With all the hoopla surrounding the Philadelphia Flyers closing in on securing a spot in the playoffs and the Lehigh Valley Phantoms clinching a playoff spot, it’s easy to get caught up in only those teams.
Don’t forget about the Royals.
The Reading Royals, the Flyers’ ECHL affiliate, are closing in on clinching a spot in the 2018 Kelly Cup Playoffs after beating the Worcester Railers 3-0 on Saturday. With a record of 35-23-8-0 and 78 points, the Royals are third in the North Division, which consists of six teams: the Royals, Railers, Manchester Monarchs, Adirondack Thunder, Wheeling Nailers, and Brampton Beast. The top-four in each of the four divisions in the ECHL make the playoffs.
The Royals are currently sitting in third with 78 points, seven behind the Monarchs and five behind the Thunder. They have a three-point advantage over the Nailers in the fourth spot, and the Railers have 70 points and are in fifth.
The Royals have six games left in the 72-game season. Their magic number is seven points. The most points the Railers can get is 84, meaning that the Royals need to get to 85 to clinch. The tiebreaker in the ECHL is the same as the tiebreaker in the NHL: regulation plus overtime wins (ROW). The Royals currently have 32 ROW versus the Railers’ 27, so the number of points the Royals can finish with to clinch playoffs can easily drop to 84 points if it proves that the Railers will not be able to win that tiebreaker.
If the Royals make the playoffs, it could be the first time since 2009 that the Flyers, Phantoms, and ECHL affiliate all make the playoffs. The Wheeling Nailers were the Flyers’ ECHL affiliate back then. The Royals have been their affiliate since 2014.
So, when is the earliest that the Royals can clinch playoffs? If all goes right, the Royals can clinch as early as Friday. Both the Royals and Railers will be in action on Wednesday and Friday, and if the Royals gain and Railers lose a combined seven points, then the Royals get in. They both play again on Saturday, so this could be a very good week for the Royals.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens with the goaltending situation throughout the Flyers’ system when Michal Neuvirth and Brian Elliott return from injuries in a couple weeks. The organization will have to deal with the accordion effect of nine goalies: Elliott, Neuvirth, Alex Lyon, and Petr Mrazek with the Flyers, Anthony Stolarz, Dustin Tokarski, and John Muse with the Phantoms, and Branden Komm and Mark Dekanich with the Royals.
Specifically looking at Reading’s situation, an ECHL player has to play five games to be eligible for the playoffs. While Komm and Dekanich don’t have to worry about this stipulation, they’ve both had their fair share of off-days lately. If the Royals wanted another netminder to fall to them through the system, only John Muse would be eligible for the Kelly Cup Playoffs, but he has been the man for the Phantoms lately. Stolarz has played three games in the ECHL, and he won’t be getting much time between the pipes when the Phantoms make the playoffs, so he could be sent down before the Royals’ regular season ends.
Even though the Royals are on the verge of playoffs, questions remain between the pipes. Nonetheless, there will probably be a lot of playoff hockey in southeastern Pennsylvania in a few weeks.
The 2018 Kelly Cup Playoffs start on April 11.
Photo via Reading Royals