Monday’s loss to the L.A. Kings really stunk -- the Flyers were thoroughly outplayed for the first time in a while, and despite a late game push, just couldn’t get it done. And while that blemish stands out as an aberration from their play lately, they’ll need to get back on track immediately if they want to seal their playoff hopes.
The Flyers have been racking up points lately -- 10 out of a possible 12 since March 15 -- but they haven’t been able to get any big lead on the Rangers in the standings. New York, like Philadelphia, has played very well lately -- they enter tonight’s game having won four straight and seven of their last 10 matches. Right now, they sit one point ahead of the Flyers in the Metropolitan division (although they have played two more games).
Tonight’s game is basically a four-point matchup within the division, and both teams are on the bubble of making the playoffs. Given those circumstances, it could end up being the toughest test the Flyers have seen lately. Having faced off against the NHL’s elite in the past week, that is saying quite a lot.
If you put any stock into silly statistics and superstitions, the Flyers are entering this game with a bit of a disadvantage. A lot of chatter has been made in the past few days about the fact that they’ve lost seven straight in Madison Square Garden. You have to look all the way back to February 20, 2011, to see a Flyers win in New York City. That might make some of you nervous, but remember that, as we all found out on Monday, streaks are meant to be broken.
The Rangers don’t really have any standout offensive weapons on their team, but what they do have is fairly balanced scoring. Five players currently have over 40 points on their roster, with Derek Stepan leading the pack with 50.
It’s kind of odd that there aren’t any big point-getters on this team, considering they’ve picked up Rick Nash, Brad Richards, and Martin St. Louis over the past few years. And by "kind of odd" I mean "pretty awesome," because prior to joining the Rangers, those three players were absolute beasts. It’s nice to see that once a divisional rival picks up the hot players, they start slumping a bit.
Regardless, this certainly isn’t a one line team, and Craig Berube will have to work hard to get the matchups he needs to thoroughly suppress any offense. The Rangers are currently the sixth best possession team in the league, and the majority of their players get the advantage in shot attempts. Shutting them down may be tough, but it better be the Flyers top priority.
Relying on special teams like they have lately probably won't work out too well for the Flyers -- the Rangers have had basically identical power play and penalty kill success over the season. Nope, it seems the best way to get to victory might be some good old-fashioned even strength play. Let's hope that works out.
Look for Steve Mason to get the start in net tonight. Mason has been pretty good in his last few outings (despite some shaky play in last Sunday’s game against Pittsburgh), so maybe he can provide the Flyers with an extra boost to win this thing.
Chris Kreider will be out of action tonight due to a hand injury. Kreider has been solid this year and is a decent enough possession player, so that's a bit of good news for the Flyers.
Game starts at 8:00 and is NBCSN’s "Wednesday Night Rivalry." Rangers suck. Go Flyers.