Flyers vs. Rangers: Claude Giroux vs. Ryan McDonagh will be a key matchup

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sport

Ryan McDonagh's pairing vs. Claude Giroux's line will be a major factor in this Flyers-Rangers first round playoff series.

Claude Giroux had a goal against all but seven NHL teams in 2013-14. One of them was the New York Rangers.

So for a team that relies heavily on their captain to pace them in the goal scoring category, this is a bit disconcerting. You know, since the Flyers need to beat the Rangers four times in the next seven games to keep their season alive and all. How do Giroux and Craig Berube plan on winning?

Frank Seravalli at the Daily News has a great breakdown of the Flyers plan of attack for the Giroux line, who will be matched up against New York's top defensive unit of Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi tonight and likely most of every night this series.

Unless they have a clear break to carry it in the offensive zone, Berube has instructed his players to dump the puck in New York's end, particularly in McDonagh's direction, to see whether they can pin the should-be Norris Trophy candidate behind his net and create scoring opportunities that way.

...

"You can't let him force turnovers at the blue line, because he's just a killer," Berube said. "It's kind of an unfulfilling way for a player to play - because you don't want to give the puck up. I talked to our team today about grinding it out. Just wait for your opportunities.

"To try to beat him wide with speed, other than Voracek, [McDonagh is] probably going to win that battle a lot of times."

We have to consider how much of this is playoff gamesmanship on the part of Berube, but if he's being totally honest, it's not the best news to hear.

Dumping and chasing just isn't all that effective, but if the Flyers are hitting the neutral zone against McDonagh's pairing, it seems they've determined that it's the best way to retrieve the puck and work them down. We'll see if it actually works, or if the Flyers can get creative in the neutral zone, targeting Girardi's side more frequently. Girardi doesn't have near the speed McDonagh does and that could be a better point of entry into the offensive zone.

Alternatively, Berube has to look for every opportunity to get Giroux's line out there in more favorable situations. Put him out for more offensive zone faceoffs, thus negating the need to beat McDonagh and Girardi at the blue line. Or, even better, slipping the top line out there when McDonagh is off the ice -- surely a tough task at MSG where Alain Vigneault gets last change, and especially when McDonagh's unit is going to play close to 30 minutes a night no matter what.

The other area the Flyers will target: McDonagh's injured shoulder. Unfortunately one of his biggest weapons is his speed, and shoulders aren't legs. But maybe that's part of the reason the Flyers feel they can have success grinding it out against him.

This chess match will be one to watch throughout the series, and it's probably one that's going to have a huge impact on who wins this series. Keep an eye on it.

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