Here is a preview of what is shaping up to be one of the most intense and entertaining first round matchups in the Eastern Conference. Two teams that simply do not like each other, and if the Philadelphia Flyers weren’t going to get the Pittsburgh Penguins in round 1, the New York Rangers would be a close second. Here is a quick series preview.
The season series was one ruled by the home teams. They split the 4 games, with the home team winning each one.
This could be the biggest gap in terms of talent. One one side, you have the Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist, perennial Vezina candidate, while on the other side is Steve Mason, who was a reclamation project by the Flyers and the latest in a long string of hopefuls to man the Flyers net.
Mark Streit has added another element of puck moving ability this season, to help out Kimmo Timonen in that area. Andrew MacDonald has come over from the Islanders and been a minute muncher on the Flyers Blue line.
The Rangers got some good news when it was determined that Ryan McDonagh would be fit to start the playoffs. However, he could also be a target for the Flyers forecheck as he won’t be 100%. The rest of the Rangers defense corps is very solid if not spectacular.
Claude Giroux has been among the elite players all season and easily the best offensive force in this series. He is supported by the power forwards like Wayne Simmonds, Scott Hartnell and Jakub Voracek. Vincent Lecavalier isn’t in his prime, but has a ring and Stanley Cup experience.
The Rangers were led in scoring by the unheralded Mats Zuccarello. Rick Nash had his traditional 2:1 goals to assist ratio and Martin St. Louis has struggled to put points up on the board since coming over from the Lightning.
There isn’t much to choose between the special teams units. The Flyers power play is ranked 8th while their penalty kill is ranked 7th. The Rangers PP is just 1.5% lower, but ranked 15th while their PK is slightly better than Philly, ranked 3rd.
- The Rangers lost a large piece of their heart and soul when they dealt captain Ryan Callahan for St. Louis. They probably expected more production, but there is still time.
- Craig Berube stepped in as a rookie head coach 3 games into the season and turned the Flyers around.
- Will the Flyers be able to get enough out of Mason to hang with the Rangers while they work to solve veteran Lundqvist?
- The Rangers gave up a ton to get St. Louis, both present and future.
- McDonagh had a Norris caliber season going before his injury, and the Rangers need him to get back to that level.
- These teams have a hate on for each other and the fireworks could fly early and often.
This could come down to home ice advantage, which would give the Rangers the edge. However, I predicted the Flyers would be in the Stanley Cup finals at the start of the season, and although I am not sure they will get that far, they should get past the Rangers.
Flyers in 6
HAVE YOUR SAY