The Flyers have earned at least a point against every Eastern Conference team this season except one:
On Saturday at Scotiabank Arena, the Flyers will meet Tampa Bay in what has become the East’s round-robin championship of the NHL’s return-to-play 24-team tournament.
“I think it’s just important to play the right way and keep building on this momentum we’re gaining right now,” Sean Couturier said in a video interview Thursday night after the Flyers’ win over Washington. “We want to win, we want to finish the highest possible seed, but I think as long as we’re at our best once the real playoffs start, that’s the biggest thing.”
Let’s answer four questions heading into Saturday’s showdown against the Lightning:
What’s on the line?
The winner of the game will earn the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed in the first round of the playoffs, while the loser will settle for the No. 2 seed.
Both seeds are obviously advantageous, but there’s certainly a difference between them. The No. 1 seed will hold home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. With no fans, that distinction still holds importance because home teams are awarded the last line change in games, which can be critical to matchups when outcomes are in the balance.
Below are the current round-robin standings:
1. Lightning – 2-0-0, four points
1. Flyers – 2-0-0, four points
3. Capitals – 0-1-1, one point
4. Bruins – 0-2-0, zero points
Who could Flyers play in 1st round?
Given they will finish with either one of the East’s top two seeds, the Flyers cannot face the fifth-seeded Penguins or sixth-seeded Hurricanes in the first round.
It’s still possible the Flyers can face the No. 7 Islanders, No. 8 Maple Leafs, No. 9 Blue Jackets, No. 10 Panthers or No. 12 Canadiens in the first round.
If the Flyers earn the No. 1 seed, they’ll meet the lowest seed to advance past the qualifying round. If they’re the No. 2 seed, they’ll get the second-lowest seed to advance past the qualifying round.
Here’s the latest on the best-of-five qualifying series:
No. 8 Maple Leafs vs. No. 9 Blue Jackets (CBJ leads 2-1; Game 4 – Friday, 8 p.m. ET)
No. 7 Islanders vs. No. 10 Panthers (NYI leads 2-1; Game 4 – Friday, noon ET)
No. 6 Hurricanes vs. No. 11 Rangers (CAR wins 3-0)
No. 5 Penguins vs. No. 12 Canadiens (MTL leads 2-1; Game 4 – Friday, 4 p.m. ET)
When are final round-robin games?
The Flyers-Lightning round-robin game is Saturday but the start time is TBD. We’ll know the time of puck drop at some point Friday.
The Capitals and Bruins finish the round robin Sunday (start time TBD).
The first round of the playoffs is scheduled to begin next Tuesday.
How do Flyers fare vs. Lightning?
Among the round-robin teams, the second-seeded Lightning were the club that gave the Flyers the most trouble in the regular season. The Flyers dropped two games in regulation to Tampa Bay – albeit one was a 1-0 defeat and the other was a chippy 5-3 loss with an empty-netter during the final 22 seconds.
The Lightning can flat-out score, putting up a league-best 3.47 goals per game during the regular season.
However, the Flyers hung with Tampa Bay in other statistical categories and didn’t have trade deadline acquisitions Derek Grant or Nate Thompson during the two regular-season matchups.
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