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Ville Leino #22, Jeff Carter #17 and Ian Laperriere #14 of the Philadelphia Flyers celebrate after defeating the Montreal Canadiens by a score of 3-0 to win Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bell Centre on May 22, 2010 in Montreal, Canada. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) (Jim McIsaac/2010 Getty Images)
Ville Leino #22, Jeff Carter #17 and Ian Laperriere #14 of the Philadelphia Flyers celebrate after defeating the Montreal Canadiens by a score of 3-0 to win Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bell Centre on May 22, 2010 in Montreal, Canada. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) (Jim McIsaac/2010 Getty Images)

How did the 18th-place Flyers make the finals? Add to ...

It's really not that often that a team finishes 18th overall in the league standings and ends up within four wins of a title, in any sport, but that's where the Philadelphia Flyers are at the moment.

My guess, actually, is that it's never happened - something I'm checking into at the moment.

Part of the answer is that it's luck. Attribute some of it to parity, too, especially in the much weaker Eastern Conference.

Statistically, you can see where Philadelphia's improved in the playoffs pretty easily and that tells us a little about their chances in the final. Here's a comparison of what the Flyers did in the regular season and the posteason to this point:



..........



Regular season

Playoffs

Difference



Games played

82

17





Goals for / game

2.83

3.18

0.35



Goals against / game

2.71

2.12

-0.59



Shots for / game

31.6

27.5

-4.1



Shots against / game

28.6

28.5

-0.1



Shooting %

9.0%

11.6%

2.6%



Save %

.905

.926

.021



PIM / game

16.6

11.9

-4.7



PP%

21.5%

20.7%

-0.7%



PK%

83.0%

87.0%

4.0%



PPs / game

3.9

4.8

0.9



PKs / game

4.1

4.5

0.4

So, on a very basic level, the Flyers are scoring more goals and allowing considerably fewer, which is a good recipe for success. What hasn't changed significantly is the number of shots they're generating (they're actually down four per game) or allowing.

You'll note that I've bolded Philadelphia's playoff shooting and save percentage, as that's where a huge portion of their improvement has come. During the season, the Flyers were an average team in shooting percentage and slightly below average in save percentage, but so far in the postseason, they're second (to the Canucks) in shooting and first in save percentage.

Philadelphia's marks there are so impressive they would have led the league in both during the season. Had the Flyers been that potent a shooting team, for example, they would have scored 70 more goals and finished second behind only the Capitals in the 300 range (as it was, they only scored 232).

What does that mean in terms of competing with the Blackhawks?

In my opinion, even if they can continue to score at that rate, Philadelphia's going to need to get outstanding goaltending from Michael Leighton to win this series - and that's an iffy bet. He has a .902 career save percentage but is .948 so far in these playoffs, and that not likely sustainable.

Those numbers are going to come down, especially against a team like Chicago which heavily outshot its opponents all season (far more so than any other team in the league), and that will likely be too much for the Flyers to overcome.

If Leighton falls apart early, this will be a short series. If he continues to play excellent, things get a little more interesting.

Follow on Twitter: @mirtle

 

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