Here it is hockey fans! The New York Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers are meeting in a playoff series, here is Blue Line Station’s preview!
The Rangers and Flyers tied the season series 2-2, the Rangers beat the Flyers twice at Madison Square Garden, 4-1 and 3-1 (the most recent meeting between these two teams). The Flyers in turn beat the Rangers twice at the Wells Fargo Center, 2-1 and 4-2. The first meeting between these two teams was in October when the Rangers were going through their horrible start, and Cam Talbot was in net as opposed to Henrik Lundqvist. Speaking of horrible starts, both teams experienced horrible starts to the season but since then have become two of the leagues most dangerous and confident teams. The Rangers started the season 3-6-0 and ended 45-31-6 and the Flyers started the season 1-7-0 and ended the season 42-30-10.
The Flyers have one of the leagues most potent offenses, one that is much stronger than the Rangers, leading the way is Claude Giroux with 82 points, Jakub Voracek with 62 points and Wayne Simmonds with 60 points. The highest points scorer on the Rangers is Mats Zuccarello with 59 points. The Flyers have really bought into and started to believe in Craig Berube‘s system, they are always one of the league’s toughest teams and have the ability to push around almost anybody, especially a team like the Rangers who aren’t built with a lot of grit and toughness. The Flyers are also very good on special teams, they are ranked 7th on the penalty kill and 8th on the power play.
Henrik Lundqvist is the Rangers biggest advantage over the Flyers, Lundqvist had his worst career NHL season and still managed to end it with a save percentage and a goals against average that is better than Steve Mason‘s, not that that will matter for at least game one, when Mason is sidelined due to injury and backup goalie Ray Emery is put in net. The Rangers defense is light-years better than the Flyers defense, anchored by Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi who have held up their fair share of NHL stars and are more than capable of handling Giroux and the Flyers. Balance, the Rangers may not have anyone above 60 points in their lineup, but unlike the Flyers they can easily find offensive contribution from any part of the line-up. The fact that the Flyers are one of the leagues most penalized teams will be good for the Rangers who’s power play ranks in the top half of the NHL, and for what it’s worth the Rangers have the 3rd best penalty kill. Also to note, Madison Square Garden is a house of horrors for the Flyers losing all eight of their most recent visits to MSG by a combined score of 31-9.
What the Flyers have to do to win:
Take McDonagh out of the picture, psych out Lundqvist. While I’m not saying one of the Flyers players should purposely injure Ryan McDonagh (although I wouldn’t put it past any of them to do so), they just have to make sure he’s otherwise occupied, he’s had a spectacular year but he’s still young and may be knocked off his game. Lundqvist is clearly the better goalie, but a lot of his game is mental preparedness and if the Flyers can freak out him in the opening game or two then the series will essentially belong to them.
What the Rangers need to do to win:
Believe in Head Coach Alain Vigneault and his system, and play the way they have been since the Olympic break and everything will go smoothly for the Rangers. Martin St. Louis and Rick Nash will continue their stellar play into the post season, as will Lundqvist and Derek Stepan. The third line and fourth lines need to produce just as they have all season long and they need to revive the power play and continue to put the penalty kill to good use and they will win the series.
Rangers in 6 games. The Rangers are just an overall better, and more well balanced team than the Flyers. Having home ice advantage will do them very well, and being the best road team in the league I expect the Blueshirts to steal at last one game at the Wells Fargo Center. Ray Emery is a capable backup, but will not suffice for an extended period of time against the Rangers’ offense and if Mason is out for longer than one game I expect the series to be even shorter than six games.