Monday, March 23, 2009

The First Round Opponent

The Flyers, as has been clear for weeks now, are going to be the #4 seed in the Eastern Conference come playoff time. What has been decidedly less clear is who will be their opponent in Games 1 and 2 at the Wachovia Center. It looked like it would be Montreal for a while, or maybe Florida, but both have hit the skids hard recently, falling to eighth and ninth respectively.

Bold Prediction: The Flyers will face a Staal brother in the first round.
Barring an unlikely huge surge by either of those two, the Flyers' first round opponent will be either Pittsburgh, Carolina, or the Rangers, who have 86, 85, and 84 points respectively as they sit in fifth, sixth, and seventh.

Here's how the remaining schedules look for the three:

Pittsburgh has the toughest next three, against two division leaders and the Rangers, whereas the Rangers and Hurricanes both have two against teams pretty much out of the playoff race, followed by. Don't be surprised to see Pittsburgh fall out of fifth this week, though they should be able to make it up in their remaining five games, which are all against weaker teams. Pittsburgh should finish in fifth, but they're as streaky a team as any, so here's hoping they don't.

Carolina, everyone should agree, is the least scary of the three, and therefore the most desireable first round opponent. They play five of their games at home, which hopefully should cancel out the two at New Jersey which they shouldn't have a shot in. Hopefully Brodeur is resting for the last one.

Lastly, the Rangers, who are a mess. Sean Avery & Co. are the only of the three who the Flyers will face in the regular season. They meet in the final two games of the season, at which point the picture will be much clearer. The Flyers may have the chance to tank to get the Rangers in the first round, or the Rangers the chance to tank to avoid the Flyers. Both could tank, which would be a mess. Playing a home and home to end a season is pretty unusual, and could potentially lead to the two teams playing nine straight games against each other, which I have to think is pretty unprecedented. It should stay unprecedented, though, as I don't see the Rangers passing both Pittsburgh and Carolina, especially as their meeting with each team is away from Manhattan.

It will probably be another Battle of Pennsylvania, but there is still a chance it won't be. Let the Capitals have Pittsburgh, I say. They deserve each other.

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