If the NHL wants to turn non-believers into fans, it wouldn’t hurt to have every game turn out like the ones between the Winnipeg Jets and Philadelphia Flyers. But given the impossibility of that happening, I’d gladly settle for seeing the two duke it out in a first-round playoff series.
The two teams met for the fourth absurdly entertaining time this season on Tuesday night, with Philadelphia pulling out a 5-4 win in overtime. The Flyers sent the game into extra time in improbable fashion when Wayne Simmonds scored with 10 seconds left off an incredible feed from James van Riemsdyk, then won in overtime on a goal by the former owner of the greatest Euromullet in history, Jaromir Jagr.
Other than the late heroics, it would be hard to argue that the Flyers outplayed the Jets. Winnipeg goalie Ondrej Pavelec stopped 50 shots, and the Jets were 3-for-3 on the power play.
As entertaining as the game was, it’s merely par for the course for these two teams.
When they met in late October, Winnipeg pulled out a preposterous 9-8 win in which seven combined goals were scored in the third period. The game was so awesome that Jets forward and former Blackhawks Stanley Cup hero Andrew Ladd compared it to a game of “Blades of Steel.” (Obviously a game of NHL ’93 would have been cooler, but no one made Gretzky’s head bleed).
The second meeting in November wasn’t quite as high-scoring, but that is speaking in very relative terms since the Jets won 6-4 in a game that wasn’t put to bed until less than two minutes remained.
The January game didn’t feature much scoring but there was no lack of excitement as the Jets eked out a 2-1 win in a shootout.
Unfortunately, we won’t be able to see the Jets and Flyers meet again unless it is in the playoffs. The good news is there’s actually a chance, and we aren’t talking “Dumb and Dumber” odds. In fact, it is totally conceivable.
Because they are still playing in the Southeast Division as a result of their late relocation from Atlanta, the Jets find themselves with the league’s easiest path to the playoffs. Somebody’s got to win the damn thing, and as it stands Winnipeg is tied with Florida atop the division with 65 points while Washington lurks behind with 63.
Despite only being tied for the seventh-best point total in the Eastern Conference, the Southeast winner will still land the No. 3 seed in the playoffs — and as of today, the Flyers and Penguins are deadlocked for that spot though Philly has an inside track on the 5-seed with a game at hand.
Of course, there is still a full quarter of the season to be completed before the playoffs are actually set. But it’s not too early to know that the unlikely combination of Philadelphia and Winnipeg has the potential to be one for the ages.