Just as things played out fairly well during their 2010 run to the Stanley Cup Finals, the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs could be shaping up rather nicely for the Philadelphia Flyers.
With all three of the other series still ongoing, potential upsets are the flavor of the early going. As such, the possibilities for Philadelphia's second round matchup are fairly broad at this point, with all six of the remaining teams in the East all in the mix:
- Down in their series, 3-2, the East's top-seeded New York Rangers are in a do-or-die situation tonight in Ottawa against the Senators, and will be attempting to force a Game 7 back at Madison Square Garden on Thursday. Against NYR -- The Flyers were swept by the conference winners, posting a miserable 0-6 record against the Rangers. Against Sens -- Philly finished 2-1-1, winning the first two, then dropping the last pair.
- The reigning Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins will take on the Washington Capitals in a winner-takes-all Game 7 on Wednesday night at TD Garden in Beantown. The Bruins won Game 6 in Washington on Sunday to set up the series decider, a second consecutive year Boston will be taken to the limit in the opening round. Against Boston -- Philly ended up 1-1-2 against the Bruins, winning the first, being demolished in the second, and dropping shootout decisions in the last two. Against Washington -- After dropping the first meeting in October, Philadelphia won the last three, including two intense, playoff-style tilts in March.
- Having made the postseason for the first time since 2000, the Florida Panthers can close out the New Jersey Devils in Game 6 of their series tonight at the Prudential Center in Newark. Against Florida -- The Flyers finished 3-1 against the Cats, including a split of the last two meetings, both of which were played at the Wells Fargo Center in March. Against NJ -- Philly won the season series over their division rivals, 3-2-1. There were a couple of truly ugly efforts from the Orange-and-Black, bookended by a pair of 3-0 shutouts.
Some looked at Philadelphia's first-round matchup with the Pittsburgh Penguins as something of a curse. By finishing fifth overall in the East, the Flyers got one of the toughest teams in the entire league as their opening round dance partner.
Although haunted by their arch-rivals from Pittsburgh pretty much since Sidney Crosby entered the NHL -- including losing to the Pens in playoff meetings in 2008 and 2009 -- the Flyers haven't had nearly as much trouble with the Pens over the course of the past two seasons.
Philadelphia finished the six-game regular season set with a 4-2 record, with a 2-1 mark both home and away. Their play at the CONSOL Energy Center has been nothing short of tremendous, as they won all seven meetings in Steel City until the last game of the season, when Peter Laviolette rested Claude Giroux and Ilya Bryzgalov because the contest meant nothing in the standings.
The fourth-ranked Penguins had a late season head of steam, sporting an 11-game winning streak in March, which was snapped by the Flyers. With the come-from-behind nature of most of Philly's victories over the Penguins in their spring matchups, the Flyers no doubt had a brimming confidence heading into round one.
That positive energy was intensified with two improbable comebacks in Games 1 and 2 in Pittsburgh, on the way to a sometimes wild six-game series triumph in one of the more memorable NHL series in the last couple of years..
The victory over the Pens is somewhat reminiscent of their 2010 first round win against New Jersey. Philadelphia seemed to own the Devils during the year, then continued that momentum with a 4-1 defeat of NJ in the first round.
While the Flyers mounted a comeback for the ages against Boston in the conference semifinals, overcoming an 0-3 deficit to take the series in seven, two of Philadelphia's tougher opponents -- the Capitals and Penguins, both of whom the club had struggled with during the regular season -- were each knocked out by Jaroslav Halak and the upstart Montreal Canadiens.
Having dodged Washington and Pittsburgh, Philly blew through the Habs in five hard-fought tilts to head to their first Cup final appearance since 1997, before eventually losing to the Chicago Blackhawks in six.
In what has been a very strange opening couple of weeks to the 2012 postseason, and although the club has a growing confidence that they can beat anyone in the league at the moment, the cards may once again be falling into place for a deep Philadelphia playoff run.
For a list of the Flyers potential second round opponents, click here for all of the possible scenarios.