VOORHEES, N.J. – In case there was any doubt that these Flyers aren’t aware enough of the position they are in as they stand on the precipice of a home-and-home series with New Jersey, Iyla Bryzgalov pretty much confirmed their recognition.
“If you check the standings [the Devils] are four points ahead of us and have one game in hand,” Bryzgalov said. “If you win both games, you’re tied with them and you have a good chance to continue to battle for the playoffs. If you lose both games, you’re done. You’re done. That’s it.
“This is it. This is probably the reality. You’re going to be eight points behind with … not many games left to catch up. It’s going to be very difficult. It wouldn’t depend on you but it would depend on how the other teams do. That’s how important these games are.”
Two games with the season on the line against the hated Devils. In a lot of ways, it’s like bonus playoff hockey… in March.
“We’re facing a team that’s four points ahead of us and a lot of teams have games in hand, so yeah, it’s a huge two games for us,” Danny Briere said. “We said that last week about the three games and we went 0-for-3. We’re putting ourselves in a tougher position every week. If we would have done well last week we would have probably said we would be happy with a split [of these two games]. But we won’t be happy with a split at this time. We need to win both games.”
Coach Peter Laviolette agrees too, but he doesn’t want his team to get ahead of itself.
“We have to start with one,” he said. “I don’t like to coach two games [at once]. You can’t play both. You can only play one. Bryz has a valid point because it’s a big week because the Devils are a team we need to be successful against. Not only would it help us to climb out of the hole we are in, but it will also help us catch the teams directly in front of us.
“He has a valid point, but we will shift our focus to the one game in New Jersey [tomorrow] and then reload when we get back home [Friday].”
And the Flyers will have no excuses any longer. Everyone is healthy and well-rested. The schedule has lightened considerably as the Flyers are in the midst of a schedule that has just three games in a span of 13 days.
That’s a lot of time off. Which means that the magnitude of each of the three games is even more paramount than usual.
Because, when this quirk in the schedule is over, the Flyers will resume play with another war in Pittsburgh followed by a five-game homestand that includes games against the New York Rangers, Boston, and Eastern Conference –leading Montreal.
Those six games happen in a span of 10 days and lead right up to the April 3 trade deadline.
So the Flyers need to know where they stand heading into that 10-day stretch, and how they play against the Devils this week, and next Monday in Tampa will go a long way in letting them know.
Each game will have a sense of do or die for the Flyers and will present different challenges.
“Whatever you call it we need to win the games,” Bryzgalov said. “That’s it. We need to win. That’s the challenge.”
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37