In a possible 1st round playoff preview, the Philadelphia Flyers visit the New York Rangers tonight at 8:00 pm ET. Monday, the two teams flip flopped positions in the Metropolitan standings. The Flyers come into the game as one of the hottest teams since the Olympic break. Their record is 38-26-7 for the season. They are 16-13-6 on the road. Prior to their loss on Monday against the Los Angeles Kings, they were on a five game winning streak. Despite this, they are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games. This will be the fourth and final time the teams will meet in the regular season. The Flyers own the season series 2-1. The teams are separated by a point, with the Rangers at 84 and the Flyers are 83. However, Philadelphia does have two games in hand over New York. By the end of the season, these two teams could switch positions again, no matter the outcome tonight.
The Flyers offer a plethora of offensive skill that makes them a threat every night. The team’s offensive leader, as well as captain is Claude Giroux. The Canadian born center is their top offensive leader in goals with 24 and assists with 50 for 74 points. He has played in all 71 regular season games for the Flyers this season. With a slow start to the season, Giroux had no points in the first four games of the season and was a -2 goal differential during that time. His first goal came six weeks into the season. After being left off the Canadian Olympic roster, Giroux has been on a tear. He currently ranks fifth in points among the NHL leaders, three of whom were Olympians. In his last five games, he has one goal six points. Giroux is starting to become one of the elites, if not already. Not just offensively but in his leadership. It’s almost on the verge of being Jonathan Toews –esque, if you will. In a recent interview with Tim Panaccio on CSNPHILLY.com, teammate Matt Read described his captain:
“He’s been a tremendous leader as of late,” teammate Matt Read said. “Since the Olympic break he’s the hardest-working guy everywhere you go. He’s the first one here every day and in his mind it’s win, win, win at all cost.
“And any mistakes you make you hear about it on the bench from him. He just wants perfect from everybody, and his game has shown a lot. He’s on the ice, he’s working harder than everybody out there. It’s fun to watch how talented he is. He’s being a true leader right now and that’s what we need in this last push here.”
Aside from Giroux, Philadelphia does have other weapons. Second on the team in scoring is Wayne Simmonds. He has 24 goals for 54 points on the season. The 25 year old forward has five goals and seven points in his last five games. Another player to keep an eye on is Scott Hartnell. Always eager to get under the opponent’s skin, he doesn’t shy away from the scoreboard. In his recent five game stretch, he has three goals for six points, as well as a four game point streak. He is fourth on the team in scoring with 47 and has a +10 goal differential. Up and down the lineup, the danger doesn’t let up. The Flyer’s team boasts young offensive talent such as Jakub Voracek, Brayden Schenn, and Sean Couturier.
Their defense is led by Mark Streit, who has nine goals for 33 points. A stalwart on the blueline for Philadelphia is Kimmo Timonen. He has four goals and is tied with Streit for assists with 24. Braydon Coburn leads all defensemen in ice time with 22:30 and penalty minutes with 63. Erik Gustafsson brings his +9 goal differential into tonight’s game, as he leads all defenseman in +/-.
In net, the 25 year old Steve Mason will be backstopping. He has a record of 30-16-6 with 2.53 goals against average and a .916 save percentage. He has four shutouts on the season. In his past five games, he is 4-1 with one shutout. Three of his wins came against division leaders, St. Louis Blues and twice against the Pittsburgh Penguins. In his last meeting on March 1st with the Rangers, Mason helped the Flyers win 4-2, stopping 33 of 35 shots and earning second star honors.
Philadelphia will be without the services of forward Steve Downie, who is listed with an upper body injury, sustained on Saturday against the Blues.
For this game, the Flyers will try to intimidate and get the Rangers off their game. They play a rough, in your face style of hockey. They have skill on all four lines and come in waves, in hopes of wearing their opponent down. The Flyers will be eager to avenge their loss Monday against the Los Angeles Kings. But also to beat the Rangers on Rivalry Night!