Despite season beatdown, the sweep may have it's benefits for the Flyers
Back on February 5, the Philadelphia Flyers left Madison Square Garden under less than ideal circumstances.
With seconds remaining in a losing effort against their division rival, the New York Rangers, the fans at the Garden began to heckle the Flyers with a chant of ‘You can’t beat us.’
Fast-forward to April 3 and the taunt still rings true. Painfully true.
Following the 5-3 win on Tuesday night, the Rangers successfully completed the season series sweep against the Flyers, winning all six games in regulation.
Philadelphia has been bested by New York in eight consecutive meetings dating back to March 6 of last season and has been outscored, 34-13 over that span. Of the 16 points available in those games, the Flyers have earned only one.
In addition to closing out the sweep, the Rangers clinched their first division title since 1993-94, the same season that they won the Stanley Cup. The division title this season was largely won because of the 12 points earned against the Flyers.
In terms of Tuesday night, Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers stifling defense frustrated the Flyers much like they have all season.
Lundqvist made save-after-save and sprinkled in some stunning moments that resembled what a master class on goaltending would look like.
Against a lesser goaltender, the Flyers probably could have found a way to win the game. Unfortunately, they faced the best goaltender in the league.
In addition to Lundqvist, the Rangers defense aggressively attacked any and every offensive zone structure the Flyers tried to set-up.
Cutting down on the player’s space, the Flyers forwards almost always had a Ranger defender in their face.
It was merely just another painful chapter in what has become a one-sided rivalry.
However, the loss may be a blessing in disguise for the Flyers.
Since the Rangers clinched the division, there is no chance that the two teams meet in the first round of the playoffs.
On the down-side, the team lost ground on the race for fourth as the Pittsburgh Penguins managed to beat the Boston Bruins on Tuesday, which increases their point total to 104, three points more than the Flyers (101).
However, it does open up another popular option.
The New Jersey Devils also won on Tuesday night by defeating the New York Islanders, 3-1. New Jersey now sits at 98 points with two games to play and trail the Flyers by only three points in the standings.
Depending upon how the final two games of the season play out, the Devils could potentially jump the Flyers for the fifth seed, dropping the Flyers to sixth.
This would mean that the Flyers first round opponent would be the winner of the lowly Southeast division, which will be either the Florida Panthers or Washington Capitals.
Realistically, this would give the Flyers a great first round matchup, considering that the team has a combined record of 6-2-0 this season against both of the potential division winners.
While the Rangers may have clinched the top spot in the East, they may have also earned themselves the most diffcult first round opponent.
The Buffalo Sabres managed an overtime win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday, which keeps the Sabres playoff hopes alive. The team is now tied with the Capitals for the final playoff spot in the East.
If the Sabres manage to get into the playoffs, they may be the toughest opponent for the Rangers and the most likely to upset the topseeded Blueshirts.
Obviously all of this is circumstantial and extremely case sensitive, but the Flyers inability to beat the Rangers may help them in the long-run.
Philadelphia could end up playing a weak opponent and the Rangers could end up playing the most difficult.
While the Flyers may have helped earn the Rangers the top spot, they may have also set them up for the hardest fall.
Feel free to shoot me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org