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NHL scores 2016: Flyers setting the tone for an exciting playoff race in the East

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Four weeks out from the end of the regular season, and anything can happen.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

You may recall I said just a few days ago that the Eastern Conference playoff races are solidifying thanks to the Devils falling out of contention. Well, I was wrong. So very wrong.

As someone who has grown up near Philadelphia -- and still lives there -- I have an undeniable pull towards their teams. We all have our biases, and that's mine. I'll admit it. However, I was not a believer of the Flyers having playoff chances this season. Not at the start of the season, and not halfway through the year when I was asked point-blank at Broad Street Hockey if I thought they had a shot. Seriously, I wrote these exact words on this topic just a few months ago:

Despite how high I am on the future of this franchise, I still don't think the Flyers are playoff contenders this season ... Even with how bad the Metro has been, I can't see the Flyers sneaking in over Pittsburgh and even New Jersey, as surprising as they have been.

Well, New Jersey is six points out of a spot, but they're two teams back with a 3-7-0 record in their last 10. The Penguins and Red Wings keep flipping in the final two Wild Card positions. The Flyers? They're two points behind the Red Wings with a game in hand and have gone 7-2-1 in their last 10 games.

So yes, I was wrong! It happens, even to us infallible journalists! However, I'm very glad my predictions and gut were incorrect. And I'm not saying that as someone who likes the Flyers, I'm saying it as a girl who likes a bit of chaos in her playoff races.

But really, who doesn't want absolute pandemonium coming into the last four weeks of the hockey season? Besides fans of the teams in the hunt for those final spots, this is what we live for as fans. There's no doubt playoff hockey is the best form of hockey. You know what's second-best? Those final few weeks when the races take shape and you can just see the narratives within the rows and columns of the hockey schedule.

Remember the Senators run last year? How amazing it was to see them find ways to win game after game until they were knocking on the door of the playoffs and the Bruins tumbled out of the standings?

This is shaping up to be a very similar year with the Flyers playing the role of the potential spoilers. It could be their rivals from Pittsburgh, who were just as close as the Bruins were to giving up their spot to the Senators. It might be Detroit, who has more to lose with their 24-year playoff appearance streak riding on their performance in the last few weeks. Even the Hurricanes have a chance to make a run, as they're just two points behind the Flyers but with two more games played.

Sure, come after me because I am absolutely wrong about these playoff races. But, at the end of the day, aren't you glad I am?


Penguins 3, Blue Jackets 2
Flyers 3, Lightning 1
Blues 5, Ducks 2
Stars 5, Blackhawks 2
Coyotes 4, Flames 1

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3 things we learned

1. The Stars pendulum is swinging in the right way at the right time

It's no secret the Dallas Stars have been hot and cold this season. When Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin have been going, the team has been unstoppable. But since the turn to 2016, they've run more ice cold than anything. With 12 wins in this calendar year, their outrageous start to the season gave them a well-needed cushion. Now, they're starting to turn it around at a good time, even without some big names in John Klingberg, Patrick Sharp and Jason Demers due to injury. Still, a slim margin separates the Central contestants in the playoff standings and no one seems able to pull away from the pack, for now.

2. Ducks feeling the low after their crazy 11-game high

After the Ducks' rapid rise, of course there was going to be an inevitable fall. Not in terms of the standings, as the Ducks are still safe with 80 points for the second Pacific spot, but they've lost the last three contests after their 11-game win streak was snapped by the Capitals on Monday. Still, their 5-2 loss to the now streaking Blues -- who've won five straight in a play for the top of the Central -- is no cause for panic. They've put themselves back in playoff position. They deserve a few games off.


Best Lightning fan, period.

Impact Moment

The Penguins may have earned a 3-2 win over the Blue Jackets to keep them out of harms way of elimination, but they might lose Evgeni Malkin after a strange wrist injury caused him to leave the game. Not good for Pittsburgh if their second-best scorer is out for any length of time with a month to play.

Stat of the Night