The Florida Panthers’ requirements to make it to the playoffs after Thursday seemed simple.
If they won both of their final games — Saturday at home against Buffalo and Sunday on the road against Boston — and the Philadelphia Flyers to lost in regulation Saturday against the New York Rangers, it should be enough to advance Florida to the playoffs in almost every case.
The NHL announced Friday that there is indeed one scenario that, while improbable, could result in the Flyers and Panthers playing a tiebreaker game — essentially a playoff game to make the playoffs — on Tuesday. Should this happen, it would be the first time in NHL history that a tiebreaker game would determine a team’s Stanley Cup playoff fate.
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▪ The Flyers lose in regulation Saturday by exactly two goals.
▪ The Panthers win both of their final games by shootout.
If this scenario happens exactly like this — and again, it’s improbable — the Panthers and Flyers will be tied in total points (96), wins determined in overtime and regulation (39), head-to-head matchup (1-1 series split, because the NHL does not count the first matchup at a site where teams played twice) and goal differential (+1).
So who would move on to the playoffs if this scenario plays out? That will be determined by a one-game, winner-take-all tiebreaker game. The home team would be determined by “an equally weighted draw” after the Panthers’ game Sunday. Playoff rules will also be in effect — meaning sudden-death, five-on-five overtime periods if the game is tied at the end of regulation.
So hang on to your seatbelts. The next two days could be a wild ride.
Or not. The Flyers play at 3 p.m. Saturday, so the Panthers’ playoff fate could already be sealed before they play that day.