in the Eastern Conference, followed by Tampa Bay at two and Washington at three. The play-in rounds will be won by the higher seeds, as will every round minus the series’ involving the Flyers. Now, let’s get down to business.
If the NHL is reseeding the playoffs, the first round will look something like this:
With the highest seeds winning each matchup, you end up with your traditional playoff matchups. One seed plays the eight seed, two plays seven, three plays six, and four plays five.
For the Flyers, their opening matchup remains the same as it would if reseeding didn’t occur. They can’t escape a potential matchup with the Pittsburgh Penguins, plain and simple. The series is going to be hard hitting, typically high scoring, and just downright brutal. Chalk that up into a “tough series” for the Flyers.
The second round arguably presents the Flyers with their toughest matchup of the playoffs, and rightfully so. Boston has the most complete team in the NHL right now. They’re going to be incredibly dangerous in these playoffs, regardless of the long layoff. Bergeron, Krejci, Marchand, Chara, they’ve all seen the playoffs multiple times and thrived. In terms of foe, however, this may not be the hardest matchup for the Flyers.
For some reason or another, the Flyers crumble against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Cue the Macho Man reference, because Tampa Bay has been the cream of the crop these past few years. The cream rises to the top, and the Flyers are going to have one hell of a time trying to topple the Lightning if they meet under these circumstances.
To sum up the Flyers slate under the reseeding format, they would open up the playoffs against the Pittsburgh Penguins, take on the Boston Bruins in the following round, and face off against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Call me Robert Frost, but that’s a road I’d like to see less traveled.
If the NHL chooses to stick to a traditional bracket format, then the first round will look like this:
Once again, you have a first round matchup against the hated rival to the west, the Pittsburgh Penguins. The last time these two met in the playoffs, the Flyers dropped the series in game six. This time around, the Flyers are a much more deep, complete team. They have a much better shot in 2020 than they did in 2018. However, it still doesn’t take away from the fact that the Penguins are always a hard out in the playoffs.
If the Flyers make it past the Penguins in their opening round, the Washington Capitals await in the next round. The Metropolitan Division leaders, the Capitals present a tough challenge for the orange and black, but not an insurmountable one. The Flyers have played the Caps very well this season, and could see that trend continue.
This series could hinge on Braden Holtby being the stellar playoff goalie he is. Ilya Samsonov is their backup, and is in his first year in the NHL. If the Flyers find a way to get to Holtby early, this series could be all Philadelphia from the get-go.
The Flyers climb through Metro Division rivals Pittsburgh and Washington, only to face the best team in the NHL in the Eastern Conference Finals. Boston is undoubtedly the toughest challenge for the Flyers in this scenario. The last time these two met in the playoffs, Boston swept Philadelphia. The time before, the Flyers overcame a 3-0 series deficit to defeat Boston in seven. This series could be an all-timer when all is said and done.
Boston’s top-six is one of the best units in all of the NHL. The Flyers top-six isn’t too shabby either. Where the Flyers hold any type of edge rests in the depth of their forwards. Boston is top-heavy, and I mean TOP-heavy. Their top end forwards are phenomenal, making up for a lack of production from their bottom six. The Flyers have great talent in their top-six, but also have a bottom-six capable of carrying their own weight. The Flyers stand a legitimate chance of upending the Bruins and reaching their first Stanley Cup Finals since 2010.
On one hand, you have the Flyers facing the Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins, and Tampa Bay Lightning. The Flyers can hold their own against Pittsburgh, even Boston, maybe. The problem lies in Tampa Bay. The Flyers have been playing uninspired hockey as of late against Tampa, and that series is the most worrisome of all.
On the other hand, you have the Flyers taking on the Penguins, Washington Capitals, and Boston Bruins. The main difference is that they won’t be facing the Lightning. Instead, they take on Washington, who presents less of a challenge than Tampa Bay.
Neither of these routes are going to be easy. However, given the choice, you’d have to choose the route where they don’t play the Lightning. Call it shell-shock or PTSD, but a matchup with the Lightning could spell doom for the Flyers. The traditional bracket route seems to be the easier of the two, but in no way will it be a walk in the park.
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