Flyers making playoff point

ASSOCIATED PRESS Steve Mason withstood an onslaught by the Maple Leafs early in Saturday night's overtime loss.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Steve Mason withstood an onslaught by the Maple Leafs early in Saturday night's overtime loss.
Posted: March 11, 2014

MICHAEL RAFFL said it Saturday night - and it has become sports cliche.

"The point is huge," Raffl said. "Every point is important."

Yet, in the NHL, it is the nightly reality. And the Stanley Cup playoff cut line - the line between making and missing out on millions of dollars in revenue - is razor thin.

For the Flyers, who have garnered at least one point in nine of their last 11 games, the playoff picture is becoming more in-focus with each and every game. Their magic number is now in their sights.

As it stands now, the Flyers' playoff chances are north of 70 percent, according to playoffstatus.com.

Through last night's games, the minimum estimated number of points required for a playoff position is 93 points. Getting to 94 points would all but guarantee a berth.

The Flyers have 73 points through 64 games. That means with 18 games to go, the Flyers must net 20 points to avoid going back-to-back springs without playoff hockey for the first time since 1994.

Records of 9-7-2, 10-8-0, 8-6-4, or even 7-5-6 between now and April 13 would do it. For a team that is 29-14-6 over its last 49 games, anything less than 20 out of their remaining 36 points would be an utter collapse.

Cap changing?

When the NHL's 30 general managers convene today in Boca Raton, Fla., for their annual March meeting, one topic Paul Holmgren will keep a close eye on is next year's salary-cap figure.

In December, the NHL projected the salary cap will rise from $64.3 million this year to $71.1 million next season. However, Kings GM Dean Lombardi told the Los Angeles Times this week that he and his colleagues were advised the cap could come in as low as $68 million next year depending on the Canadian dollar.

One American dollar was worth 90 cents Canadian yesterday - with the Canadian dollar continuing to fall in recent months after being close to par last year.

Players are paid in American dollars, even if they play in one of the NHL's seven Canadian markets. With those teams earning revenue in Canadian dollars, you could see why that would be a losing proposition right now - like it was as recently as 8 years ago, when it was 70 cents to the dollar.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, though, said in an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review last week that the Canadian dollar won't affect the salary cap.

"It won't, because this system was designed to compute hockey-related revenue [HRR] and all other things in U.S. dollars," Bettman said. "We had a lot of experience back in the late 1990s and early 2000s when the Canadian teams were struggling. The combination of the way we compute HRR and revenue sharing is all based on the U.S. dollar, so we've accounted for [Canadian dollar fluctuation]."

With Kimmo Timonen, Ray Emery and Steve Downie off the books - and before deals for Andrew MacDonald and Brayden Schenn - the Flyers have just $53.5 million committed to next season.

In addition to the cap, the GMs are expected to make a recommendation to the NHL's competition committee on any possible changes as they related to overtime.

General managers would like to cut down on the number of games to reach the shootout, which is about 13.3 percent of all games since it was instituted in 2005. Red Wings GM Ken Holland has sought to add another 5-minute session of three-on-three play if the first 5 minutes of overtime at four-on-four do not produce a winner.

Blues GM Doug Armstrong prefers simply a longer four-on-four session. Sharks GM Doug Wilson is recommending no change in length, but rather to have teams change ends of attack after the third period so both teams have to cover a large amount of ice when changing players.

"I don't know how many minutes it'll end up being - the total minutes in overtime," Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford told the Canadian Press. "That's really where the big discussion will come. But I think the fact that this has been discussed for a few years now, I think it's gaining some momentum going into this meeting."

By the way, one agenda item not expected to garner a lot of attention is an attempt to curb goaltender fighting. That was a big subject at the last meeting in November in Toronto, just days after Emery's pummeling of Braden Holtby on Nov. 1.

"Really, they're so rare, aren't they? That was an isolated [incident]," Coyotes GM Don Maloney told the Canadian Press. "If we start to see goalie fights every other game, yeah, OK, maybe there's a problem. But I don't see it being a big problem. That was a one-time incident nobody liked . . . so I don't see a real mandate to start over-regulating the game in that area."

Slap shots

The Flyers had a complete day off yesterday . . . Craig Berube praised Steve Mason and stuck with him after he allowed two goals on his first four shots faced in 3:38 ambush to start Saturday's game in Toronto. Berube wasn't especially interested in summoning backup Cal Heeter off the bench to make his NHL debut in that situation . . . Ray Emery is still officially listed as "day-to-day" with his lower-body injury.


On Twitter: @DNFlyers

Blog: ph.ly/FrequentFlyers

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