Well, so much for the Philadelphia Flyers replicating the Sixers and tanking for the rest of the season in order to improve their chances to land the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft lottery and selecting potential phenom Connor McDavid.
Much to the chagrin of some of their fans, the Flyers have altered course and decided to make a serious run at qualifying for the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Behind a just-completed 2-0-2 road trip and with at least one point in each of their last nine games – for the first time since March 8-26 in 2011 – the Flyers have left the McDavid race and re-entered the postseason dash.
Heading into Monday’s games, they were just five points behind the Boston Bruins for the second and final wild card spot.
The Flyers have 58 points and only the Panthers (60 points) are ahead of them in pursuit of the Bruins (63) – although Philly has played one more game than both teams. While the Flyers have been one of the hottest teams in the league (6-1-3 in their last 10), the Bruins and Panthers are scuffling and have each lost three straight.
Plus, the schedule remains favorable this week. The Flyers return home – where they are 15-7-4 – to host the struggling Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday and the lowly Sabres, who have the fewest points in the league, on Thursday.
“We’ve got to keep getting points,” Flyers coach Craig Berube told reporters after winning 2-1 in Buffalo on Sunday night. “(We have to) claw our way back into the playoffs.”
Despite their recent hot stretch, it’s still going to be difficult. Barring a complete collapse by Florida and Boston, the Flyers have little margin for error.
In the last three seasons the team that finished in the last playoff spot had 93, 92, 93 points. For the Flyers to match 92 points – a conservative total, at best – they would need 34 over their final 26 games. And that doesn’t take into account the Panthers or Bruins ending with more than 92 points.
With seven weeks left in the season – and the looming trade deadline on March 2 – anything can obviously happen.
At this rate, though, the discussions about the Flyers will likely revolve more around the playoffs than Connor McDavid.