Leading up to the Flyers' Aug. 2 round-robin opener - which officially commences the team's run at the 2020 Stanley Cup in the NHL's return-to-play 24-team tournament - we're going to break down every possible first-round matchup for the club.
Today, we look at the ninth-seeded Blue Jackets.
Flyers by the numbers
Goals per game: 3.29 (seventh overall)
Goals allowed per game: 2.77 (tied for seventh fewest)
Power play percentage: 20.8 (14th overall)
Penalty kill percentage: 81.8 (11th overall)
Blue Jackets by the numbers
Goals per game: 2.57 (tied for 27th overall)
Goals allowed per game: 2.61 (tied for third fewest)
Power play percentage: 16.4 (27th overall)
Penalty kill percentage: 81.7 (12th overall)
How they could meet
There are a few ways that these two teams can meet in the first round:
• If every lower seed (Canadiens, Rangers and Panthers) advances to the first round of the playoffs and the Flyers come out of the round robin in their current position, they would be slated to face the Blue Jackets.
• Should the top seeds all advance (Penguins, Hurricanes and Islanders) in addition to the Blue Jackets and the Flyers find themselves at the top following the round-robin tournament, the two teams would see each other in the first round.
Why matchup could be favorable for Flyers
The Flyers did a number on the Blue Jackets during the 2019-20 regular season - and that's putting things lightly. Columbus lost a great deal of talent in the recent NHL offseason - one important player being Sergei Bobrovsky - and while the Flyers have the chance to see him in the first round with the Panthers, he's no longer a threat with the Blue Jackets.
Oftentimes, when goaltenders are on top of their game, they're referenced as being a wall. Well, that wall was knocked down and it opened up a clear path for the Flyers to find success against this Blue Jackets team.
There was a single game at the beginning of this season that showcased every positive aspect of the Flyers and why this season was going to have a positive outcome. That game was Oct. 26 at the Wells Fargo Center. Both teams were toe to toe for the first two periods of play, but as the final 20 minutes were on the clock, you saw a surge that proved two things almost immediately. The first being the Flyers were no longer a team that sat back on their skates and accepted defeat - it's a storyline that seemed to appear often in a few previous seasons. The second was that this team meant business.
Right out of the gate, the Flyers had some ground to make up and were soon down 4-2 just a little over two minutes into the third period. It was their response that sparked conversations about this new-look Flyers team. They scored five unanswered goals - because tying the game and forcing overtime wasn't enough, one insurance goal wasn't enough padding, they wanted to destroy them. A statement was made that night and it carried throughout the remainder of the season and times these two teams saw each other.
Sharing the wealth
Having key players lead the way in divisional matchups is always crucial, but to have others find success as well is a recipe for a complete game.
• Travis Konecny was a force to be reckoned with. Eight of his 61 points came against the Blue Jackets, having scored three goals and tallied five assists.
• James van Riemsdyk averaged a point per game, having two goals and two assists.
• Jakub Voracek found himself with five points (two goals, three assists).
• Kevin Hayes had an impressive six points (three goals, three assists) … not to mention, one of the most memorable goals of the season came from him on Feb. 20 in overtime. And his celebration was just as great.
• The captain Claude Giroux rounded up at least one point each time he saw the Blue Jackets - having two goals and three assists.
The list goes on and on … and on.
Not to mention, since the Blue Jackets' games can't be held in Columbus, we won't have to hear that dreaded cannon with every goal. That alone is already a win. Thank you, Toronto bubble.
Why matchup could be trouble for Flyers
This would be a battle of Jack Adams finalists behind the benches with the Flyers' Alain Vigneault and the Blue Jackets' John Tortorella. While the Flyers have been overlooked countless times and are deemed underdogs, the Blue Jackets might even have a stronger case to hold that title.
Columbus comes alive in the playoffs - who can forget just one season ago when it swept the Lightning, the hottest team in the league, in the first round? And it did so as a wild card! It goes to show you that any team can get hot in the playoffs, so just because the Blue Jackets are currently the ninth seed, it doesn't mean they should be counted out.
Not to mention, while the Flyers found their success in the regular season, the Blue Jackets would definitely be out for revenge. And what better way to get it than in the playoffs?
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