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Flyers vs. Rangers preview: Redemption time?

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That last one was ugly.

Flyers vs. Rangers 1.4.17
Kate Frese / SB Nation

And a pleasant good morning to you fine folks! It’s Sunday morning and we’ve got the Flyers coming up very soon? Is anyone still recovering from their Saturday night? I understand. Just take a sip of coffee, imagine I’m saying all this very softly, and let’s get to the preview!

The Flyers square off against the Rangers today in yet another Sunday matinee. They’re coming off an exhilarating overtime win over Columbus on Friday and are looking to start a brand new winning streak, as they had their previous four-game streak snapped last Tuesday against the Devils. The Flyers are sitting at third in the division, just four points behind second place Pittsburgh (and five behind first place Washington). The Flyers have—perhaps surprisingly—been one of the more consistent and effective teams since the start of the new year, and things are really starting to look like they’re clicking for them. We’re on the up and up. But we can’t exactly say the same thing for New York.

Things were rough for the Rangers before they last met the Flyers, but somehow they seem to have gotten even worse since then. They’re sitting at last in the division. They’re rife with injuries. Management just sent out a letter to suggest that they’ll be shopping some big names and dipping into a full rebuild. They’ve lost seven of their last ten games. They’re on the back end of their back-to-back … so this means the Flyers are probably going to get blown out, huh? That’s how this works, right?

Well, if they want for this not to happen, they’ll have to shore up a few areas...

1. Goaltending

This sure seems like it’s going to be the topic of much discussion and focus as the season continues. But rightfully so: with Elliott out for the next few weeks, and with Neuvirth being more than a little volatile in his performances, all eyes will be understandably trained on him.

The good news is that Neuvirth is coming off a respectable performance against the high-volume-shooting Blue Jackets, only allowing the one goal. By the eye, he didn’t look stellar, but he was solid enough, and his efforts were good enough to get the Flyers to overtime, and subsequently the win.

The bad news is that, given how up and down he’s historically been, it’s hard to say if he’ll be able to follow up that strong performance with one equally so. But suffice it to say, the Flyers will need--and all the rest of us will want--to see him do his best to replicate Friday’s showing.

2. Shot quality

As we alluded to above, the Flyers were pretty handily outshot in Columbus, but what really saved them was their victory in the shot quality battle. Far more than the Blue Jackets, the Flyers were able to get set up in and close to the crease and work to generate high danger chances. And while they were only rewarded once for these efforts during regulation, this was largely due to Bobrovsky’s efforts, as they were robbed in front of the net on more than a few occasions.

And this is exactly the type of effort they’ll have to put up again Lundqvist today. He troubled them last time, and figures to trouble them again, and the way to give themselves the best chance to beat him is through working at these high danger chances and chipping away in front of the net. They can’t afford to fall back into that old model of blasting a shot in from the point and hoping for something to open up. It’ll be all about working smarter here in New York.

3. Lineup optimization

So, we’ve talked some about the things the Flyers have been doing well, and need to do more of. But now we’ve got to transition to the other side of that coin.

I’ll be direct: the Flyers have made some questionable decisions lately. It’s Manning lingering on the power play. It’s MacDonald and Hagg left out and scrambling in their own zone with the Filppula line. It’s Lehtera and Filppula paired with MacDonald and Hagg killing penalties. It’s ugly to look at, and the results speak for themselves. We’re seeing them break down and give up goals. And, admittedly, it’s difficult to propose a solution based on the personnel currently up with the big club, when the defenders not named Provorov or Gostisbehere are kind of a mess right now, but they have to find a way to fix this.

Is it cheating to suggest that they, oh I don’t know, bring up another young defenseman who’s tearing it up down in Allentown? It shouldn’t be! Do the right thing, the Flyers.

Puck drops at 12:00 this afternoon, and you can check out the Flyers’ projected lineup below.

Forwards

Giroux - Couturier - Konecny

Voracek - Patrick - Simmonds

Raffl - Laughton - Weal

Lehtera - Filppula - Weise

Defensemen

Provorov - Gostisbehere

Hagg - MacDonald

Manning - Gudas

Goalies

Neuvirth

(Lyon)