The NHL released the schedules for each team Wednesday afternoon. 56 games, playing at home arenas with no fans to start, the season is set to kick off on January 13th. The Flyers open up play that day against their rivals to the west, the Pittsburgh Penguins. The rest of the Flyers schedule is jam-packed, playing games against each division rival typically on an every-other-night basis. 56 games in about four and a half months will be grueling, but it’s a necessary task considering the circumstances.
The Flyers shape up well against their divisional foes. The Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Washington Capitals round out the east division of the NHL. The Flyers held a winning record over Boston, Buffalo, New Jersey, the Rangers, and Washington last season. Only the Islanders got the best of the Flyers in terms of overall record last season.
While this season may be shortened, there will certainly be no shortage of excitement between the Flyers and each divisional opponent. The Flyers are slated to play each team eight times this season. There’s sure to be some bad blood developing as the season wears on. Contentious matchups will become even more brutal than they originally were. With that being said, it’s time to break down the Flyers’ schedule month-by-month and assess just how harsh the slate of games this year could be.
The Flyers open up their schedule with 10 games in 19 days during the month of January. Six of those games come at home and four of them are on the road. While no fans will be attending games, at least initially, home-ice advantage won’t be what it’s been in the past. Philadelphia plays Pittsburgh twice in three days, followed by a back-to-back against Buffalo at home. They visit Boston on the 21st and 23rd. After a two day layoff, they make a stop in New Jersey for two games in three days before returning home to play a back-to-back against the New York Islanders.
All in all, the Flyers January slate appears to be one of the less-difficult months of the season. With four of the 10 games against New Jersey and Buffalo, the Flyers have a good chance at starting strong. They’ll get a big test against the Penguins right off the bat, and end the month with an even bigger task against the Isles. If the Flyers can come out of January with a 6-4-0 record, they could be in decent shape moving into February.
The month of February boasts 12 games in 26 days for the Flyers. They’ll have an even split of home and away games as well. They open February with two games against Boston in three days, then travel down to Washington D.C. to take on the Capitals under the same circumstances. New Jersey visits the Flyers at home two days later for two games in three days, followed by a two day layoff. A home-and-home with the Rangers stretched over three days follows, then two days off. They travel to Boston, come home and plays the Rangers two days after that, then finish the month against Buffalo twice in three days.
February appears to be easier than January. The Flyers take on the Rangers, Sabres, and Devils a total of seven times combined, giving them ample opportunity to boast a winning record for the month. Three games against Boston and two against Washington will prove to be much more difficult, but the Flyers have cracked those codes before. An 8-3-1 record is completely within the realm of possibility, and would put the Flyers at 14-7-1 potentially entering the middle of their schedule.
March will be where fatigue sets in. Averaging a game every other day to this point, the Flyers will start to show it, and it’s par the course. The Flyers struggles midway through the season are well documented, but they’re typically dealt with on the west coast. This year, things are a little different and the Flyers could encounter those struggles closer to home. March boasts the most games of any month on the schedule with 15, and the Flyers will be on the road for nine of them.
The Flyers open up like January with two games against the Penguins, but this time on the road. They battle Boston once before returning home to take on Buffalo and the Caps twice in five days. They then hit the road again, facing the Rangers and Isles, with the second Rangers game and the first Islanders game being a back-to-back. After a two-day layoff, they welcome New Jersey to town, followed by two games against the Rags before closing out the month in Buffalo on a back-to-back.
While the Flyers may enter March playing well, this could be the month they start to slip a bit. Having already faced the Rangers three times until now, they’ll face them a fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh time this month. They’ll face the Islanders for the third and fourth time on the year, and the Penguins as well. Three games against Buffalo and one game against New Jersey may not be enough to cultivate a winning record during the month of March. The Flyers could very well go 6-7-2, putting their overall record at 20-14-3.
Whereas March was full of Flyers/Rangers game, April will be full of Flyers/Islanders games, which isn’t exactly ideal. The Flyers open the month on the road against the Isles, then return home for a back-to-back against Boston. The travel to the island to take on the Isles again before returning home two days later to take on the Sabres. The Flyers then visit Pittsburgh for two games in three days before another back-to-back against the Caps first, then the Islanders. The visit New Jersey and the Rangers following the back-to-back at home, before returning home to face the Isles and Caps. They then close out April against the Devils on the road.
While the Flyers have been historically good in the last full month of the season, it’s tough to compare those years to this one. Four games against the Islanders doesn’t exactly instill a bunch of confidence, and neither does four games split between Boston and Pittsburgh. 14 games in total with equal parts home and away, this month is a crap shoot. The Flyers could come out of the gates hot, or they could continue with their woeful month of March and keep sliding. It only seems fair that they end up splitting the difference and going somewhere in the realm of 7-5-2. Add that to their record to this point, and the Flyers are 27-19-5 entering the last month of the shortened season.
May only has five games on the slate. The Flyers will open up at home against the Devils, then a back-to-back against the Penguins. They finish the season with a back-to-back in Washington against the Capitals. If the Flyers need to finish strong, it’s reasonable to think they can. With recent success against all three teams, there’s no doubt they can get points in three, maybe four of these games. The Flyers could end up going 3-1-1 in these five games, putting their 2020/21 season record at 30-20-6.
The entire schedule is going to be a sprint. One misstep early on could spell doom later on in the season. The Flyers are going to have to keep themselves from falling in any type of hole, especially early on, if they hope to replicate their success from last season. A trio of stretches present quite the challenge, however, or opportunity depending on how you look at it.
March 11th to the 20th
During this 10 day stretch, the Flyers have six games. They take on Washington twice, the Rangers twice, and the Islanders twice. The last Rangers game and the first Islanders game are a back-to-back, and all four games against the New York teams are on the road. The Flyers face one hell of a test during that 10 day span. Those six games could show us what this team is really made of.
April 3rd to the 8th
This six day stretch sees the Flyers playing four games, two being on the road. They take on the Islanders away from home, then come back to Philadelphia for a back-to-back against the Bruins, before traveling back to New York for another matchup against the Isles two days later. It’s only a four game stretch, but the fact that the Flyers struggle against the Isles, and the Bruins are the Bruins, makes for a rough six days.
May 3rd to the 8th
Exactly one month later, the Flyers find themselves in the same type of situation. They have another four games in six days, this time with two back-to-backs. They take on the Penguins at home for their first back-to-back. After two days off, they take on the Capitals in D.C. on a back-to-back to close out the season. This could prove to be the most difficult stretch depending on the position the Flyers are in this late in the season. If they need to win half of those games or more, the pressure will be intense.
The Flyers could realistically go 30-20-6 this season, or better. With the Devils, Sabres, and Rangers in the division, the Flyers have a very good chance at making the playoffs out of the East division. The big test will come when the Flyers have to prove that they can beat the Islanders. They went 0-2-1 against them in the regular season last year, and 3-7-1 against them including the playoffs. If they continue to struggle, it could be worrisome for Philadelphia’s playoff chances.
The Flyers didn’t do much in the off-season aside from signing another blue-liner in Erik Gustafsson. That added depth may be more beneficial than many think considering the frequency of games. People will need days off to recover. Pair Gustafsson’s signing with the Flyers’ depth at forward, and you have a team that’s built to get to the playoffs. Whether they’re built to make a run remains to be seen.
Photo Credit – Nicole Fridling/Icon Sportswire