Now that the Flyers are officially in a race for their first division title in what seems like ages, it’s worth taking a look at the schedule for their remaining games, as well as the other teams in the Metro.
Right off the jump it should be noted that of the seven contending teams, the Flyers have one of the easier schedules for their final 18 games.
According to expert Damian Echevarrieta’s Eastern Conference playoff race tracker on Twitter, the Flyers have 10 games left against teams currently in postseason berths.
Things aren’t quite so promising for teams running slightly behind the Flyers, like Columbus, Carolina and the New York Rangers.
The Blue Jackets have only 16 games left on their slate and a whopping 13 against playoff teams. Carolina has no picnic either, with 12 vs. playoff teams, including four against the third-place Pittsburgh Penguins. The Rangers go up against teams in postseason consideration 13 times, including Sunday’s home game against the Flyers.
One other team which trails the Flyers, the New York Islanders, has only eight of its last 19 vs. playoff teams.
Two of the top three teams in the Metro, Washington and Pittsburgh, have the easiest schedules, with the Caps facing seven playoff teams and the Penguins only five.
Just something to keep an eye on as the schedule winds down.
>Made in China
There have been varying reports that the NHL could face a stick shortage if the factories in China which produce them continue to be affected by the coronavirus.
Flyers equipment manager Harry Bricker said as far as he knows, none of the players have been seriously affected by delayed or stopped shipments so far.
Reportedly, both CCM and Bauer had closed their factories in northern China for a while. The word coming out of China is that some factories have either re-opened or are about to.
One thing of note: Most of the NHL players’ sticks are customized, so you can’t just go looking around warehouses in the U.S. and Canada to get sticks “off the rack.’’
“I think Bauer just re-opened,’’ Scott Laughton said after Saturday’s practice at the Skate Zone. “I think we have enough sticks left for the end of the season.’’
James van Riemsdyk also believes the Flyers overall will be good shape with their stick supply until the end of the season.
But there are a few exceptions.
“Hopefully they (the Chinese factories) get it all sorted out quickly,’’ JVR said. “I know some guys are hurting for some supply.
“The sticks here (on the Flyers’ roster) are different than what you can get off the rack.’’
JVR was told that Laughton, a lefty shooter, said he could get by with a standard stick if necessary.
“You could give him a righty stick and I think he would be fine,’’ van Riemsdyk said.
Listening off to the side, Michael Raffl cracked, “He probably would be better.’’
JVR shot back: “All this time he probably didn’t even know. . .’’
>Return to Nassau the right move
Here’s a tip of the hat to the Islanders and the NHL for making the right decision to play the team’s remaining games this season and next back at Nassau Coliseum.
While waiting for the new building to be completed near Belmont Race Track, the Islanders have been splitting their games between Nassau and Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, which was built primarily for NBA basketball’s Nets.
The Brooklyn joint is serviceable but lacks atmosphere. Islander fans grumble because they have to commute an hour or more to see their favorite team play.
Meanwhile, the renovated Coliseum was considered too small (and too old) to house the Islanders much longer, hence the new construction.
But the one thing the Coliseum does have is atmosphere.
For what it’s worth, the Islanders won their first-round playoff series at Nassau last spring, sweeping the Penguins, then got swept by Carolina when they moved over to Barclays. Maybe the two results aren’t related but there just might be something to it.
If the Islanders do make the playoffs, the old barn in Uniondale will be jumping. Old enough to remember the Flyers-Islanders 1980 Stanley Cup finals war? Sort of like that.