To make playoffs, Flyers must regain swagger


Steve Kuzma/Flyerdelphia

Do you have a pulse? If you don’t, you may have one now.

And if you did prior to Wayne Simmonds’ game-tying goal last night against the Toronto Maple Leafs, you may have a heart condition.

The Philadelphia Flyers did nothing to keep the stress levels of themselves and their fans at an even keel in their efforts to earn a critical point in their overtime loss.

They still control their own destiny, but that fate seems like it’s set atop a mountain by not gaining the extra point.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have conquered their fears of the Flyers, they’ve slain the demons and, as a result, they’ve manhandled the Orange and Black in their last two meetings.

But this is survival. The Flyers have two options: win out or start golfing. And to avoid getting a head start on their putts, they’ll have to defeat a Penguins team that’s come together in devastating fashion, one that mixes both suffocating defense and blazing offense. Which do you prefer? Being set ablaze or a smothering?

If the Flyers can regain the upper hand on their bitter rivals, they’ll then face the New York Islanders. The Islanders have skated circles around Philadelphia for the past few seasons, but no longer. The last time the two met in Brooklyn, the Flyers left with a 4-1 victory. They’d like the same result come Sunday night.

Of course, they don’t necessarily need to win each game. The New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators can do the Orange and Black a huge favor by defeating the Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins during their early Saturday afternoon affairs. A regulation loss of any kind by either club and the Flyers only need two points. Doesn’t matter how they get them.

But will the Rangers bring any jam against Detroit? After taking a few beatings on the ice and the scoreboard, it wouldn’t make sense. Who wants to play the Penguins in the first round? Especially without Ryan McDonagh and, perhaps, Dan Girardi. They’d much rather go to sunny Florida and face the Panthers. That way, the Rangers would have to go through the Atlantic Division, the considerably easier path to the conference finals.

On the other hand, the Senators have been giving everyone fits lately. They beat the Panthers last night and gave both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia tight contests. They also went into Minnesota and tamed the Wild. It’s possible Ottawa beats Boston, but don’t call your bookie.

Regardless, you’ll have to root for both outcomes, Flyers fans. Yet, more importantly, instead of hoping for another team to fail, start pining for the Flyers have to regain their confidence.

For much of last night’s game and the tilt against Detroit on Wednesday, Philadelphia looked like they did mid-season. They were just waiting for something to go wrong and a lot of things did in each contest. Breakaways, turnovers, overall sluggish play. All the telltale signs of a ravenous wolf that's lost the will to hunt.

That loss to Pittsburgh this past Sunday seemed to rob them of their swagger. They never appeared sure of themselves in Detroit and the Red Wings stifled them in the process. It seemed like that swagger was back in short intervals against Toronto, but not enough to come away with the win.

If they have any hope of making it to the playoffs and doing any semblance of damage to the Washington Capitals, they’ll need to regain that confidence. Without it, they’re doomed. 

This will be a wild weekend for hockey fans in Philadelphia. Don’t forget to check your pulse.

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

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