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Philadelphia Flyers Prepared to Challenge the Crown

Philadelphia Flyers' Shayne Gostisbehere (53), Wayne Simmonds (17) and Brayden Schenn (10) celebrate after Schenn's goal against Washington Capitals' Braden Holtby (70) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Wednesday, March 30, 2016, in Philadelphia. Philadelphia won 2-1 in a shootout. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

With six games remaining and a game in hand on the Detroit Red Wings, the Philadelphia Flyers look like a lock to make the postseason.  Yes, the Flyers are only two points ahead of the Wings but with the way this team is playing, a playoff appearance is all but certain.  Philadelphia continued their torrid pace Wednesday with a shootout win over the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington Capitals.

Washington, who has not lost back-to-back games in regulation this entire season, claimed the league’s best record on Monday with a win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.  On the other hand, Philadelphia struggled mightily to begin the season, but has picked up steam down the stretch to make an improbable playoff run.

Since the All-Star Break, the Flyers have been every big as good as the Capitals.  Over that 29-game stretch, Philadelphia has gone 17-7-5 while claiming 39 of a possible 58 points.  Over the same period, Washington went 19-8-2 for 40 points.

Head Coach Dave Hakstol praised his team’s effort after Nick Cousins and Sam Gagner sealed the 2-1 victory with a pair of shootout goals, “Tonight is a nice step forward.  We’re excited with the way our group is playing.  We needed those points.”

On the other side of the ice, the Capitals cannot be happy with their performance.  If the playoffs began today, these two teams would be preparing for a potential seven-game war against one another.  Washington had the opportunity to demoralize a Flyers squad teeming with playoff energy, but instead reinforced the belief that they can compete once the real season begins.

Head Coach Barry Trotz seemed to brush the loss off as a bad night.  “The biggest difference in the two teams is probably the desperation level of Philadelphia,” Trotz said. “Ours probably wasn’t as high and it probably shouldn’t be, human nature and all that.”

However, with Washington’s history of collapsing in the playoffs, the team should be a little more concerned.  The Capitals are still a tremendous team and have all the makings of a Stanley Cup Champion but the Flyers have caught fire at the perfect time and the impact of momentum should never be underestimated.

As Brayden Schenn describes, this team is hungry and ready for the postseason.  Schenn said, “We’ve been scratching and clawing for a while now. We’ve been playing playoff hockey. As a team, we’re gelling.”

At the beginning of March, the sustainability of this Flyers’ run was still surrounded with uncertainty but now, it appears they are prepared to take Washington to the brink in the first round.

Is there anything better than playoff hockey?

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