Originally posted on Philly Sports Live  |  Last updated 4/22/12

The Philadelphia Flyers wanted to be done with the first round while everyone else in the Eastern Conference beat themselves up. But now that Flyers fans like myself are panicking over the Pittsburgh Penguins rallying back, it is harder to pay attention to the rest of the East – or to envision potential second round matchups.

Yet after April 21, it is very hard to ignore how the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins – the two toughest potential obstacles for the Flyers other than the Penguins – are suddenly on the brink of elimination. As such, Philadelphia truly needs to eliminate Pittsburgh now in Game 6 on April 22 – especially since its chances for an actual conference title are getting so much better.

Despite losing almost all of a 3-0 series lead, the Flyers are still on the brink of being in a great position. If all the Eastern Conference battles ended after April 21, then the Flyers, Florida Panthers, Washington Capitals and Ottawa Senators would make the next round – while the Rangers and Bruins would be gone.

The defending Stanley Cup champions – and the Flyers’ biggest past playoff nemesis – were put on the brink by the Capitals in a 4-3 loss on April 20. Although the Capitals never won anything as a top seed in recent years, they are a win away from shocking the Bruins as a No. 7 seed. But that wouldn’t nearly be as shocking as what the Senators are doing to the Rangers.

Despite not playing with a lead in the first four games of their series, the Senators marched into New York and took a 3-2 lead over the top seeded Rangers with a 2-0 Game 5 win. Shockingly, Ottawa is a win away from eliminating the best team in the East – to the great relief of Philadelphia.

If the Rangers are gone, the Flyers won’t have to worry about facing a team it went 0-6 against this season. And if the Bruins are also gone, the Flyers will avoid the team that swept them out last season and had its way with Philadelphia this year as well. If all of that happens, the possibilities are endless – should Philadelphia actually advance itself.
If the first round started now, the Flyers would actually have home ice advantage in the next series against none other than the Capitals – while the Panthers would become the new top seed and host the Senators. In a final four like that, the Flyers would suddenly become a solid favorite to reach the Stanley Cup finals – especially if they finally do away with the Penguins in Game 6.

Considering all of that, it would be even more inexcusable to lose Game 6 and then likely lose the series in a Game 7. Even as the Flyers implode, the road to the Stanley Cup is getting more and more wide open for them. All they have to do is take advantage and finally get rid of the Penguins – then hopefully the Senators and Capitals can finish eliminating their next greatest foes for them.

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