It's never fun to write what might be the final game preview of the year, but here we are: the Flyers face elimination tonight in Game 6 against the New York Rangers.
Game 5 on Sunday was ugly. The Flyers, behind a slow start and an out-of-sync power play, fell behind 3-0 and could never recover, despite a late-game push that brought them within a goal.
New York Rangers at Philadelphia Flyers
The game could have been closer or even could have swung in the Flyers direction if the power play -- which had more minutes to work than in any game so far in the series -- looked even halfway competent. They scored a goal on a weak point shot from Vincent Lecavalier, but that's not representative of their performance: they were credited with zero scoring chances in the game. For a Flyers team that relies so heavily on the power play, that's not part of a winning formula. It'll need to be better in Game 6 for the Flyers to have a chance.
Steve Mason can probably be faulted for just one of the three Rangers (non-empty net) goals on Sunday, with Hal Gill flubbing a pass in the defensive end on one play and a general breakdown in tight around the net responsible for the other. Gill was on the ice and at least partially responsible in both of those situations, but he won't be tonight: Craig Berube has opted to throw Erik Gustafsson into the fire for the first time in these playoffs.
"I like his speed," Berube said of Gus. "He's a quick player up ice, getting up ice a little bit."
Gus is an upgrade over Gill and should have been in the lineup on Sunday, but nevertheless. He's been a good player for the Flyers when he's been in the lineup this season and should help tonight. The defense and goaltending were both very strong on home ice in Game 4. The Flyers need a similar performance tonight.
There will be no changes elsewhere in the lineup, if the lines run during the morning skate are any indication. Scott Hartnell was moved off of the top line in the third period of Game 5, but he's back up there tonight. We'll see if that remains the case come 7:30 p.m. The Rangers will keep the same lineup as they had Sunday.
Steve Mason vs. Henrik Lundqvist in goal. Let's hope we're not talking about the offseason come this time tomorrow. Go Flyers.