Philadelphia Flyers vs New York Rangers
The Rangers welcome the Flyers to Madison Square Garden for the first of four meetings between the two. This game could not come at a worse time for the Rangers as they are currently on a three-game skid and the Flyers are on a four-game winning streak. These two teams are only one point apart in the standings and wild card race. And, three more meetings between the Flyers and the Rangers, each game comes with playoff implications.
As if every time these two meet the game already feels like game seven of the Stanley Cup, with how close they are in the standings and how close a playoff spot is, each time these two meet for the rest of the season will feel like a do or die game. The Flyers are currently enjoying some success right now, but they have not been a very consistent team all season, the only aspect of the Flyers game that has been consistent this season are three players. Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, and Sean Courtier. Giroux is enjoying one of his best seasons in three years as he is already four points away from his season total last year. Voracek continues to be the playmaker Flyer fans love, as he leads the league in assists and Courtier is off to his best start in his career as he has reached the 20 goal mark for the first time during his seven-year career.
The Flyers success stems from these three, but what has helped as of late, is the break up of these three. The Flyers are rolling Travis Konecny-Claude Giroux and Sean Courtier on a line together, and Valtteri Filppula-Jakub Voracek and Micahel Raffl on their next line and their third line consist of Jordan WEal-Nolan Patrick and Wayne Simmonds. The depth has allowed the Flyers to see some more secondary scoring and more offensive success. Over the Flyers four-game winning streak, they have scored 21 goals, and their power play has converted on 7 of 14 chances, a success for the Flyers all season has been their power play.
The only aspect of concern for the Flyers this season has been their defensive depth and scoring, minus Shane Gostisbehere, the only other defenseman with scoring capability is Ivan Provorov. Which speaking of Provorov, the young defenseman established himself as a number two defenseman on this team and has lived up to the expectations many had for him. The Flyers defense consists of Ghost, Provorov, Gudas, MacDonald, Sanheim, Hagg, and Manning. A very young defensive core, that at times can get caught in tough situations due to their lack of expirence. Luckily though the play of Brina Elliott, although it has not been magnificent, Elliott has done his job as a starter for the Flyers this season and has helped them steal a few games. As Elliott is posting a 17-10 record, 2.75 goals against average(GAA) and .909 save percentage. Like we said nothing amazing but some goaltending is better than none, which the Flyers have struggled with immensely in years past.
A look at the Rangers…
I spoke about the Rangers recent struggles in an article the other day, but over the last ten games, the Rangers have struggled offensively and defensively. More so offensively as they have scored, 18 goals in 10 games compared to the Flyers 21 in four games. The Rangers are without Chris Kreider one of there more explosive and offensively driven forwards. Since the loss of Kreider, Michael Grabner, the Rangers leading scorer, has stepped up nicely, unfortunately not many other Rangers have found the back of the net. Dropping three games straight, and all three to divisional opponents makes the climb to the playoffs that much harder.
The Rangers have always been a team(this season) that has struggled to find depth scoring, which when you look at their roster, you may be puzzled about. Rick Nash, JT Miller, Mats Zuccarello, Kevin Hayes, Michael Grabner, Pavel Buchnevich, Mika Zibanejad and Jimmy Vesey. A name that sticks out here that has not done their fair share on the offensive side of things, and you know who I am talking about. Yes, Rick Nash, first he has not scored in 12 games and only has 9 goals on the season, second, he has the most shots on the team(135) but the 5th most goals on the team. Aside from Nash not producing, Miller and Vesey have trouble finding the back of the net consistently, Buchenvich is another player that has not been able to score consistently, he started off hot but has not scored in 12 games, and over those 12 games, he has 3 points. Does everyone get the jist here? The Rangers have trouble scoring, simple as that.
Now, the defensive side of things, coming into the season, some fans expectations were higher than others but truthful fans knew the defense was going to be an issue. Well, because we all knew Kevin Shattenkirk was not a defensive defenseman and boy has that proven to be true. I don’t know the numbers but we have to think Shattenkirk may have the most turnovers in the defensive zone amongst the entire league. Nick Holden is not a top-four defenseman, Ryan McDonagh needs a suitable d-partner and just Brady Skeji plus McDonagh is not enough to qualify as a defense. The signing of Braden Smith looks terrible right now, as he has been in and out of the line up all season, pay the guy 4.5 million to be a player who is in and out of the line up makes no sense. Of the 44 games, Smith has played in 34 games, for some reason coach Alian Vigneault believes Steven Kampfer is the next big thing on the back end. And please let’s not even get started on Marc Staal, either this guy goes at the end of this season or all Rangers fans may be throwing in the white flag.
Without Henrik Lundqvist and his All-Star season(literally, he did get selected to the All-Star game), the “King” has arguably been the only reason the Rangers are even within a playoff spot right now. On the season Henrik is posting a 19-11 record, 2.58 GAA, .923 save percentage with two shutouts. Henrik has done his fair share between the pipes and has been doing it for 13 years now, the 35-year-old goaltender is coming to an end soon, and without this guy, what will the Rangers do.
The matchup comes 44 games into the season and will be aired on NBCSN at 7:30 PM (EST) tonight. The Rangers have no major recent transactions besides, sending down Boo Nieves and calling up Peter Holland. Flyers fair to say will be going with Brian Elliott tonight as the Rangers will be going with their right hand, Henrik Lundqvist. As stated above this game comes at such a crucial time for both teams, as the season is already at the halfway point, and the Metropolitan division continues to get tighter and tighter, everyone point counts from here on out.
The Flyers post a record of 20-15-8 with 48 points, a +3 goal differential, a 6-3-1 record in their last ten and a 9-7-4 record at home. While the New York Rangers post a 22-17-5 record with 49 points, a +3 goal differential, 3-5-2 record in their last ten and 15-8-3 record at home. Tonight the Flyers face off against the Rangers for what is going to be a playoff type game, tune in tonight at 7:30 PM over at NBCSN and don’t miss out on the action!
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