Over the course of the last week, a lot has been made about the Flyers struggles in New York. Philadelphia has not won at Madison Square Garden since February 20th, 2011. While that is certainly a long time, the Rangers lost 21 of their 41 games at home this season so they haven't exactly been dominant overall at home.
If you're looking to get an idea of how close this series could be - the Flyers and Rangers split the season series 2-2 with both teams winning their games on home ice.
Rick Nash showed some of his scoring prowess netting 26 goals but only dished out 13 assists and looked lost at times in head coach Alain Vigneault's system. He has always been somewhat of a streaky scorer so it isn't a major red flag. Brad Richards has looked renewed this season scoring 20 goals and putting up 31 assists. The addition of former teammate St. Louis from Tampa is sure to help his play.
While New York boasts a list of big names, some of the biggest contributors for the Rangers are not necessarily household names. Mats Zuccarello led the team with 59 points while Derek Stepan was right behind him with 57. Derrick Brassard and Chris Kreider are two young guns for the Rangers who could make a major impact.
The strength of the Flyers is absolutely their forwards. All four lines can produce at a high level as all four feature at least one 20-goal scorer. The name that jumps off the page is center Claude Giroux who anchors the Flyers top line. Giroux tied his career-high with 28 goals this season and also dished out 58 assists for 86 points on the season, the second most of his career.
Giroux's linemates also put up solid seasons. Jakub Voracek had a career year setting career-highs in goals (23), assists (39), points (62), power play points (23) and games played (82). Scott Hartnell scored 20 goals and added 32 assists for 52 points.
Up and down the Flyers lineup there are guys who can light the lamp. Philadelphia boasts an NHL-high seven players who scored 20 or more goals led by Wayne Simmonds' 29 goals. Vinny Lecavalier put up 20 goals and centers the Flyers' fourth line. Their depth can up against anyone in the NHL.
It's not just on offense for McDonagh, the Rangers top pairing of McDonagh and Dan Girardi eat big minutes for New York as both players average 23+ minutes per game. New York's second pairing of Marc Staal and Anton Stralman are as defensively sound as you will find.
New York's defense is for just that, defense. Outside of McDonagh, and the occasional goal from John Moore or Staal, the defensemen for the Rangers won't light it up offensively. But they also prevent goals against them as the Rangers ranked fourth in the NHL this season in goals against allowing just 2.3 goals per game.
The Flyers defense was a mess at the beginning of the season - as was most of the team. As the season went on and they adjusted to new head coach Craig Berube's system, things settled down. Kimmo Timonen came back from the Olympics in Sochi a re-energized player and, combined with Braydon Coburn, has been a solid top pairing defenseman for the Flyers.
Mark Streit, the big signing in the offseason for the Flyers, stumbled out of the blocks at the beginning of the season. He looked lost at times and generally uncomfortable. As the season went on Streit got more comfortable in the system until he was at his best at the end of the season. Streit's skating ability and big shot allow him to skate up on plays to add another dimension to the Flyers' offense but still get back on defense. Streit led all Flyers defensemen with 10 goals and 34 assists for 44 points from the blue line.
The addition of Andrew MacDonald to the Flyers blue line has added another layer of consistency the team so desperately wanted. MacDonald was going-away the league leader in blocked shots blocking 242 shots between the New York Islanders and Flyers this season. He is averaging 22:00 minutes of ice time per night but has only been under 23:00 TOI in two of the last eight games. In addition to MacDonald's own production, he has improved the play of his defensive partner Luke Schenn.
Despite dealing with an ankle injury, Nicklas Grossmann is expected to play in the series.
What makes Lundqvist even more crucial to the success of the Rangers is his success against the Flyers in his career. In 45 career games against Philadelphia, Lundqvist is 27-13-3 with a 2.49 GAA and a .916 SV% with four shutouts.
The Flyers have questions surrounding their goaltending situation. Steve Mason was their horse this season posting a 33-18-7 record with a 2.50 GAA and a .917 SV%. He emerged as the clear-cut No. 1 goaltender the Flyers so long desired and earned a three-year, $12.1 million contract extension in January.
Unfortunately for Philadelphia, Mason was injured against Pittsburgh on Saturday when Jayson Megna slammed MacDonald into the goaltender. He has been ruled out for Game 1 against New York which means backup Ray Emery will get the nod.
It is not known how long Mason will be out but, for now, Emery is the guy the Flyers will be relying on. Emery has had success against New York in the past posting a 7-2-0 record with a 1.87 GAA and a .936 SV% and two shutouts.
The Flyers will need to tighten up defensively in front of Ray Emery if they plan on winning the series. Philadelphia needs to be smart but establish a physical presence early. Staying out of the penalty box will be key for the Flyers. They have made a habit out of falling behind early, especially in New York, but they will need to get after it early and avoid playing catch-up against Lundqvist & Co.
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