The Philadelphia Flyers clinched a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs Saturday by beating the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1.
By the time the Flyers took the ice on Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center, they knew exactly what they had to do to punch their ticket to the 2016 NHL poistseason.
Thanks to losses by both the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings, all the Flyers had to do was get two points in their last two games and they were in.
Their hated cross state rivals the Penguins were going to sit both center Sidney Crosby and defenseman Kris Letang, so if they were going to get those two points, it seemed like there was no better time than the present.
And that’s exactly what they did, beating the Penguins 3-1 and ensuring their place in the Stanley Cup Playoffs after missing last season and avoiding missing the postseason in consecutive years for the first time since the early 1990s.
Wayne Simmonds scored goals 31 and 32 on the season and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare locked up the victory with an empty-net goal late in the third.
The Flyers now prepare to face the No. 1 seeded Washington Capitols. The Orange and Black went 2-2-0 against the Capitols during the regular season, with the two wins coming in overtime and a shootout.
Considering the Flyers weren’t even supposed to make the postseason, fans have to be thrilled with the way the team has played over the last few months. Before the season started, GM Ron Hextall warned everyone that the playoffs weren’t the priority in what many thought of as a rebuilding year. The Flyers spent most of the season shedding expensive contracts and grooming prospects for a brighter future.
But the addition of Shayne Gostisbehere to the roster lit a spark under this team and the wins started to come easier and easier. Before anyone knew it, talk of a wildcard berth started and now it has become a reality.
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Does this Flyers club have a realistic chance against the NHL-leading Capitols? Maybe, maybe not. But if The Ghost continues to play like he has and Steve Mason can play like he has over his last 17 starts (10-4-3) then who knows? The Flyers may have a shot.
As they have proven all year long, never count this club out.
The Flyers have one more game this coming Sunday against the New York Islanders before the Stanley Cup playoffs begin Wednesday, April 13, 2016.