Fulltilt Breakdown: Rangers and Flyers Set to Clash
New York is set to take on Philadelphia in round one of the NHL playoffs. Game 1 will be at Madison Square Garden on Thursday and we can expect the rivalry and intensity to bubble up early. Unlike the other Eastern Conference series, this one has a history behind it. This is the only series with a rivalry already in place and will easily standout in the East.
NYR: GF (218) – GA (193) +25
PHI: GF (231) – GA (229) +2
NYR: PP 18.1% – PK 85.3%
BOS: PP 19.6% – PK 84.9%
Statistically, the matchup between Lundqvist and either Mason or Emery is heavily in the King’s favor. Philly will try and crowd the net to screen him because if he sees it, he stops it. The Rangers must clear the lanes and the crease in order to give Hank the look he needs. The real concern is the Flyers will bump Henrik in this series, it’s a given. So the Rangers will need to remain composed and hope the refs make the calls. When the refs fail to do so, the Blueshirts must pick their spots and defend the franchise.
As for the Flyers goaltending, it’s a weakness. Yes, Steve Mason has played well lately and Ray Emery was incredible for Chicago last season, but NY will pepper them with shots, and law of averages forecasts plenty of Rangers goals in this series.
Big Edge – Rangers
Off the top, it’s apparent the Flyers have some guys who know how to bury the puck. Claude Giroux had an awful start to the season but has 85 points through 81 games this season. The Flyers have 7 guys with 20+ goals on the year and 9 with at least 10. Giroux (28), Voracek (23), Simmonds (27), Hartnell (20), Schenn (20), Read (21) and Lecvalier (20) will give the Rangers all they handle.
Before we think the Flyers have a huge edge here, realize NY started slow and still finished the season with 218 goals. Marty St. Louis was acquired at the deadline for Ryan Callahan, and only scored 1 goal as a NYR, but has 30 on the year. Biggest factor is he is a major playmaker and game-changer on the ice. NY boasts 10 players who have double digits in goals, but only 3 players with 20 or more. Look for St. Louis and Nash (26) to lead the charge but the offensive depth is key. Richards (20), Zuccarello (19), Stepan (17), Brassard (18), Pouliot (15) and Hagelin (17) will provide the support that’s been missing in prior playoff years.
Slight Edge – Flyers
The area that will ultimately tip the scale in New York’s favor is the defense. Ryan McDonagh is healthy and will be ready to go for game 1. His 14 goals and 43 points were Norris trophy buzz worthy. His defense partner, Dan Girardi was no slouch with 5 goals and 24 points. However, they form maybe the top shutdown pairing in the NHL as well. Claude Giroux will see a healthy dose of both and the other Flyers will have to contend with Marc Staal, Anton Stralman, Kevin Kein and John Moore. Good Luck Philly.
Meanwhile, the Flyers have issues on the blue line. Mark Streit is a solid offensive defenseman with 10 goals and 42 points but has an even rating on the year. Matter of fact, 39 year old defenseman Kimmo Timonen has the best +/- at +6. So you can expect the Flyers to have some lapses and turnovers, which will play in the favor of the NY quick transition and puck possession game.
Big Edge – Rangers
The numbers show that special teams will only be a factor if one team gets into penalty trouble. If penalties are evenly handed out, special teams should not decide this series.
Edge – Even
Plenty of factors are tipping this heavily in the Blueshirts favor. The real concern for them will be getting out of this series healthy. The playoffs are a war of attrition and the Rangers learned in 2011-12 that going 7 games too many times will kill you the further you advance.
NEW YORK RANGERS IN 5 GAMES!