Editor's note: As the regular season wraps up Sunday, ESPN.com's Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun look at the teams on the bubble and what they need to do to qualify for the postseason dance.
Scott Burnside: Well, the minutes are ticking away on the regular season, and Tuesday night poses another pivotal test for that raggedy group of teams gathered at or near the bottom of the playoff bracket. Five teams have a legitimate shot at three postseason spots, and no team is in a more precarious position than the Philadelphia Flyers, who visit Toronto on Tuesday.
Yes, the Flyers came up with a monster win over Detroit on Sunday, but they still have managed to win just three times in their past 12 outings, and whether they'll admit it or not, the entire team holds its collective breath every time the puck gets near netminder Brian Boucher. And the Leafs are playing as well as they have all season, with points in eight of 10 games. The Flyers were eighth as of Tuesday morning, just two points ahead of the New York Rangers and three points ahead of Atlanta. What say you about this one, my friend?
Pierre LeBrun: As a Flyers fan, know this: Toronto is 10-5-3 since the Olympics, and your team is 7-9-3. So I wouldn't be too overconfident entering Tuesday night's game at the Air Canada Centre. But let's also be fair. How many teams could survive injuries to their top two goalies and leading scorer? The losses of Ray Emery, Michael Leighton and Jeff Carter have been felt. I just don't know how you can expect any team to survive those types of injuries at this time of the season. The Flyers might still make the playoffs, but what kind of impact can you really expect from them once they are there?
Burnside: Agreed, Pierre, although you know my feelings on this. I still believe it was an egregious error by GM Paul Holmgren to put himself in a position at the trade deadline where his best one-two punch in net was Leighton and Boucher. But I digress, as usual. The Leafs might be without Phil Kessel, who will be a game-time decision with some sort of muscle pull. But, as usual, Toronto is playing its best hockey when it doesn't matter anymore. Still, it is impressive if this is some sort of foreshadowing for next season. Remember, GM Brian Burke will have some money to throw around to acquire top players via trade or free agency.
As for the Flyers, they control their own fate. Of course, their fate includes a home-and-home with the New York Rangers on Friday and Sunday. A loss in Toronto coupled with a Rangers win in Buffalo, and the two teams will be tied, with the Rangers holding an extra game. Hold on to your hats, folks.
LeBrun: I spoke with Holmgren this morning, Scotty -- actually during our chat (great timing!) -- and he feels better about his team's play of late.
"We've actually played pretty good the last four games now," Holmgren told ESPN.com. "It hasn't showed up in the win column too much, but we played well against the Devils, Islanders, Montreal and Detroit. We lost to the Islanders because we didn't get very good goaltending. The Montreal game could have gone either way."
If that sounded like he was throwing Boucher under the bus, the Flyers' GM defended his third-string goalie when I asked him about Boucher.
"Brian's battling hard for us," Holmgren said. "For the most part, he's had a good year for us. Unfortunately for him, we haven't scored too many goals for him when he's been in net. The game against Montreal [a 1-0 loss] was an instance where we had a lot of scoring chances but couldn't put the puck in the net."
What say you, my friend?
Burnside: Well, I suppose Holmgren could have just said, "We're done like dinner," but that wasn't going to happen. Still, you know what happens to teams that don't trust their goaltending -- they play a completely different kind of game. I think that's what you've seen from the Flyers over the past four or five weeks -- very tentative play. A disappointing ending for sure if the Flyers drop out of the playoffs, especially after they mortgaged so much future talent/picks in picking up Chris Pronger at the draft last June. There is a lot of talk around the Flyers' dressing room about just how well Pronger (one of my favorite players, by the way) has fit in. But it wouldn't be Philly without some sort of controversy, no?
LeBrun: Yes, the Philly papers on Tuesday addressed the rumors of possible dressing-room discord, something I also asked Holmgren about.
"I think that's a bunch of B.S.," Holmgren told me. "There's absolutely nothing wrong in our locker room ... that a few wins won't help."
Ain't that the truth? A win Tuesday night sets up a dramatic weekend for the Flyers and Rangers. Can't wait! Until tomorrow, when we discuss the Colorado Avalanche.