It's no secret that the Flyers have played strong hockey at a very consistent pace all season long. Only a few times have the Fly-guys come out flat after a long break or struggled to get their game legs moving during the second night of a back to back pair contests. Overall, they have done extremely well against almost every team in the league, hence their conference leading 75 points.
Somewhat surprisingly, the Tampa Bay Lightning have performed almost just as well, despite their bizarre sub-par goal differential and poor goaltending pre-Dwayne Roloson's arrival. One team in particular that the Lightning have certainly excelled against is Philadelphia.
The Florida Panthers are another team that has had some success against the Flyers in recent matchups. Last season, the Panthers won 3 of 4 meetings with the Flyers, some of those games by substantial goal margins. So far this season, the Panthers own a 5-0 victory against Philly, a team whose offense is arguably the best in the league, an argument supported by their league leading 180 goals.
Philly plays Tampa on Feb 15th and then the Panthers the very next night. This is going to be one of the toughest back to back tests for the Flyers heading into the end of the regular season. Though the Flyers dominated the Lightning last season by sweeping the series, the Lightning have claimed 3 of the 4 games against Philly this year, with one left to play.
The Flyers effort vs the Panthers was simply just one of lackluster. Florida played a solid blue collar game and the Flyers paid for it by not waking up until it was far too late. I believe the Flyers will come out strong next week against the Panthers, provided they play a solid game in Tampa. The Panthers will be scraping the barrel for points towards making the playoffs, though I don't give them good odds at making it at this point. However, the Flyers will have to recognize that danger and be sure not to underestimate a Panthers team that still has plenty of tools to hurt you offensively.
It's obvious that Tampa will be the tougher challenge of the two games in FL, as Tampa now sports one of the best two forward lines in the league with the return of Lecavalier, not to mention the league's leading goal scorer in Stamkos.
Last game against the Lightning was just a poor effort by the Flyers. There weren't any significant positives taken from the 4-0 loss, unless you deem Philly sustaining 0 injuries from the game a positive. The Flyers need to make sure they are playing the focused and energetic game that has credited them with their 35 wins thus far. Tampa is a team that can legitimately end the Flyers playoff run, depending on when and if they matchup. If Philly cannot take this last win from Tampa, it could damage their confidence against a Lightning team that, with the addition of Roloson, has the tools to make a long playoff run and possibly win the cup.
I know that the Flyers will stay consistent throughout the remainder of the season, but they must make sure to pay attention to the smaller picture as well, i.e. recognizing which teams are the greatest threats to their chances of winning hockey's greatest prize.
Thanks for reading.