How Will the Rangers Fare in the Metro? Who wins the Cup?

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 29: The New York Rangers celebrate a second period goal by Vladimir Tarasenko #91 against the New Jersey Devils in Game Six of the First Round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on April 29, 2023 in New York, New York. The Rangers defeated the Devils 5-2. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 29: The New York Rangers celebrate a second period goal by Vladimir Tarasenko #91 against the New Jersey Devils in Game Six of the First Round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on April 29, 2023 in New York, New York. The Rangers defeated the Devils 5-2. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
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PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – OCTOBER 5: Carter Hart #79 of the Philadelphia Flyers celebrates with Sean Couturier #14 in the preseason game against the New York Islanders at the Wells Fargo Center on October 5, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Flyers defeated the Islanders 5-2. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – OCTOBER 5: Carter Hart #79 of the Philadelphia Flyers celebrates with Sean Couturier #14 in the preseason game against the New York Islanders at the Wells Fargo Center on October 5, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Flyers defeated the Islanders 5-2. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

7. Philadelphia Flyers (2022-23, 31-38-13, 75 points, 7th in Metro):

The Flyers might not be great this season, but a few things could keep them competitive.

First off, let’s talk Carter Hart. Last season, he was fantastic with a .907 save percentage with a +10.3 goals saved above expected.
If he keeps those numbers up, the Flyers won’t fall into lottery land, which isn’t too shabby, especially for a team coached by the fiery John Tortorella.

Injuries, notably Sean Couturier and Cam Atkinson, hit the Flyers hard last season.
Now, they’re back in action, and if they bring their A-game, this team could be a tough out on game nights.

Travis Konecny thrives under Tortorella’s guidance, and Owen Tippett is emerging as a top-six scoring threat. Joel Farabee and Jackson Cates will add some depth to the scoring, and Tyson Foerster might make his NHL debut.

Now, let’s talk defense. Rasmus Ristolainen had a career year. Ristolainen’s journey from being a big, hard-hitting defenseman to a more well-rounded player was quite the ride.

Drafted 8th overall in 2013, Ristolainen was known for his slick moves, even scoring a memorable game-winner in the 2014 World Junior Championship. But his transition to the Philadelphia Flyers came with some bumps.

While Ristolainen had impressive traditional stats like hits, blocked shots, and points, his advanced analytics didn’t shine. The Flyers believed in his potential, traded for him, and signed him to a five-year $25.5 million contract.

Under the guidance of head coach John Tortorella and defense coach Brad Shaw, improvements came.
They focused on improving his defensive play, refining his physicality, and emphasizing positioning.

The coaching staff’s tough love paid off. Ristolainen embraced a more controlled physical style, improved his stick work, and became a defensive force. His offensive numbers initially suffered as he was taken off the power play, but he didn’t mind. The focus was on becoming a solid defender first. In 2023, Ristolainen’s confidence soared, and he began contributing offensively again. His season ended with three goals and 20 points in 74 games, a remarkable turnaround.

Ristolainen’s improvements earned him a promotion to the top pair, and he became the team’s most improved player, according to Tortorella. Will he do it again?  If he can, that’s a win for the Flyers’ defense, which could use all the help it can get.

Marc Staal is slated for top-four minutes, and Cam York is rising. Nick Seeler and Sean Walker are holding the fort on the third pairing. Philadelphia’s defense might face some challenges wildly if Travis Sanheim doesn’t bounce back.

Tortorella’s teams are known for being tougher than a frozen puck, so don’t be surprised if the Flyers give their opponents a run for their money. However, they’ll likely finish with around 75 points, much like last season. It’s not the playoffs, but it’s a step in the right direction.