The Philadelphia Flyers became the first Eastern Conference team to advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. This gave Flyers fans like myself time to recover, rank our potential second round opponents and hope that everyone else in the East kept beating each other up. On that last point, Philadelphia has certainly gotten its wish.
Now that the New Jersey Devils managed to stay alive against the Florida Panthers with their Game 6 overtime win on April 24, every single Eastern series - except one - will have gone to a Game 7. As such, the Flyers will be the most rested team heading into the conference semifinals by far.
The Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals are already set for their Game 7 on April 25, followed by the New York Rangers-Ottawa Senators and the Panthers-Devils finales on April 26. Afterwards, the three winners will only have a few days to rest while the Flyers cap an entire off week of getting healthy and recharged. And if they could dominate the Pittsburgh Penguins when they weren't healthy and recharged, what could they do next?
However, Philadelphia will still need some help to improve its chances in the next series. For one thing, the Flyers need at least one road team to win a Game 7, or else they will have to visit the Rangers - who they didn't beat all year - and become huge underdogs again. The next most likely alternative is that they visit the Bruins, who swept them out of the last postseason and beat them all but once this season.
It would be really nice if both the Rangers and Bruins would lose a Game 7 - and since they've both lost two home games in the playoffs already, home ice advantage might not help them that much. But at the least, having just one of them lose - preferably the Rangers - would be a boom for the Flyers. Then they would only have to face the Florida-New Jersey winner next, instead of New York or Boston.
Even if the Flyers have to face either the Rangers or Bruins, they can hope that their struggles with the Senators and Capitals will weaken these powerhouses a bit at first. That may help Philadelphia salvage at least one opening game in New York or Boston before coming back home.
At this time of year, one looks for every advantage they can get. For the Flyers, resting up while every single potential opponent gets pushed to a Game 7 is such an advantage - in theory. The outcome of those Game 7's will make a greater impact, however - as would at least one upset or two or three.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and a Flyers fan since the age of eight.
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