With the Philadelphia Flyers' 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning Thursday night, the Flyers' first-round opponent in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is up in the air.
With two games left in the season, the Flyers are tied at 91 points with the Columbus Blue Jackets for the third-place spot in the Metropolitan Division. Depending on how their next two games go, the Flyers have three potential matchups — New York Rangers, Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins. All three teams are rivals of the Flyers, and all three potential matchups have classic series written all over them.
The Flyers still have the highest probability to face off against the Rangers in the first round with 58.2 percent according to SportsClubStats.com. Playing the Rangers would be a grueling, emotional slugfest. However, the Flyers would be lucky to get out of this series. Why? The Rangers just seem to have the Flyers' number. They split the season series 2-2 this year, but ever since 2010, when the Flyers beat the Rangers in the final regular season game, the Rangers have a winning record against the Flyers. With the Rangers' addition of Martin St. Louis at the trade deadline, the Rangers' offense is even more potent. Plus, the Rangers have Henrik Lundqvist, probably the best goalie in the world. All teams in the playoffs will have good goaltending, but the Flyers should want to avoid Lundqvist as long as they can.
Believe it or not, this is probably the matchup the Flyers most want, even though Penguins have Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. This would be a bloody series, just like the Rangers one, but the Flyers would have a much better opportunity of advancing to second round against Pittsburgh. The Flyers are in the Penguins' heads, and the Flyers own an outstanding record in the CONSOL Energy Center, going 8-1-1 in their last 10 games. The Flyers have already won the season series from the Penguins, but they do play on Saturday in what could be a playoff preview.
The Flyers need to avoid the Bruins at all costs. They are the best team in Eastern Conference, maybe even the league. The Flyers lost the season series to the Bruins 3-0 this year, and the Flyers would be lucky to win one game against Boston in a seven-game series. The Bruins are the one team that play the Flyers' style better than the Flyers. The Bruins have the best combination of offense and defense, and their recent history against the Flyers, with the exception of the 2010 playoffs, shows that Flyers will stand little chance to advance.Tags: Evgeni Malkin, Flyers, Henrik Lundqvist, Hockey, New York Rangers, NHL, Penguins, Philadelphia, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Rangers, Sidney Crosby