5 Things_2568x1444

On Wayne Simmonds Night and with the team battling to stay alive in the Stanley Cup playoff chase, John Tortorella's Philadelphia Flyers (37-32-11) will host Travis Green's New Jersey Devils (37-32-5) on Saturday evening. Game time at the Wells Fargo Center is 5:00 p.m. EDT. Attending fans are requested to be in their seats by 4:45 p.m. for the pregame celebration of Simmonds' eight seasons as a Flyer.

The game will be televised on NBCSP. The radio broadcast is on 97.5 The Fanatic with an online simulcast on Flyers Radio 24/7.

This is the fourth and final meeting of the season series between the teams and the second game in Philadelphia. The Flyers went 1-1-1 in the previous three games against the Devils: a 4-3 home overtime loss on Nov. 30 after comebacks from 2-0 and 3-1 deficits, a 3-2 road overtime win on Dec. 19 as Owen Tippett netted the game-winning goal after Philly recovered from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits, and a 6-3 loss in the Stadium Series game of Feb. 17. Tippett scored twice in a losing cause.

On Thursday of this week, the Flyers snapped an eight-game winless streak (0-6-2) with an impressive 4-1 win over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. The Flyers' road slate is finished for the 2023-24 regular season (18-16-7). Two home games remain, including Saturday's game. The Flyers are 19-16-4 at home to date. The Devils, 21-17-2 on the road and 17-20-3 on home ice, have been mathematically eliminated from the playoff chase. The Flyers need a win in this game to potentially avoid the same fate.

Here are five things to watch in Saturday's tilt:

1. Focus on What You Can Control: "Simm"-ilarities and Differences

In terms of the Stanley Cup playoff chase, the Flyers lost control of their own destiny. In addition to beating the Devils, Philly will also need some outside help. However, no other teams' game outcomes will have any meaning for the club if the Flyers themselves do not win both on Saturday against the Devils and Tuesday against the Washington Capitals. One hundred percent of the Flyers' focus needs to be taking care of their own business.

Although it's strictly coincidental, there is some historical correlation to Wayne Simmonds Night falling on the penultimate game of the regular season. Back on April 9, 2016, the Flyers were fighting for their playoff lives in a home game (against the Pittsburgh Penguins). Prior to the game, interviewed on national television, Simmonds dedicated the match to gravely ailing Flyers co-founder and longtime chairman Ed Snider. Simmonds proceeded to go out and score the tying and winning goals in a 3-1 Flyers victory that clinched the lower wildcard playoff berth for Philadelphia. Mr. Snider passed away two days later at the age of 83. That performance, in a game held on a Saturday, was arguably the most enduring of Simmonds' entire career in Philadelphia.

In 2024, with enormous pressure on the Flyers and none on their opponent, the current-day team needs a player to step up in similar fashion to how "Simmer" himself did with the season on the line eight years ago. This time around, a Flyers win alone won't be quite enough to nail down a playoff spot. But it will keep that possibility in play for the regular season finale on Tuesday.

Twenty-six of the NHL's 32 teams are in action this Saturday. Apart from the Flyers' own game, three other games have direct bearing on the playoff chase.

By the time the opening faceoff drops at the Wells Fargo Center, the game at Madison Garden between the Rangers and the New York Islanders will be over. If the Islanders gain even one point, the Flyers cannot finish third in the Metropolitan Division even if Philly defeats their remaining two opponents and the Islanders subsequently lose their final two games.

Predicated on a Flyers win on Saturday, the outlook for the final wildcard spot in the East is somewhat better. The Washington Capitals will host the Tampa Bay Lightning in a 5:30 p.m. EDT game in DC. A Flyers win paired with a Capitals loss is the ideal result before Philly hosts the Caps on Tuesday. The Flyers would at least temporarily move one point (Capitals OT or shootout loss) or two points (Capitals regulation loss) ahead of Washington.

At 7:00 p.m. EDT, the Detroit Red Wings visit the Toronto Maple Leafs. This game has the same implications relative to the Flyers. A Philadelphia win plus a Red Wings loss will move the Flyers one (Detroit OT/SO loss) or two (Detroit regulation loss) ahead in the standings.

At 8:00 p.m. EDT, the Penguins host the Boston Bruins. In this game, the Flyers need a Pittsburgh regulation loss plus their own win to move one point ahead of the Penguins. A Flyers win plus a Penguins overtime or shootout loss would tie the Flyers and Penguins with 87 points. However, the Penguins would still be in possession of the lower wildcard spot by virtue of both points percentage (the Pens will still hold one game in hand) and the regulation wins tiebreaker (currently 31-29 in Pittsburgh's favor). A Flyers win plus a Penguins win would keep Philly one point behind Pittsburgh and set up a situation where the Penguins could potentially eliminate the Flyers on Monday if the Pens defeat the Nashville Predators.

2. Follow the Process from Last Game

In Thursday's game in New York, the Flyers played one of their strongest all-around games in several weeks. The keys to that victory:

* The Flyers best player this season, Travis Konecny, delivered a standout performance with a goal and a primary assist.

* Philly got vital supporting offensive contributions with goals by Cam York, Bobby Brink and Noah Cates, as well as two assists by Ryan Poehling.

