Tonight's HUGE Two-Points, and the Flyers Six-Day Hiatus >

by Michael DeNicola

Monday, March 18, 2013 --

To say the Playoff odds are stacked against our Philadelphia Flyers is quite the understatement. Sitting at 11th Seed in the Eastern Conference with 27-points, the Flyers are looking to take on the Tampa Bay Bolts before embarking on a six-day hiatus in their schedule. 

If the Flyers come out on top with a victory this evening, then they'll reach the bubble position and lie only 2-points outside Playoff contention. But the break in the schedule is what's uncontrollably our largest adversary this week. 

Every single game from here on out has now taken on even more significance than they have through the abbreviated season up to this point. To even slide into the NHL's post-season, Philadelphia will more than likely need to win 14-contests in their remaining 19-games. Is it doable? Technically yes, it's doable. Is it likely? Well, let's just look at the caliber of competition we have left to face....

We have the Penguins once more, the Rangers twice, and the Devils for a final time. Scattered in between our toughest divisional foes are the Bruins twice more, another with the Maple Leafs, and two more against the number-2 seeded Montreal Canadiens. Let's just go ahead and say that those tilts are "must-win games". Penciled around those crucial battles are games against the Islanders, Hurricanes, Jets, Sabres and Capitals -- adversaries we've seen the most success against, and should prove to be tallies in the win-column. 

Then again, if our season's history is anything to prognosticate from.... I won't blame any of you Flyers Faithful for harboring skepticism. 

Between tonight and Sunday, March 24 when we take the ice again, those aforementioned Clubs play a total of 38-games between each other. Ergo, while the Flyers get six-days of rest and plenty of time to practice (which is a luxury they failed to have most of the year thus far), the rest of these Conference competitors have an average of 3.45 games to climb the standings before the Flyers even sniff the frozen pond again. 

So, once again, tonight's 2-points in Tampa Bay are far and beyond imperative to where the Bullies stand at season's end.

In net tonight for Philadelphia is Ilya Bryzgalov, who's starting his 28th game out of the Flyers 30-games played. Looking at that statistic, you realize how ridiculous it is giving our franchise netminder the nod so many times. Yet, at the same time, our team's overwhelmingly disappointing performance this season leaves no opportunity for Laviolette to give Bryz a night off. It is simply not a luxury the Flyers have. We're absent an NHL caliber backup goaltender, and considering that this defense isn't even capable of carrying Bryzgalov.... starting Michael Leighton in so much as one of the remaining games could wind up costing this Club a Playoff berth.

If you're concerned about Bryzgalov's energy being saved for the Playoffs, I beg you to focus that distress on the high chance that this team might not even be competing for the Stanley Cup at all. We are in the epitome of a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation, and right now even a fatigued Ilya Bryzgalov gives this organization its best chances.

Converging attention away from net, the silver-lining in this miserable story is knowing the Flyers have been under-performing. If somehow they're capable of turning it around and fire on all cylinders the rest of the way, there's no real reason to believe this team cannot make a legitimate run for the Playoffs. All of that is completely dependent on 60-minute nightly efforts, discipline play, and finishing on scoring chances -- not to mention, perhaps hanging on to a lead would see the Flyers through a handful of victories. 

Don't forget to catch tonight's tilt, PHL @ TBL, puck-drop scheduled for 7:30. You can watch the game on CSN Philly, TSN, or NBC Sports Network. You may also listen to the game on 93.3 WMMR Philadelphia (click here to listen from your computers). 

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