Flyers vs. Rangers, Game 7 preview: Can we get an encore?

Bruce Bennett

It's Game 7. Can the Flyers come out alive for the second night in a row?

Here we are. A day later, and the season is still alive. Are you getting any work done right now? OF COURSE NOT. The Flyers and Rangers are on the ice in just a few scant hours for Game 7. It's do-or-die, and hey, good news! If the Flyers play like they did on Tuesday night in Philly, it's probably gonna be a do.

Let's get the basics out of the way first: Neither team is skating this morning, so we won't know about lineups until game-time. But from the Flyers side, at least, we'll expect roughly what we saw in Game 6. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? At this juncture it seems unlikely the Rangers would make major changes, either.

Flyers_orange_mediumRangers_blue_medium

Philadelphia Flyers at New York Rangers
Game 7, Eastern Conference First Round | Series tied, 3-3
7 p.m. ET | Madison Square Garden | Manhattan, N.Y.
In Philly on on CSN Philly, 97.5 The Fanatic | In New York on MSG
Nationally on NBCSN (US) and TSN2 (Canada)
Live online stream at NBCSports.com (US) and TSN.ca (Canada)

This goes without saying, really, but the Flyers need a repeat of last night's performance if they want to keep their season going again in Game 7 tonight. The key elements of the Game 6 win were also evident in their other two wins in the series, Game 2 and Game 4.

  • For starters, Steve Mason has to be great again. The Flyers have won three games in this series on the backs of their goaltenders: It was Ray Emery in Game 2, Mason in Game 4 and then Mason again last night. We all know the Rangers have that even strength advantage. Mason playing as he did last night helps negate it.
  • Special teams are really the main key. The Flyers PK has been dominant, to the point where the Rangers look completely lost with the man advantage. They can't get anything going, and while that's certainly on them to a certain extent, the Flyers PKers deserve a ton of the credit. They're keeping the Rangers to the outside, pressuring well, and challenging the Rangers effectively at the blue line.
  • On the power play, the Flyers need to get the most out of their chances: two power play goals in Game 6, including capitalizing on an early PP opportunity. Maybe even more importantly: they took that advantage on a really, really bad penalty taken by Benoit Pouliot. Those are the types of penalties that rip the energy out of a team if you make them pay.

Those are the main keys, but there's more to it, of course.

  • At even strength, it's starting to feel like the Flyers top scorers really have an edge against New York's top defensive pairing. Ryan McDonagh is almost certainly playing injured right now, and Dan Girardi looked like utter crap in Game 6. No rest for these two feels like an advantage for the Flyers in Game 7.
  • Related: the Flyers played NYR's second pairing of Anton Stralman and Marc Staal pretty tough in Game 6. The matchups have been kind of mixed up throughout the series, with Giroux's line and the second line getting time against both the Stralman-Staal pairing and the McDonagh-Girardi pairing. The Flyers beat both of the Rangers top D pairings last night.
  • Also related: In Game 6, for the first time in the series, that second line had some bite to it. Wayne Simmonds led the unit thanks to his monster game, of course, but that whole trio seemed benefit from Berube's line shuffling. Scott Hartnell was effective for the first time in the series in Game 6, and that's really big for the Flyers heading into Game 7. They need those three to push play up the ice
  • The Rangers are still possessing the puck much more than the Flyers at even strength, but the Flyers are doing a solid job defensively of keeping a lot of shots to the outside. It hasn't been perfect, but in the last two Flyers wins, they haven't had any defensive breakdowns that led to goals. Aside from the first period last night, where the Flyers were giving the puck away like they were afraid of it, the defense was very sound. They need that again. Give Mason a chance to see the puck.
  • Berube's pretty clearly realized that he can't rely on his fourth line much, and that's a good thing in a must-win game. As Charlie mentioned last night during Game 6, it means the Flyers best players get more of a chance, and their worst players have less of a chance to hurt them.
  • Please stop Rick Nash, Derek Stepan and Martin St. Louis. Please. You did it in Game 6. Do it again.

There are many more ways to look at things going into Game 7, but the truth is that it's a do-or-die game for both teams. It's one game, with the season on the line. Truly anything can happen.

The Flyers know they can beat the Rangers. They Rangers know they can beat the Flyers. It comes down to which team executes best on what's gotten them three wins so far, or which team gets the lucky bounce or two. Let's hope it's the guys wearing white, orange and black. Go Flyers.

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