If NHL Playoffs were to Begin Today, Flyers would be Part of a Loaded Eastern Conference

If NHL Playoffs were to Begin Today, Flyers would be Part of a Loaded Eastern Conference

Nobody knows how the NHL season will turn out or even if there will be an NHL season to conclude in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

Assuming there is a season, one apparent option would be to go right into the playoffs. This is far from a sure thing, but nothing is really known right now.

If the NHL does re-start and begins with the 16 teams that qualified for the playoffs, it should be an interesting road for the Flyers in the Eastern Conference.

Then again, any team having to face the Flyers will have their collective hands full.

Here is how the Eastern Conference first round would be if the playoffs started immediately:

(1) Boston (100 points) vs. (8) Columbus (81 points)
(2) Tampa Bay (92 points) vs. (7) Toronto (81 points)
(3) Washington (90 points) vs. (6) Carolina (81 points)
(4) Flyers (89 points) vs. (5) Pittsburgh (86 points)

The NHL playoffs are like none other. This is truly a tournament where any number of teams can win. Last year the St. Louis Blues, guided by former Flyer player and coach Craig Berube, beat the Boston Bruins in seven games to win their first Stanley Cup.

The Blues were No. 3 in points in the Western Conference during last year’s regular season while Boston was No. 2.

This year, just in the Eastern Conference, an argument could be made for any of the top four teams to advance to the Stanley Cup finals.

And that isn’t counting the No. 5 seeded Pittsburgh Penguins. Who can really count out the Penguins? Led by future Hall of Famer Sidney Crosby, the Penguins have won Stanley Cups in 2009, 2016 and 2017.

Washington, which won the Cup in 2018, always looms large. Despite being this year’s No. 3 seed, the Capitals.

Any team with Alex Ovechkin, will be a major threat. This year Ovechkin has 48 goals in 68 games. That is tied for the league-lead in goals, along with Boston’s David Pastrnak. In fact the Eastern Conference has the NHL’s top three goal scorers, with Toronto center Auston Matthews third with 47.

That isn’t even mentioning Tampa Bay, which won its only Stanley Cup in 2004 and should be a major contender this year. And of course, Boston is the top seed and extremely dangerous.

Teams need a proven goal scorer or even a few to make a serious Stanley Cup run. For instance, when Washington won the Cup in 2018, Ovechkin had 15 goals and 12 assists in 24 games for the Capitals.

The Flyers don’t have the big-name goal scorers this year. Their leading goal scorer, all-star Travis Konecny, has 24 goals, which is just 44th in the NHL.

Yet the Flyers have good balance, their defense has continued to improve and in Carter Hart, have one of the top young goalies in the NHL.

Strong goaltending also goes a long way toward winning the Cup.

On paper, the Flyers may not measure up to some of the other titans in the Eastern Conference, but they were playing as well as any NHL team. They had won nine in a row before losing 2-0 to Boston in the final game before the season was suspended.

So the Flyers will match up well with any team in the Eastern Conference, but winning three rounds just to get to the Stanley Cup final for them or any other team, will be a monumental task.

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Author: Marc Narducci

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