Entering their game against the Washington Capitals on Thursday night the Philadelphia Flyers have what is considered to be an 8 percent chance of making the playoffs.
Not something that is very likely to happen, but they are also not totally finished. They sit five points back of the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference with 13 games to play and have almost zero margin for error. They not only need to keep winning (something they have done a lot of lately with a 19-5-2 record in their past 26 games), but they are also going to need some help from the teams ahead of them to lose a couple of extra games.
The first and most important step is the winning, and Thursday’s game starts what could be a decisive 24-hour stretch for the Flyers’ slim playoff hopes, and they will be turning back to rookie goalie Carter Hart who will be making his first start after missing the past three weeks due to injury.
Hart has been sidelined since Feb. 21, and his last two appearances prior to that were not exactly his best outings of the season, playing just 10 minutes in each of them and giving up three goals on nine shots (in both appearances). That has proven to be a rare speed bump for him since making his NHL debut as he currently carries a .917 save percentage, while giving the organization and its fans some hope that maybe, finally, after decades of frustration, they have found a capable starting goalie.
Now, in his first game back in the lineup he is getting thrown to the wolves against the defending Stanley Cup champions who have won seven out of their past eight games and are finally starting to play like a championship level team.
So here is the situation the Flyers are facing starting on Thursday.
- A win, combined with a Montreal loss in regulation to the Islanders, would pull them to within three points of the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.
- On the other hand, a Flyers loss, combined with a Montreal win, would push them to seven points back and really put them in a hole that may be too deep to get out of.
- The Flyers are then right back in action on Friday night against a dangerous, and what will be a rested, Toronto Maple Leafs team, while the Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets — two of the teams the Flyers are chasing — meet in a head-to-head matchup, meaning at least one team is coming out of that game with two points.
- After all of that, they have to travel to Pittsburgh for a game with the Penguins on Sunday night.
So that is what is at stake for the Flyers in the short-term. If they can find a way to beat two of the Eastern Conference’s biggest contenders on Thursday and Friday they could find themselves right back in the thick of the playoff race and right there in contention for a spot.
If they lose even one, let alone both, their season might be finished.
No pressure, rookie.