It was one day before the NHL trade deadline on March 7 when the Flyers started a gauntlet of games. Nine of 10 against playoff opponents, including the final seven in a row.

Gaining 10 points over those 10 games seemed like a solid benchmark to retain a playoff spot, as the teams chasing the Flyers assuredly had easier schedules. The Flyers went 4-4-2 in the 10 games and 2-3-2 in the seven straight against playoff teams.

Ten games, 10 points. The Flyers have a one-point advantage over the Washington Capitals for third place in the Metro, and a three-point edge on the Detroit Red Wings for the final playoff spot. Sure enough, 10 points was just enough to maintain a playoff spot the team has held since Dec. 4.

With that, nine games remain on the 2023-24 regular season schedule. At present, seven of them will be against non-playoff teams. The goal is simple: for the Flyers to make the playoffs, they simply have to take care of their own business. They have to finish this regular season schedule the way they have handled the first 73 games.

But the gauntlet also showed examples of finishing that stand out. Finishing in terms of lack of scoring at times, getting chances, taking shots on goal, but not finding the finish to equate to the scoreboard.

In seven of the last 10 games, the Flyers have scored three goals or less, indicative of playoff hockey and the added intensity that comes with it. In four of the 10 games, they allowed at least six goals.

On the surface, surpassing four goals allowed or more in half of these games and six or more in 40 percent would indicate they can’t keep up with the competition. However, a closer look at the way these games played out shows otherwise. The Flyers can very much hang in with any competition, no matter what the standings say. It’s in the finish.

Take a look at the scoring breakdown by period. In the first period of these 10 games, the Flyers were out-scored 10-3, largely due to a 4-0 deficit against Tampa Bay and a 3-0 deficit against Toronto. In the other eight games of the gauntlet, scoring in the first period was even, 3-3. In the second period, they out-scored opponents 10-8 over the 10 games. But in the third period, while scoring 14 goals of their own, they allowed 20 to the opposition. In four of the 10 games, they allowed three or more goals in the third period.

That assuredly left points on the table for the Flyers during this 10-game stretch. So while they will certainly take the 10 points earned and remain in a playoff spot still with nine games to go, watching a 2-2 game through two periods against Boston or a 2-1 lead against the Rangers go from a classic, playoff-style battle to shootout is hardly a recipe for success.

Against the gauntlet of teams and the star power they possess, there are going to be goals allowed. That’s inevitable. But the rate at which the Flyers were allowing games to suddenly fall off the rails, turn into a style that they don’t want to play, that doesn’t fit their identity, is alarming.

Which brings about the opportunity the Flyers have in front of them. With nine games to go, the schedule becomes more favorable. As much as the Flyers allowed 38 goals over the 10-game stretch, some of them lopsided results, they battled in many of those games. They deserved a point in Boston. They earned points in Carolina and New York.

That will to battle back, to never believe a game is out of reach, can only help against opponents with much less to play for at this time of year. These will be equally challenging games as these opponents look to spoil the party for the Flyers.

But just as the calendar prepares to flip to April, and the final two weeks of the NHL season arrive, the Flyers begin this portion of the schedule with a chance to earn separation, or at least put the pressure back on the teams trailing them.

The Flyers' surprising ride to a playoff position has moved along for 73 games so far. Finish. Finish the job over the last nine games, and the Flyers officially exceed any expectations many had for them at the start of the season.

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