* Turning defense into offense: All four goals by the Flyers were scored on transition plays.

* Going to the net. All four Flyers goals featured a player going to the net, whether or not he recorded a point on the play. For example, on the York goal, Rangers defenseman K'Andre Miller wiped out. Morgan Frost proceeded to take New York's other defenseman, Jacob Trouba, to the net with him on Miller's side of the ice. That opened up a huge swatch of space for York to jump into the play on the other side, receive a pass from Konecny, and fire a shot upstairs for the game's first goal.

* Tenacious forechecking and diligent backchecking, up and down the lineup. The Flyers fought for every puck and battled for every foot of real estate, across all three zones. It didn't matter whether the Flyers had the puck, were fighting to win a 50-50 puck, or were tracking back defensively. In terms of backchecking plays, Cates (during a 4-on-4) and Frost (with the Rangers attacking shorthanded and a scoring chance looming momentarily for Chris Kreider) broke up potentially lethal counterattacks.

* Sacrificing for success: The Flyers blocked 19 shot attempts by New York in Thursday's game. Garnet Hathaway led Philly with five blocks, while York had three.

* Airtight closeout: The Flyers limited the perpetually dangerous Rangers to a mere two shots on goal in the third period. The Rangers never got even a sniff of a potential comeback.

* Last but certainly not least, Samuel Ersson delivered a standout performance in goal. On 25 shots on goal, he limited the Rangers to a single five-on-three power play tally. Ersson had been struggling mightily down the stretch. He needs to dial up a similar performance against the Devils.

If the Flyers can execute the same type of process -- offensively, defensively, and in goal -- there is no team in the NHL they cannot beat. It's when they've misplaced elements of the process that they've gotten themselves into trouble.

3. Playing vs. "Spoiler" Clubs

The Flyers performance during the seven-game "gauntlet" against the top teams in the Easter Conference was strong overall, although the club left a couple standings points on the table in terms of wins and losses. It was the series of games against non-playoff clubs that followed the gauntlet where the Flyers put themselves in dire straits for the playoff chase.

If you did not catch the April 13 edition of the Flyers Daily podcast, it's worth your time to check out Jason Myrtetus' detailed breakdown of the Flyers performances this season against the NHL's top (first or second place) and bottom (last place or next-to-last place) clubs in each of the NHL's four divisions.

Bottom line: The Devils are now strictly in a spoiler role. They will be loose and unafraid of the consequences of a couple mistakes. The Flyers need to generate the same sort of focused urgency they've brought to matches against teams atop the standings.

4. Battling Through Adversity

The Flyers -- through their own hard work, strong goaltending and a couple favorable bounces (puck luck, however, is often self-made) -- never trailed at any point of Thursday's game. That's not always possible, no matter how badly a team wants to win.

The Flyers first two games against the Devils this season are cases in point of battling to overcome adversity. During the eight-game winless streak, the Flyers handled adversity very poorly in most every facet of the game. This was especially true in the ugly losses to the Chicago Blackhawks. Columbus Blue Jackets and the April 9 game in Montreal.

If the Flyers find themselves trailing the Devils at some point, they absolutely must right the ship quickly. Mistakes cannot compound themselves. Philly cannot give up closely spaced goals. The Flyers also cannot take their foot off the gas pedal after a positive play. The home crowd wants to stomp and cheer and exhort the team, but frustration can lead the atmosphere in the opposite direction, too.

The Flyers must embrace the pressure, let the crowd energy help to ratchet up their own energy even further. If there's some adversity, just keep on playing and don't give in to negativity and bad body language. Those things are contagious, either for the good or for the bad.

Normally, in this section of "5 Things", we look at special teams trends for both the Flyers and that night's opponent. On Saturday night, the overriding message of "find a way in all game situations" is the only thing that matters.

5. Behind Enemy Lines: New Jersey Devils

Plain and simple, it doesn't matter to the Flyers who is or isn't playing on the other side. The debacle against the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets last Saturday happened with the Blue Jackets missing a staggering 10 regulars from their lineup and their No. 3 goaltender on the depth chart in net.

The Devils, regardless of their underachieving and injury-riddled season, are a better hockey club than a team like Columbus. They still have more-than-sufficient personnel to beat the Flyers if Philly isn't prepared to play from opening faceoff to final buzzer.

The likes of Nico Hischier, Jesper Bratt, Timo Meier,Dawson Mercer, young forward Alexander Holtz, veteran Erik Haula, defenseman Luke Hughes and others are all capable of burning the Flyers. Within the game on Saturday, the Philly must stay every bit as focused against New Jersey's top available players as they were against "gauntlet" opponents such as David Pastrnak, Auston Matthews, Andrei Svechnikov, Artemi Panarin and Kreider.

That said, as long as the Flyers play the right way on Saturday, they can be helped by the fact that New Jersey is missing game-breaking forward Jack Hughes and star defenseman Dougie Hamiliton from their lineup. Curtis Lazar and agitator Nathan Bastian are also among the ranks of unavailable New Jersey players.

Goaltending has been a sore spot for the Devils most of the season. The club acquired Jake Allen to at least somewhat alleviate the issue. However, it's likely that goaltending will be a top priority in New Jersey's offseason shopping list.