Ready for Carter Hart as the Most Dangerous Team to Flyers' Faint Playoff Hopes Isn't Going Anywhere

Down in the bowels of the Wells Fargo Center, Carter Hart chatted with Capitals goalie Braden Holtby outside of the locker rooms.

Hart, nursing a sore ankle, was wearing dress pants and a peacoat, having watched Holtby's defending champs dismantle his Flyers in a 5-3 decision Wednesday night.

The 20-year-old hasn't had a crack at these Capitals yet or the chance to square off against Holtby, who shares the same sports psychologist as Hart in John Stevenson.

He may get his shot soon because unfortunately for the Flyers, they have to see Washington twice more over the final 15 games of a playoff push running short on time. 

The Flyers entered Thursday seven points out of the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot. Hockey-Reference.com gives the Flyers a 3.8 percent chance to make the postseason, while SportsClubStats.com has them at 2.0 percent.

Not pretty, but the Flyers gave themselves microscopic room for error by going 16-23-6 through 45 games, pinning the club in the basement of the 31-team NHL standings.

To squeak into the playoffs, the Flyers (72 points) need to catch two of these four teams - the Hurricanes (79 points), Penguins (79 points), Canadiens (79 points) and Blue Jackets (77 points) (see standings).

But really, the Flyers' biggest concern the rest of the way might just be the Metropolitan Division-leading Capitals.

"We've talked about it in our locker room, we're in charge of our destiny and we just have to think about our games and not scoreboard watch or anything like that," Brian Elliott said Wednesday night. "This time of year, every point helps and we didn't get any tonight."

Flyers fans got their first look this season at the team that could completely quash any remaining hope of playoff hockey coming to Philadelphia next month.

Washington blitzed the Flyers with five goals in the game's opening 26 minutes. Elliott was pulled after the fourth marker and Cam Talbot let one in 1:19 later as the Capitals ambushed the Flyers in intimidating fashion. Through two meetings with the Flyers, Washington has scored 10 goals - both 5-3 victories that were not as close as the score may indicate.

"We watched them play," Scott Laughton said Wednesday night. "We got a front-row seat to it and they walked all over us."

In their first game against the Capitals back on Jan. 8, the Flyers were forced to start goalie Mike McKenna, which turned out to be his only action with the club.

In Wednesday's game, the Flyers were forced to play seven defensemen and only 11 forwards with top-six guys Jakub Voracek (lower-body injury) and Nolan Patrick (upper-body injury) out of service.

Those are not ideal circumstances against a team like Washington, which carves up coverage and goalies by moving the puck as well as anyone in the league.

"Yeah, there's no question," Flyers interim head coach Scott Gordon said about the impact of missing Voracek and Patrick. "They make us a better team and it's no different than [Evgeny] Kuznetsov and [Alex] Ovechkin being out of [the Capitals'] lineup. There's no grey area about it. They're two of our top six players."

The Flyers should feel better about themselves when Voracek and Patrick are back.

The same can be said about Hart's impending return. He has missed the last six games but has practiced the past two days and is expected back next week, possibly Monday.

Hart dug the Flyers out of the NHL cellar by going 10-1-0 with a 2.53 goals-against average and .929 save percentage from Jan. 14 to Feb. 17.

Maybe he can save them again with Washington visiting the Wells Fargo Center next Thursday and welcoming the Flyers March 24.

There should be little debate about the Flyers going back to Hart, the kid who gave this season life. At this point, the Flyers have nothing to lose.

Give Hart his shot to see his friend Holtby on the ice, not just in the hallway.

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