Stanley Cup Playoff Push: Can the Flyers keep rolling?

Bo Horvat, Tanner Pearson, Thatcher Demko and Jake Virtanen give their thoughts following a tough loss to the Arizona Coyotes, in which the Vancouver Canucks surrendered a third period lead.

Hockey fans have 10 games to choose from on Thursday night’s NHL schedule and most have some playoff implications.

Here’s a look at where we stand with less than one month remaining in the regular season:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

If the season ended today…
(A1) Boston vs. (WC2) NY Islanders
(A2) Tampa Bay vs. (A3) Toronto

(M1) Washington vs. (WC1) Columbus
(M2) Philadelphia vs. (M3) Pittsburgh

What’d I miss this week?

The Philadelphia Flyers continued rolling by making a huge statement with a 5-2 win over the Washington Capitals on Wednesday, resulting in a four-point swing in the standings that positioned Philly just one point back of the Metropolitan leaders with both teams having 16 games remaining. The Flyers have scored 32 goals during their current seven-game winning streak. Of note: Philly held held Alex Ovechkin pointless in four meetings versus the Caps this season.

The Columbus Blue Jackets picked up a consolation point in Calgary, but with the Carolina Hurricanes having four games in hand on them, Columbus doesn’t control their own destiny. John Tortorella’s group has been struggling to tread water in the East with only two wins in their past 13 games, much of that can be attributed to the team’s lengthy injury list.

Earlier in the week, the Boston Bruins downed the Tampa Bay Lightning in regulation to move two points closer to their first Presidents’ Trophy since 2014. The New York Rangers have stayed in the playoff race longer than many had expected they would but three straight regulation losses has them second to last in the Metro and four points back of the New York Islanders for the final wild-card spot.

Game to watch tonight: Carolina Hurricanes versus Philadelphia Flyers

As mentioned above, the Flyers are streaking and they can potentially leapfrog the Capitals depending on the result of Washington’s game against the Rangers. The Flyers and Hurricanes are heading in opposite directs, with Carolina losing three straight and four of their past five.

The Hurricanes have averaged more than 39 shots per game during their three-game skid, and Carolina’s banged-up defence will be put to the test against Philly’s balanced offensive attack.

The Flyers have six forwards with at least 40 points, and the 43 goals they’ve got from defencemen leads all teams. Ivan Provorov’s 12 goals is tops among Philly blueliners. The 23-year-old is on pace for a career-year and during his team’s current winning streak he has five points and 11 blocked shots while averaging 24:32 of ice-time.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

If the season ended today…
(C1) St. Louis vs. (WC2) Winnipeg
(C2) Colorado vs. (C3) Dallas

(P1) Vegas vs. (WC1) Vancouver
(P2) Edmonton vs. (P3) Calgary

What’d I miss this week?

The Vancouver Canucks lost their fourth in a row and allowed the Arizona Coyotes to skate away with a vital two points. The Canucks, Winnipeg Jets and Yotes all have 74 points and the only silver lining for the Canucks during their current slide is the fact they still have two games in hand on the teams around them in the standings.

The Colorado Avalanche were upset by the Anaheim Ducks in overtime, but can still retake top spot in the West by winning their game in hand on the St. Louis Blues.

The Calgary Flames still have a realistic shot at home-ice in the first round after beating Columbus thanks to a T.J. Brodie OT goal. The Flames are the only Western Conference team currently in a playoff spot that has a negative goal differential.

Game to watch tonight: Dallas Stars versus Nashville Predators

After getting right back in the playoff race thanks to a strong February showing, the Nashville Predators have all of a sudden lost three consecutive games and are once again on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. A humbling 8-3 defeat to the Edmonton Oilers on Monday didn’t do any good for the team’s confidence.

The Preds are expected to continue going with Juuse Saros in net as they look to pick up their first win against the Dallas Stars this season. Dallas won the first two meetings — 4-1 in Nashville in December, then 4-2 on New Year’s Day in front of 85,000 at Cotton Bowl Stadium.

Nashville’s poor special teams play is a huge reason for their struggles. Their 16.2 per cent power-play efficiency ranks sixth-worst in the league. Their 75.1 penalty kill percentage is worst in the West and third-worst overall.

The Stars meanwhile have a top-10 power play and a slightly above average penalty kill. Dallas is comfortably third in the Central Division, six points back of the Avs but eight points ahead of the Jets.

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