So here we are. It's been a little bumpy and neither of the two wins were all that pretty, but we're back in New York City and this series is tied at two games apiece. The next three or four days will decide which of these teams sees their season end and which one will get to play for at least another week or two for the Metropolitan Division title (lol).
Nothing like late-series playoff hockey, man. Absolutely nothing like it.
Philadelphia Flyers at New York Rangers
Anywho. It's been a bit of a bumpy ride so far, and you could maybe argue that the Flyers are lucky to be heading into this game with things evened up after winning game four largely on the back of goaltender Steve Mason (the same way they won game two, largely on the back of Ray Emery). But at this time of the year, you take victories any way you can get them and that's what we're gonna do.
And to go glass half-full here, let's consider this bit of honesty from Craig Berube on Friday night:
Chief says the Flyers haven't played their best game yet. Hard not to agree.— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) April 26, 2014
That's almost certainly a true statement -- but with the Flyers tied 2-2 despite that being true, there's room for optimism. They've been better as the series has gone in, and there's still time for the Flyers to play their best game, and if they can do that, they could just pull this thing out after all.
On to the specifics of today's game, and you're probably already familiar with the big change in the Flyers' lineup: Nicklas Grossmann is out after suffering what appeared to be a knee injury on Friday night, and while it isn't confirmed yet, it sounds like Hal Gill is ready to take his place in the lineup. We're iffy on that decision to play him over Erik Gustafsson, for a couple of reasons (not the least of which is what it could do to Mark Streit's game), but we obviously understand the thought process there, so we'll see how it goes.
We haven't heard of any other possible lineup changes for the Flyers, so the guess is that things stay the same otherwise. Steve Mason, after his outstanding game on Friday for his first career playoff win, will get the start again today and presumably for the rest of the series.
A few quick things to watch out for today, as always, include:
* Special teams: After everyone and their mothers wrote about the power play getting all of its shots blocked by the Rangers in Game 3, it looked much better on Friday, scoring on one of its two opportunities and moving the puck around well on the other one despite not scoring. Meanwhile, the penalty kill came up big every time, as if often does. We know how often the Flyers live and die on their special teams -- and they're gonna need to live on them a little longer, the way this series has gone at even strength. Speaking of ...
* Puck possession: Craig Berube and the Flyers have spent the past week telling anyone who would listen how important it is that they control the puck more than their opponents. Yesterday, Berube talked about how important winning the neutral zone is. He's right. The Flyers got better at this as Game 4 went on, but it's still a department in which they can do a lot better than they have been. Of course, one thing that dictates possession is ...
* Matchups: The Flyers were obviously doing everything they could in Games 3 and 4 to get Sean Couturier's line and Braydon Coburn's pairing out against the Rangers' top line. On Friday, it worked really really well. But in NYC, without last change, getting that done is a lot tougher (as seen by the fact that the Flyers weren't able to get that matchup in Games 1 and 2). You know Alain Vigneault is going to be hellbent on not letting it happen today -- can Berube do his best to make it happen anyways?
Simple as all that, really. Gamethread up around 11. Game at noon on the peacock channel. Get it done. Go Flyers.