BUFFALO -- The numbers, as well as the opportunities, are dwindling.
Washington’s win on Wednesday night, in their second-to-last game of the season, has put the Flyers in a must-win scenario to win the Eastern Conference.
The Capitals magic number to close out the Flyers has been cut down to 1 point, meaning the Flyers can finish no better than No. 2 if they do not win their remaining two games - on Friday night in Buffalo and Saturday against the Islanders.
If the Flyers win both of those games, however, and the Capitals somehow fall in South Florida on Saturday night - against a team that they just beat 5-2 on Wednesday - the Flyers would win the No. 1 seed based on tiebreakers.
So, there is hope for those wishing for the No. 1 seed.
But it’s dwindled from an 88 percent probability to just 6 percent in 9 days, according to PlayoffStatus.com.
“Sometimes when you’re excited for something up the road, you forget about what’s happening in the present,” Mike Richards said.
The Flyers’ best shot, still, is to win the Atlantic and finish in second place, at 50 percent. They can still finish as low as 5th place, but also have a 27 percent shot to finish in 4th and face Tampa Bay.
For most of the Flyers, though, the standings aren’t the worry. They want to be playing well when the final buzzer sounds on Saturday night.
“I think it’s important that we find our game overall,” Claude Giroux said Wednesday in a league-wide conference call. “I think the next two games are going to be huge for us. Maybe it's a good thing that we're not playing good. Maybe it's going to be a wake-up call and guys are going to play better after. But obviously we want that first place so we can have home ice advantage for the first three rounds.”
THE WRATH OF HOMER: If you missed our story in Thursday’s Daily News, read about general manager Paul Holmgren’s closed door meeting with the Flyers on Wednesday here.
DEPTH AT DEFENSE? There was one minor detail at Wednesday’s practice that didn’t make most of Thursday’s papers, with so much else going on... but defenseman Nick Boynton was skating in a yellow, non-contact jersey.
Boynton has sat out each of the last two games, including Sunday, in which he was listed as a healthy scratch. Boynton said, though, that he has been struggling with an upper-body injury that is in his “back or shoulder region.”
“It’s been a while that it’s been like this, so I figured I would rest it a little bit so I can play whenever they need me,” Boynton said. “It’s probably something that’s been going on for a while. It could’ve been 10 years ago, not one hit that I particularly remember. Just a wear and tear thing, but it’s been consistently sore.”
With Chris Pronger out, and Oskars Bartulis still sidelined from a February shoulder surgery, Danny Syvret has taken advantage of an opportunity to fill a gap with Boynton and Erik Gustafsson offering less than flattering auditions in the sixth defenseman role.
“It’s really a chance for me to showcase myself and prove to myself and everyone that I can play in this league,” Syvret said on Tuesday in Ottawa. “They haven’t really seen me play this much this year, but it was a good boost of confidence to be able to play late in the third period and in overtime [against the Rangers], it was something that I wasn’t really expecting.”
Syvret, who was closing in on the Phantoms’ points lead with 10 goals and 30 assists as a mobile defenseman, even had the puck on his stick with less than a minute left in overtime on Sunday. With 57 NHL games under his belt, Syvret said he doesn’t flinch in pressure situations.
“I’m a pretty relaxed player,” Syvret said. “If I put too much pressure on myself, I tend to grip my stick to tight and I don’t make plays that I should be able to make.
Those are exactly the plays the Flyers need him to make: nothing earth-shattering, just steady.
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