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Flyers Beat Penguins and Guarantee Playoff Rematch: A Fan’s Analysis
The Philadelphia Flyers have been stuck in the No. 4 or No. 5 playoff seed for months now. As such, this made Flyers fans like myself nervous for a while, since this would guarantee a first round matchup with the Pittsburgh Penguins. But if Philadelphia lost to Pittsburgh on April 1, there would still be a chance for it to fall to the No. 6 spot and get a much easier matchup with the Florida Panthers or Washington Capitals.
Instead, there is now virtually no way that the Flyers won't open up against the Penguins - which looms even larger after their latest meeting. Yet Philadelphia has to feel more confident in facing Pittsburgh, after overcoming its second straight 2-0 deficit against the Penguins and storming to a 6-4 win. It put the Flyers just one point back for the No. 4 seed and home ice - and improved them to 4-1 this season over the Penguins.
In addition, Philadelphia improved to five points ahead of the New Jersey Devils for the No. 5 seed, as both teams have three games to go. Not only must the Flyers go pointless in their last three games, the Devils have to win all of theirs to climb up to No. 5. As such, this victory over Pittsburgh virtually eliminated Philadelphia's last chance to avoid the Penguins in the playoffs.
This means that the gigantic series of fights at the end of this game will send a deeper message for the future. After Brayden Schenn crosschecked Sidney Crosby from behind, Joe Vitale came out to level Danny Briere and spawned a series of fights from the ice to the bench. Not only did this increase the bad blood between the Flyers and Penguins, it made us all wonder if anyone will be left standing in a seven game series between them.
First they have to meet in the regular season finale on April 7, so any grudges they have from these fights could be settled then - in between perhaps playing for home ice advantage in their next meeting. But the conventional wisdom was that no matter who had home ice, the Penguins would be favored, due to their near perfection for most of March and having Sidney Crosby back. And yet it is Philadelphia who is 4-1 against Pittsburgh and who has made two 2-0 comebacks in their last two meetings.
All of a sudden, facing the Penguins in round one doesn't seem so bad - and the Flyers seem to have a knack for winning in Pittsburgh anyway. In any case, dreading this matchup in the first round seems useless now, since Philadelphia just destroyed any chance that it wouldn't happen anyway. It could have still slid down to face a weak Southeast Division champion with a loss - but as usual, the Flyers want to do everything the hard way.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and a Flyers fan since the age of eight.
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