Flyers Should Want to Face Capitals in Playoffs


Kate Frese/Flyerdelphia

On Wednesday night, the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals gave the hockey world a taste of what their potential playoff series would be like.

In short, an exciting bout that mixes a goaltending duel and defensive struggle with some hard-hitting action and a few cheap shots to boot.

Not only did Wednesday's win prove the Flyers could handle the Capitals, but it should be exactly the series the Flyers want if they finish their run to clinching a playoff spot.

While the Flyers spot in the playoffs isn’t certain, though they are sitting at an 88.2 percent chance of qualifying, they aren’t locked into a Capitals or bust situation either. Philadelphia is only four points behind the New York Islanders and if they surpass them, the Orange and Black would face off against the Atlantic Division winner instead, currently the Florida Panthers.

Right now, the math says Philadelphia and Washington are bound for a first-round rendezvous. The chance the two rivals meet in the postseason is 67 percent, according to Micah Blake McCurdy of

This is exactly what the Flyers want. They should want to face the Washington Capitals in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Now, you may have needed to read that prior sentence a few times. I’m not implying that the Capitals will be an easy out. Far from it. A Flyers-Capitals series will be a hard-fought battle with the Flyers needing to bring their A-game every night, and a lot of luck for good measure, to make it to the next round.

However, there is something the Capitals will have to worry about that no other playoff team will and it plays right into their opening round opponent’s favor: complacency.

The Caps don’t have anything more to play for. They clinched the President’s Trophy with more than two weeks left in the regular season. Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals will have to wait nearly half a month before they play another meaningful game.

That’s a long time to go without the added motivational boost of incentive, a game with purpose. Wednesday, Washington was playing under the premise they were going to prove something to the Flyers. All they did was show they can be beaten. Artificial motivation is nothing when you’re fighting a cornered animal.

That’s what Philadelphia will be for these final two weeks too. They will need to continue to scratch and claw their way past either the Detroit Red Wings or Boston Bruins to hold on to the final Wild Card spot. If the Flyers can do that, they will enter the first round already deep in playoff mode and the Capitals will have to hit the magical switch that so many teams have failed to find this time of year.

The Capitals' complacency will be a key aspect of a potential Philadelphia-Washington series because, on paper, wanting the President Trophy winners immediately in the postseason sounds like the fantasies of a madman. There are plenty of questions going against the Flyers in such a contest.

What pairing is going to match up on Ovechkin? Can the Flyers be disciplined enough to avoid penalties especially when someone like Jason Chimera spears someone like Shayne Gostisbehere? How do they crack Braden Holtby? Can Dave Hakstol out-coach Barry Trotz?

Those are important questions, but they wouldn’t go away by avoiding the Caps and landing the first wildcard spot either. They would just shift over to matching up on Steven Stamkos and the Triplet line and all the grief the Lightning can create or the young-at-heart Jaromir Jagr and the youth of the Panthers.

The exception, however, for Tampa Bay and Florida is that they will likely be playing for the Atlantic Division crown up until their last game. They’re also a battle-tested team as they are fresh off a run to the Stanley Cup Finals last year.

The Lightning are a team that knows how to find that other gear come the postseason. That cannot be said about the Capitals.

Not only that but according to McCurdy and, the Flyers are actually favored to win the series against Washington. Heck, they’ve got the second-highest percentage to come out of the conference.

The Flyers may not have a choice of opponents as they focus on their quest to make the playoffs. Though, if they do draw the Capitals, it should be exactly what they want. And if the games are like Wednesday night’s, it'll be exactly what the fans want too.

Dan Heaning is a contributing writer for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Heaning.

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