If Philadelphia intends to win the Atlantic Division, much less get a home playoff series...they have to post AT LEAST 14 of the 22 points available in the month of February. Looking at their schedule its possible, but there are some positives and a few negatives that need to be addressed:
1) Philadelphia plays 7 home games in February against Boston, Ottawa, NY Islanders, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, LA, and Montreal. POSITIVE
If this team even wants to dream of being taken seriously...(and we as fans would like to take them at their word)...wins should be guaranteed against the Sens, Kings, and Isles because they are on home ice. The games against Buffalo and Montreal are against teams fighting to find an identity much like the Flyers...and we always have issues playing Northeastern opponents. As for Pittsburgh...this team will be DESPERATE for points, and the Flyers shouldn't bow to the will of anyone named Sidney or Geno, as we would get no quarter in the Steel City from them.
2) Of the Flyers 4 road games in February, they will likely struggle to get more than 3 points. NEGATIVE
Let's face it. The Flyers have been subpar on the road this season and are looking at 3 tough contests in February: in Boston, in Washington, and in MSG. Ideally, I would love to see the Flyers get 2 points out of the Rangers, but the game against Atlanta is likely where 2 of the 3 points has to come from. In contrast, Washington and Boston are going to be messing with each other for the top spot in the East for the duration of the season. Some may call me crazy for that, but Washington's schedule is a JOKE the rest of the way and most of those games are in the Verizon Center. Trust me, the East will be decided by less than 5 points, but I digress. If the Flyers get more than 3 points in those 4 games...it is a blessing and maybe we can forget about the NHL schedule makers who had us playing back to back nights in towns more than 500 miles apart...TWICE!
3) Speaking of back-to-back games, the Flyers have another three in the month of February. POSITIVE and NEGATIVE -- I missed the Sat/Sun sets...thanks Synergy4412
The Flyers final back to back game comes at the end of the month being in Washington one night and home against the Kings the next. This is a classic trap series. Philadelphia won't have any issues getting up for Washington, but if they lose that night in Verizon it doesn't bode well in the return to Philly. The Kings are a talented, fast team that can spin you in circles if you let them have any room, and Philadelphia can ill afford to be giving away points in February. As a result, I think that if the Flyers sweep these two games, the chances are good they win the Atlantic, but if they lose both...we might end up in the dreaded 4-5 series against Montreal...or play NJ from the 6 hole.
4) Danny Briere will return February 19 against his former club, the Sabres. POSITIVE and NEGATIVE
Philadelphia will hopefully be completely healthy again for the first time since October when Briere returns in the middle of February. And in all honesty, the Flyers need Briere for two reasons. Once Danny is back, it will hopefully put these J-Bo rumors to rest. The Flyers do not need Bouwmeester to win the Cup...they need balanced 5 on 5 scoring. The other reason is more surreal. If Briere can't play up to the level he needs to be by the trade deadline, the Flyers can shelf him for the year and turn their attention to a bigger deadline acquisition.
Finally, I wanted to post a couple thoughts on the trade deadline and what this team needs. I think the Flyers best option for a deadline deal would be Nik Antropov in Toronto. He can play center, has size, and opens up Briere to play the wing in the playoffs. I personally would feel much better having a quality 3rd line center who has a huge upside than rely on Metropolit for 3rd line scoring. By his own admission he feels snakebitten this year in terms of goal scoring, and he would be much better served as a 4th line checker with the offensive abilities of a Travis Moen than trying too hard to score in a tight series.
The other names that are listed on Eklund's rumor chart are listed below with a brief impression from me:
Jay Bouwmeester - Already said it, but will say it again...the price is TOO high to pay and this team doesn't need repeat performances of the pre-cap NHL deadline moves.
Bill Guerin - This would be an interesting pickup...but I think for Guerin to be effective, he needs to be a top 6 forward, which somewhat precludes him from the Flyers.
Greg de Vries - While Greg does provide playoff experience, he also seems to be a player in the mold of a Vanaanen. de Vries may end up somewhere, but I don't think the Flyers can afford to send another 3rd or 4th round pick to get blueline depth...besides, that is what Parent is for, and he NEEDS more playoff experience if it comes to it.
M-A Bergeron - He isn't going anywhere at that price. The Wild like to get shots generated from the point and Kim Johnsson isn't getting any younger. Bergeron is a workhorse in the making with offensive upside...and he is 29, this is wishful thinking in anyone's mind.
Here ends my first blog...let me know what you guys (and girls) thought...and sarcasm is ALWAYS appreciated...
I Want To Believe in another Flyers Championship!