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April 01, 2016

What they’re saying: The Flyers are worthy of a playoff spot

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Just a couple of months ago, if you would have said that the Philadelphia Flyers are in the position they find themselves today — Two points ahead in the race for the final wild-card spot, with a game in hand — nobody would’ve believed it. That is where we are, though.

The hard-charging Orange and Black currently find themselves in a very good spot. Many of the available prediction models hold that the Flyers possess somewhere between an 87 and 90 percent chance of making the playoffs. In other words, they’re knocking right on the door.

(via Sons of Penn)

TSN’s Travis Yost sized up the race for the last two playoff spots between the Flyers, Detroit and Boston, specifically looking at some of the teams’ statistical indicators. Yost believes that the Flyers, unlike the Bruins, are playing like a team worthy of the “eight seed.”

Specifically, the Flyers have improved greatly over their past 25 games. So it’s no fluke that they’re closing the season in such fine form:

You can start to see why Philadelphia’s racking up the points of late. It’s a combination of definitively improved play (their shot and scoring-chance differentials have both increased of late), and a drastic reduction in penalty kill goals against. Combine that with a little bit of shooting luck of late and you have the right ingredients for a team racking up points and pushing toward the postseason.

Everyone deserves credit for the resurgence, but Dave Hakstol has done well as a rookie NHL head coach. It’s one thing for a team to ride a wave of emotion and simply get hot. It’s another for that team, who has battled through a multitude of injuries to key players, to tangibly improve over the season.

Not bad for the first NCAA-to-NHL hire in 33 years. Now fans just have to hope years two and three in Philly treat Hakstol better than Chip Kelly. As long as Hakstol allows Ron Hextall to continue to do his thing, a safe bet, I would wager that he will have more staying power than The Chippah.

Other Flyers news, notes and analysis from around the web:

The roadblock between the Philadelphia Flyers and a playoff spot: Dimitri Filipovic, Sportsnet

I wrote about Steve Mason’s heavy workload yesterday, and Filipovic has the stats to back up that having two goalies (and in the Flyers’ case, two good goalies) is much better than one on back-to-backs:

There was a time when you’d be hard-pressed to find 30 legitimate goalie options across the league. Now, nearly every single team has two reasonable options on their roster and a third waiting in the AHL. The days of using your backup goalie as a white flag signal are over.

With the Flyers, they had two interchangeable options and found success alternating them. Unfortunately, they’ve now lost that luxury at the most inopportune time.

What's the Flyers' biggest weakness right now? Kurt R., Broad Street Hockey

Over that same 25-game span, the Flyers are above average in pretty much every aspect of the game. They aren’t elite in any one area, but there are also no weaknesses. Basically, the Flyers are the Oakland A’s of hockey.

So what is the cause for concern? Kurt suggests the power play. Note that this was written prior to Wednesday night, when Brayden Schenn and the first PP unit broke through with a huge goal:

The Flyers' top power play unit hasn't scored since the third period of their game on March 7 against Tampa Bay. Only an uncharacteristically strong month of March from the second unit has kept the power play as a whole from being a total failure. Now, despite its struggles, Micah's chart above states that they've still been above-average at generating shots on the power play, which suggests the current dry spell won't last forever, but there's probably still at least a little bit of cause for concern here.

Flyers want to win for ailing Ed Snider: Sam Carchidi, Philadelphia Inquirer

For the first time in a while, Flyers chairman Ed Snider wasn’t front and center in the team photo. He’s still very invested in his hockey team, though:

After Wednesday's win, an ecstatic Snider phoned Hakstol.

"It was tremendous to have a chance to talk with him," Hakstol said. "You know he wants to congratulate us, but it's really the other way around. Everything our team is doing right now goes back to Mr. Snider. It's tremendous to know he's watching our games, and certainly we want him to know what we're doing is based on playing for him and the organization he's built."

Future Flyers Report: Sanheim thriving; Konecny injured: Greg Paone, CSN Philly

It’s playoff time in the junior ranks, and Travis Sanheim is playing well:

The favored Hitmen haven’t played well in their series against the Red Deer Rebels, but it’s certainly no fault of Sanheim's. The Flyers’ first-round pick in 2014 has a goal and four assists in the three games. His goal in Saturday’s Game 2 was a beauty, as he cut through a couple of Red Deer defenders and wired the puck to the back of the net, as you can see here. Sanheim and the Hitmen are down in the series, 2-1, with Game 4 taking place Friday evening.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann