The Flyers have had three nights and two days to think about the complete turd that they spent sixty minutes dropping on the Madison Square Garden ice last Thursday, and while a Game 1 loss isn't the end of the world or anything, there's something to be said about the resiliency of your team (or lack thereof) in seeing how they can respond after getting humiliated in the first game.
But let's also make something clear: if the Flyers have any ambitions at all of heading back to Philadelphia tonight with the series knotted up at one, they're gonna have to do a hell of a lot more than "being resilient" and "trying harder". Sure, those will help. But there's obviously a biiiiiiiit more to it than that.
Philadelphia Flyers at New York Rangers
In the immediate and further-separated aftermath of Game 1, the biggest storylines seemed to revolve around how costly Jason Akeson's third-period penalty is and how much trouble the Flyers are in if Steve Mason doesn't recover from his, uh, upper-body injury. But Akeson's dumb penalty came after he spent most of the game being the Flyers' best forward (as we discussed on Friday). And as far as the goaltending goes, it probably wouldn't have mattered if the Flyers' goalie on Thursday was Ray Emery, Dominik Hasek in his prime, or any of us reading this paragraph -- the Flyers weren't winning that game with the way that just about all of their skaters were playing.
Regardless, Berube and the Flyers sounded hopeful that Mason would be ready to go today, but we found out yesterday that Mason still hasn't fully recovered and we'll have Emery in net again today. Not the best news, but Emery was perfectly fine until it all fell apart in the third period on Thursday, so this isn't the end of the world.
Anywho. We've heard a lot of things from the Flyers about their Game 1 failures and their planned Game 2 approach, from "we're going to carry it in more" to "our gameplan wasn't the problem in Game 1" to "we need to play a puck possession-oriented game". You'll likely recall that the Flyers point-blank said that their gameplan was to play a dump-and-chase game, so this would, indeed, signify a shift in mindset if it's the case. Let's hope it's the truth.
But whether it's a change of gameplan, better execution, better effort, or something else (I'm sure there's more), there isn't much that doesn't need to get better from Game 1. I've seen so many different storylines brought up in Game 1 -- Claude Giroux (zero shots on goal in his last three games against the Rangers!) needs to be better, the defense needs to be better, the special teams need to be better, the discipline needs to be better, the matchups need to be better ... you get the point. There's really no one thing that needs to improve today; it's everything.
And truthfully, I do think we're gonna see something better today. How much better, I'm not sure. Good enough to win in MSG for the first time in three years, I'm certainly not convinced. But (a) tie-game-for-2.5-periods be damned, things were so bad on Thursday night that I can't see them being this bad again, and (b) this team has generally tended to follow up stinker efforts this year with better ones.
Still, though, even if a lot of that stuff mentioned above does improve, there's a lot up in the air today. Henrik Lundqvist was hardly tested in Game 1, and assuming the Flyers spend to get more than 15 pucks on him today, you know he'll be up to the task. Both special teams units, as mentioned above, will need to be better, and it seems like there may be some panic on those fronts -- Jason Akeson was apparently practicing with the top power play unit yesterday, and while I like the kid a lot and am very happy he's in the lineup still, disrupting a top power play unit that's mostly been good all season seems a bit desperate.
Maybe desperate can work, though. The Rangers are, no doubt, quite confident in themselves right now, and they've earned the right to feel that way with how they rolled the Flyers up on Thursday (which is to say, the way they have in basically every game in the Big Apple since March 2011). There's gonna need to be a sense of urgency here. In a smart way, of course -- we saw the Flyers get stupid when the situation called for urgency in the third period on Thursday, and more of that is just going to make this all even more painful.
Urgency telegraphed in the right way, though? Y'know, in a way that leads to more than one shot in the third period of a tied Game 1 in the playoffs against your second-biggest rival? Urgency from the initial puck drop -- in a way such that you won't sleep through the first seven minutes of all three periods, the way the Flyers did? Maybe it'd help.
We'll see. No word on possible lineup changes as of Saturday night, so chances are we'll see the same crew we did on Thursday. Go big or go home down 2-0. Game at noon on NBC, brought to you by the Rangers' announcers so that's fun. See you then. Go Flyers. (And happy Easter to those of you celebrating.)