It’s been 13 weeks since the National Hockey League paused its season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And it could still be months until hockey returns.
The Flyers will have plenty to worry about in getting their own house in order once training camps are permitted to begin, which at the earliest would be July 10, pushing the start of the playoffs into August or possibly September.
After the Flyers figure out their own roster, they’ll have to begin scouting the other 11 teams in the Eastern Conference that are still alive. Although the 5-through-12 seeded teams know their play-in opponents, the Flyers could conceivably play eight different teams in the first official round of the playoffs due to a round-robin seeding format that will determine the top four teams in the conference.
The Flyers will duke it out with the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals for the top seed of the actual playoffs. These are the only teams the Flyers cannot play in the first round. The other eight are all possibilities.
Here’s how the Flyers fared this season — and historically — against all eight potential first-round opponents.
Carolina Hurricanes: The Flyers were 3-0-1 against Carolina this season, and all three victories came in regulation. The Hurricanes will face the New York Rangers in the play-in round and could have a healthy Dougie Hamilton back when things resume. Hamilton was having a Norris-type season before fracturing his fibula in mid-January. The Flyers might welcome a matchup with the ‘Canes and head coach Rod Brind’Amour, as Philly posted 17 goals in those four games against Carolina in the regular season. The Flyers have never played the ‘Canes in the playoffs.
Columbus Blue Jackets: The Flyers were a perfect 4-0-0 against the Blue Jackets this season and scored 19 goals in the series, including a home-and-home sweep in February that ignited a nine-game winning streak. Columbus and a now-healthy Seth Jones will pose a threat to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the play-in round, as the Jackets are extremely tough to play against early in the playoffs (see 2019 upset of Tampa Bay). However, a lack of scoring would certainly hinder chances of two straight upsets. The Flyers and Columbus have never met in the postseason.
Florida Panthers: Philly took two out of three against the Panthers, in which every game in the series was decided by at least three goals. Former Flyer and two-time Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky underachieved in the Sunshine State in the first year of a monster deal. But don’t look past the Cats, who also have a No. 1 center in Aleksander Barkov and three-time Stanley Cup-winning coach Joel Quenneville. The Panthers defeated the Flyers in the only playoff meeting in 1996.
Montreal Canadiens: It’d be a tough sell to convince people that the Canadiens will get past the Penguins in the play-in round. But if they do, it means goaltender Carey Price is on a roll. The Flyers were 1-1 against Price this season and were 2-1 overall against the Habs, which included two overtime wins in November. Philly and Montreal have won three playoff series each, with the last meeting coming in the Eastern Conference finals in 2010, when the Flyers won in five games.
New York Islanders: This would be the Flyers’ worst matchup. In the three games this season, the Flyers managed just one point (0-2-1) against the Isles. On the plus side, the Flyers did score nine goals in those three games against the normally stingy team coached by Barry Trotz. As far as odds and entertainment value, the Flyers might hope to dodge the team that hails from Long Island if they get past Florida. The Flyers have won three of the four postseason meetings with New York and haven’t met in the playoffs since 1987.
New York Rangers: No troubles here. The Flyers were 3-0 against the Broadway Blueshirts, outscoring the Rangers 15-6. Much like the Flyers, the Rangers were trending in the right direction when the season halted. Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad were having stellar seasons, and New York could be a surprise team if it gets past the Hurricanes. Historically, the Flyers hold a slight edge, winning six of 11 postseason matchups, however the Rangers won the most recent meeting in 2014 under coach Alain Vigneault.
Pittsburgh Penguins: The Penguins get a big boost, as Jake Guentzel returns to the lineup. Pittsburgh defeated the Flyers 7-0 in October before Philly got revenge with a 3-0 shutout in January. The Pens took the rubber match with a 4-3 overtime win before the fourth game was canceled. The Flyers have won four of seven playoff meetings but the Penguins have won three of the last four, including a six-game series two years ago.
Toronto Maple Leafs: The Flyers and the high-flying Maple Leafs each won a shootout game in November before Philadelphia won a convincing 6-1 game in December to take the season series. In the playoffs, the teams have met six times, with the Flyers taking five of them. Jeremy Roenick’s overtime goal in Game 6 in 2004 represents the last meeting between the two clubs in the postseason.