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Carchidi Column: Do Numbers Support Flyers’ Playoff Quest?

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Samuel Ersson
Flyers goaltender Sam Ersson has been one of the NHL's best rookies this season. Ditto teammate Tyson Foerster, a right winger. Photo: AP.

Along the Philadelphia Flyers’ trail, there are always questions, questions, and more questions.

Here are some interesting ones:

What are the Flyers’ chances of making the playoffs?

Very good.

According to Money Puck, the Flyers have a 74.5 percent chance of reaching the playoffs for the first time in four seasons. They have just a 2.8 percent percent chance of winning the Stanley Cup, but, hey, they are in a rebuilding mode and just getting a whiff of the playoffs is a bonus this year.

Carolina is the Cup favorite at 11.6 percent, per Money Puck. I like Peter Laviolette’s Rangers, who surprisingly only have have a 3.9 percent chance, the 10th-best odds.

How do the schedules compare between the Flyers and the three teams trying to overtake them for third place in the Metropolitan Division, the Devils, Islanders and Capitals?

Advantage, Flyers.

The Devils and Isles each have 64 points and a game in hand on the Flyers (69 points); Washington has 63 points and two games in hand.

Washington has 24 games left, including 14 against teams in playoff spots. New Jersey has 13 of its final 23 games against current playoff teams, while the getting-hot Islanders have 11 of their last 23 games against current playoff teams.

The Flyers have just nine of their final 22 games against teams that are sitting in playoff positions. In other words, barring a collapse, they are playoff bound.

Even if the Flyers don’t finish third, they could sneak into the post-season as one of the conference’s two wild-card entries. As it stands, Detroit (three more points than the Flyers) and Tampa Bay (one more point than the Flyers) are the wild-card teams.

The Philadelphia Flyers have a key game Friday against the hosting Caps, who are on a 4-1-1 run. Interestingly, the Flyers’ final two games of the season are at home against New Jersey and Washington, respectively, so it could be a photo finish.

How do the Flyers’ rookies compare with other first-year players around the league?

Very favorably, thank you.

Heading into Thursday, the sizzling Tyson Foerster had climbed into fourth place among NHL rookies.

He has 14 goals, behind only Chicago’s Connor Bedard (17), Minnesota’s Marco Rossi (17), and Columbus’ Dmitri Voronkov (15).

Foerster, 22, is second among rookies with 118 shots Bedard is the leader with 135.

Among NHL rookies, Foerster is ninth in points (26 in 55 games), while teammate Bobby Brink is 15th in points (19) despite playing in just 39 games. Brink has a plus-8 rating.

When the Calder Trophy votes are tabulated for the rookie of the year, Foerster should be a top-10 candidate. Goalie Sam Ersson could finish in the top three, depending on the rest of the season.

Ersson is first among rookie goaltenders in wins (17) and shutouts (three, tied for No. 1), and he is second in goals-against average (2.55) and third in save percentage (.901).

Believe it or not, the Flyers have never had a rookie-of-the-year winner, though Bill Barber should have beaten the Rangers’ Steve Vickers in 1972-73.

Bedard is this year’s heavy favorite. He leads rookies in goals (17, tied for No. 1) and points (40) despite playing in just 45 games because of injuries.

If the Flyers’ MVP was chosen today, who would it be?

Here are my top three choices in order, subject to change by performances down the stretch:

  1. Travis Konecny: 27 goals, 54 points in 57 games.
  2. Ersson: 17-11-4 record, 2.55 GAA, .901 save percentage.
  3. Owen Tippett: 21 goals in 56 games.

Who has been the Flyers most surprising player, excluding goalies?

Ersson, who has quickly shown he is ready to be the No. 1 goalie, has been the team’s biggest surprise. But if you had to pick a skater, I’d opt for Sean Walker, who has emerged as a top-four defenseman.

Walker is third on the team with a plus-10 rating, is averaging 19:30 a game, and has chipped in with some important offense (six goals) and physicality.

Runnerup: Nick Seeler.

Give me your top three choices.

Sam Carchidi writes a weekly column for Philly Hockey Now. He and Jeff Hare are working on a TV series on the Flyers’ glory days, tentatively called “Bullies.” Carchidi can be reached at samcarchidi55@gmail.com.

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