Frank Fanelli officially joins Down the Frozen River with his first post and explains what it felt like for Philadelphia Flyers fans heading into this weekend’s action and how far he thinks the Flyers will be able to go in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
By: Frank Fanelli
As the Flyers geared up for their playoff push, for us Flyers fans, it felt like the 2009-2010 season all over again. That season, the Flyers were very shaky- going up and down in the standings battling for a playoff spot with the New York Rangers. In their last 12 games, the 2009-2010 Flyers went 2-10, which was terrible down the stretch, but somehow it all came down to the very last game of the regular season against the Rangers. Philadelphia eventually won 2-1 in a nerve-wracking shootout.
This year is very much just like that year in all aspects of the season. In their first 20 games the Flyers went a disappointing 6-14 to start the season. When I first saw this start to the season I thought to myself “Oh boy, here’s to another disappointing season with no postseason play” I was livid with their start because this year I thought it was going to be so much different.
Well, their mid-season form took to full affect just like always, going back and forth with win after win then a string of loss after loss. It really wasn’t a promising sight. I mean the Flyers were still in contention but I thought nothing of it because they never showed any potential to creep into a playoff spot. Now that has completely changed!
On March 3rd the Flyers sat at 29-34, just out of a playoff spot and got a huge wakeup call by getting thrashed 4-0 to the mediocre Edmonton Oilers— AT home nonetheless! This, without a doubt in my mind, was a call to action for the Philly squad, coming back the next game and demolishing the Columbus Blue Jackets 6-0 and kick started this team’s push to the playoffs.
The Flyers then went on a resurgent 10-7 run in their next 17, leading up to their record at 39-27-13 with 91 points entering Friday— barely hanging on to that last Wild Card spot. From then, I believed the Flyers would make the playoffs because of the way they had been playing lately. They had 3 games remaining on their schedule, against the below average Toronto Maple Leafs, the Pittsburgh Penguins (who are on fire), and a strong New York Islanders team to end their season.
*Editor’s note: The Flyers lost, 4-3, in overtime to the Maple Leafs, and then beat the Penguins and Islanders to cap off their season, if you’ve been under a rock. Although by now, hopefully you know they’re in and the matchups have been determined.*
Prior to clinching, I believed that if the Flyers wanted to make the playoffs, they were going to have to realize they needed to pick up their play! The Flyers would make the playoffs because they have played very solid as a whole team and they would realize this and push to the end.
Philadelphia will play the Washington Capitals, who locked up the President’s Trophy with the best record in the NHL, in the first round of the playoffs. These two teams split the 4-game season series 2-2, with both teams trading wins back and forth. These 4 games were always a constant battle with the Capitals outscoring the Flyers 12 goals to 10. Also 3 of the 4 games were separated by only 1 goal with 2 of the games going past regulation. Philadelphia won both of those games. The Flyers are 110-78-19 overall against the Capitals. Going 2-2 against them in 4 playoff series matchups dating back to 1984, with 3 of the 4 series matchups going to 6 or 7 games!
So clearly the facts are all there for it to be a very close and intense playoff matchup, which any hockey fan will love to watch. I think the Flyers will battle the Capitals in an intense 6 game series favoring the Flyers in the end, but this is where I think their “Cinderella” type season will come to an end.
I just do not see the Flyers making a long run in this year’s playoffs, especially with how hot the Penguins, Lightning, Panthers and even the Rangers have been playing lately. Even with Michal Neuvirth projected to be back in the lineup, ready and healthy for the playoffs. The Flyers simply do not have enough fire power in their offense.
For example, their star captain Claude Giroux through 79 games only had 66 points when he was projected to reach 81. Their second in “command” Jakub Voracek only had 53 points through 70 games when he was originally projected to have 73. These two players are clear examples on why Philadelphia will go out in the second round because they do not have enough offensive prowl.
Let alone their very shaky defense, which has a very hard time scoring as well. Their top scorer, rookie sensation Shayne Gostisbehere, who had an astonishing 43 points in 61 games up to Friday, which ranked 7th in scoring among rookies. Other than “Ghost” they have no offensive production from their defense, who also can be exploited for a good amount of goals which is very risky.
Last but not least their goalies are sub-par to say the least. Their “rock” Steve Mason, as of late, in his last 15 games leading up to Friday, went 9-4-2 with a .950% SV and a 2.10 GAA. He has had to fill in for Neuvirth, because before Neuvirth got hurt, he was basically the starter. So Mason has been a HUGE part of the Flyers success in their recent games, but I do not see Mason being a productive starter in the postseason.
The reason why is because of his measly playoff record, going 2-6 with a .907% and a 3.11 GAA in 8 starts with Columbus and Philly. Even if Michal Neuvirth is able to come back in time (which he is, as of Sunday) for the playoffs— his playoff record is 4-5 with a .914% and a 2.30 GAA in 9 starts with Washington.
Clearly, as you can tell, both of these goalies have proven that neither of them are a reliable playoff starter. With the Flyers low offensive production, shaky defense, and unreliable goaltending, these are just a couple of prime examples as to why the Flyers will bow out in the second round of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs.