No NHL team has ever reached 100 points and failed to make the Stanley Cup playoffs.
That could change this season in the powerful Eastern Conference.
The Flyers just hope it isn’t them.
“Every year, it seems we make some f—ing history,” right winger Jake Voracek said the other day. “It wouldn’t be pretty.”
Three years ago, the Flyers became the first team in NHL history to win 10 straight during a season in which they failed to make the playoffs.
Two years ago, they became the fourth team to ever lose 10 straight and make the playoffs.
Last season, they set a dubious NHL record by using eight goalies.
Some NHL team may get to triple digits this season and, somehow, not get to play in the most intense, grueling tournament in any of the four major sports.
Entering the weekend, the Flyers were on pace to collect 99 points, but they were out of a playoff spot. That’s because the East — and especially the Metropolitan Division — has an abundance of high-quality contenders. Four points separated six teams battling for some of the lower playoff spots.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, 96 is the most points recorded by a team that failed to make the playoffs. It was done three times — by Boston in 2014-15, Florida in 2017-18, and Montreal last season.
The top three teams in each division earn playoff berths, as do two wild-card teams from each conference.
“You try not to do much scoreboard-watching, but you come back from the All-Star break and every game, it seems you can either go to third place or be out of the playoffs, depending on the results of that night’s games,” center Kevin Hayes said.
He’s right. The Flyers, for instance, could have jumped into a virtual tie for third place in the Metro with a win Thursday and a regulation loss by the Islanders.
Instead, the Isles rallied past the Kings, 5-3, while the Flyers were jolted by New Jersey, 5-0. The defeat dropped the Flyers out of a wild-card spot.
“You can’t get too high, you can’t get too low,” Hayes said. “You win a couple games and all of a sudden you’re in third. Or if you lose two in a row, you could be out of a playoff spot. You just have to keep an even keel.”
Starting with Saturday in Washington against the powerful Capitals, the Flyers’ next seven games are against strong Eastern Conference playoff contenders: Washington, Florida, the Islanders, Florida (again), Tampa Bay, and Columbus (twice).
That key stretch, which includes five games on the road, will probably determine if general manager Chuck Fletcher tries to make a minor or major move before the Feb. 24 trade deadline.
In a sense, it feels like the playoffs have already started. Every shift is magnified. Every game is critical. That’s why the dud against New Jersey was so puzzling, especially since it occurred at the Wells Fargo Center, where the Flyers have been dominating.
For the rest of the season, “I feel like we’re fighting for our lives,” rookie defenseman Phil Myers said. “If we let our guard down just for one or two games, that could make the difference in making the playoffs or not. We have to show up every night. We just have to stick together as a team. I really believe in the guys in here.”
“You have to concentrate on your own team and get as many points as you can and the highest seed you can get,” defenseman Ivan Provorov said. “Every division game is a four-point game.”
After the stunning blowout loss to the Devils, Flyers coach Alain Vigneault made a strong proclamation: “I will reaffirm that we’re getting into the playoffs,” he said. “ … Once you’re one of the 16 teams, your chances are as good as anybody’s. St. Louis proved that beyond a shadow of a doubt last year.”
Claude Giroux kidded that he looked at the standings “two or three times a day to see if they changed,” but he knows his reputation as a captain is connected to getting into the playoffs and winning a series for the first time since 2012.
“Every team that’s going to get in is going to play some good hockey from now on,” he said.
The Flyers have 28 games left, including 20 against Eastern Conference teams and 12 against Metro opponents.
“The best time to play hockey,” Giroux said “is when you’re playing against your rivals.”
The Flyers entered the weekend with an impressive 20-7-5 record against the East, so they get a mulligan for the embarrassing loss to the Devils.