Forget all the scenarios. Forget the numerous ways for the Flyers to earn a spot in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The easiest way is for them to take care of business and beat the visiting New York Rangers on Saturday afternoon.
Fact is, they can even lose the game and qualify for the postseason, provided the game goes beyond regulation.
The Flyers have one-regular season game left, and their magic number to earn a playoff berth is one point. (If they lose in regulation Saturday, they will get into the playoffs if Florida doesn’t win its last two games.)
They seemed ultra-focused at practice Friday in Voorhees, excited about the task at hand.
“Obviously you would have liked to have clinched by now, but if we win tomorrow or get a point, we’re in,” defenseman Andrew MacDonald said. “We control everything. Obviously, we have to go out and get the job done. … The boys are looking forward to the opportunity.”
“It’s a great feeling and the fact that it comes down to the last game is even better,” winger Michael Raffl said. “It’s a a great feeling [that] we don’t have to hope that anyone else loses or wins, so you control your own destiny, and that’s all you can ask for at this point.”
The Flyers (41-26-14) are 2-1 against the Rangers this season, having scored a 4-3 win in their latest meeting, March 22 at the Wells Fargo Center.
New York (34-38-9), whose lineup is stocked with numerous players who played in the AHL this season, has lost eight of its last 10. (Warning: The Islanders had lost 16 of their last 19 before beating the Flyers on Tuesday.)
“They’re a highly offensive team and they’re not playing for a whole lot,” defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said of the Rangers. “When you’re playing loose like that, it’s easier to play. Obviously we know what they’re going to bring with their high-end speed and skill. I think if we just match it and play our game, and play passionately, we’ll be fine.”
MacDonald said the Rangers “will try to make plays they wouldn’t normally try. They’ll be loose and trying to create things, but we have to focus on our game and how we’re going to play. If we play strong defensively, that should lead to some good chances for us.”
Henrik Lundqvist (2.95 goals-against average, .915 save percentage) will start for the Rangers and face Brian Elliott (2.73, .908). The Flyers torched Lundqvist and his young, inexperienced defense in a 7-4 win Feb. 18 in New York.
Elliott, the Flyers hope, shook off the rust in his 4-3 win Thursday over Carolina. Elliott, who has recovered from core-muscle surgery, was shaky in his first game since Feb. 10.
“You guys step away from what you do for 7 1/2 weeks and try to come back and do it without a hiccup or two” and that’s difficult, coach Dave Hakstol said. “I thought he did a real good job. … It was good for him to get that game under his belt. I thought he played hard for his teammates and vise versa, and we got the good result.”
Hakstol is expected to play Raffl on the top line again Saturday after he had a goal in Thursday. (Travis Konecny figures to start the game on Val Filppula’s line.)
But if the top line doesn’t produce in the first period, look for Konecny to go back to the top unit. In the last two games against the Rangers — the Flyers won both of them — Konecny and linemate Claude Giroux each had a total of five points. Konecny had three goals and two assists, and Giroux had a goal and four assists.
Giroux’s MVP charge
MVP candidate Giroux is now first in the NHL in assists (68), second in points (99), and third in faceoff percentage (58.6). He needs one point to become the first Flyer to reach the century mark since Eric Lindros in 1995-96.
It’s a nice number, Giroux said, “but the priority is to win the game tomorrow.”
On Friday, an assist was added to Giroux and Brandon Manning for Raffl’s goal in Thursday’s clutch win over the Hurricanes.
In their three games against the Rangers, the Flyers’ power play is 0 for 6, while the Blueshirts’ PP is 1 for 4. … Eight years ago, the Flyers beat Lundqvist in a shootout — Giroux had the winner — to clinch a playoff berth on the last day of the regular season en route to reaching the Stanley Cup Finals.