The Philadelphia Flyers finished with 94 points last season, which was just enough to earn third place in the Metropolitan Division and an automatic berth into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Red Wings and Blue Jackets each ended with 93 points and punched their postseason tickets as the two wild card teams.
The way the Eastern Conference stands this season, it appears as if it’s going to take just as many points – and possibly even more – to gain entry to the playoffs. At their current pace, the Flyers are barely on course to crack 80 points let alone 90.
If they are going to muster a run over the final 36 games and surge into a playoff spot, the Flyers have their work cut out for themselves. Here are five things that must happen if they are to pull off the longshot and rally to make the playoffs.
1. Win in regulation vs. Eastern teams
In order for the Flyers to gain ground, they need to beat Eastern teams they are chasing without going to overtime or a shootout, where both squads obviously get at least a point.
2. Take advantage of home ice
The Flyers have a substantially better record at the Wells Fargo Center than away from it. With 20 of their remaining 36 games scheduled at home, that pattern must persist.
3. Improve the PK
The penalty kill is the worst in the league and has been for most of the season. They allow almost one power-play goal a game and look completely befuddled at times down a man. They won’t get in unless this unit improves. Drastically.
4. Stay healthy
This is the one area that is no doubt out of their control but the Flyers need some luck here. The organization lacks depth in the minors and can ill-afford for any key players – Claude Giroux or Jakub Voracek – to go on the shelf for any extended time. Injuries to defensemen Nick Grossmann and Braydon Coburn and goalie Steve Mason have already complicated matters.
5. Light the lamp
Since Christmas the Flyers’ offense has all but disappeared. Save for the touchdown and extra-point they put up against the Lightning last week, goals have been mostly at a premium. Even including the Tampa rout, they are still averaging just over two goals a game during the span. This is not the type of team that is going to win many 2-1 or 3-2 contests.