I'll be honest with you: I gave up on the Flyers' playoff hopes months ago.
I feel like I had good reason. They looked listless. Neither Steve Mason nor Michal Neuvirth had decided to claim the starting goalie role for good yet. Worst of all, they looked boring.
Granted, by mid-December no team had separated from the pack of Wild Card contenders yet. But the Flyers, with all of their flaws and inconsistencies, certainly wouldn't end up as that team. The best they could do, it seemed, was make a run and fall short.
Well, they're making a run. But that whole falling short thing isn't happening yet. They entered the week as the hottest team in the NHL with two enormous tasks ahead of them: defeat their direct Wild Card opponents in Detroit and take down the best team in the Western Conference. Any wasted points could cripple their playoff chase.
And they didn't waste a single one. On Tuesday, the Flyers handed the Red Wings a demoralizing 4-3 loss in the most important game of the year for either team. They then came into one of the most dangerous sports cities, Chicago, just 24 hours later to play Blackhawks and rode a fantastic performance by Neuvirth to an even bigger 3-2 win in regulation. The Flyers were the source of the best NHL action for the second night in a row.
And so Philadelphia sits this morning in the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. They've knocked the Red Wings out of the playoff picture (for the moment) and shaken up the defending champions just in time for the biggest NHL event of the weekend, hosting Pittsburgh on Saturday.
At this point I don't care if I ended up being right or wrong about the Flyers making the playoffs. The last leg of their journey there is the best fun in the league right now, no matter how the ride ends.
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3 things we learned
1. Everyone bailed out the Stars
Dallas gave its Central Division competitors a gift on Tuesday with a demoralizing loss at home to the Los Angeles Kings. St. Louis and Chicago just needed to take care of business to take advantage. We already detailed what happened to Chicago (at home, no less). And the Blues had the easier opponent (the hapless Oilers) and still somehow got blown out on the road. If Dallas ends up winning the division (and the conference, for that matter) they might look back on Wednesday favorably.
2. Hey, Mikkel Boedker is actually doing stuff!
I was fully prepared to write about how little effect Boedker has had for the Avalanche on the score sheet since his big deadline day trade a few weeks ago. You know, stuff about how his points per game pace so far is about on par with his career averages, and so on. But then he went out and scored twice for the Avalanche in Vancouver, including this beauty:
Boedker's 2nd goal pic.twitter.com/RnZZnwjnj3— Stephanie (@myregularface) March 17, 2016
Anomaly? Maybe. But perhaps he's just starting to find his groove with his new linemates. At any rate, it's clear now it's too early to write that deal off for Colorado. I'll withhold my knee-jerk reactions.
3. Joel Quenneville calls Artemi Panarin "The Bread Man"
We almost had a goalie fight! We WERE SO CLOSE.
But don't worry: a challenge for a duel next year has already been issued.
Odd twist: Paul Byron was not credited with a shot on goal for his game-winner. He didn't have a SOG in the game. Infinite shooting percent?— Joe Yerdon (@JoeYerdon) March 17, 2016