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First Round Playoff Preview: Rangers vs. Flyers

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

War is upon us. On the eve of War. The Rangers set to battle Philly. Pretty much every title for this post I could think of had the word ‘battle’ or ‘war’ in it. Nothing against Ottawa, DC, or other markets we have squared off with in recent first rounds, but Philadelphia brings a different connotation.

The history of this rivalry is too long and colorful to recap in one post and certainly no one needs a history lesson here. However, for the first time since 1997, these two teams will have a chance to send each other home packing. And unlike other potential playoff matchups, this one could get theatrical.

No matter who has the GM title, who’s behind the bench, or what players suit up in orange, black and white, the identity of the Flyers remains the same.  However, unlike I-95 wars of seasons past, the Rangers have to stay within their team concept and not stoop down to their level. They have to stick to their game plan.

Offense:

Not quite the offensive juggernaut they were under Peter Laviolette, the Flyers offense is still potent. This season Philly scored 2.82 goals per game, which ranked them 10th in the league. The Rangers scored 2.61 per game, which ranked them 18th.

Philly’s attack is still balanced as they have multiple lines that can find twine. Their team features seven 20+ goal scorers while the Rangers have just three.

Systems-wise, the Flyers bring a heavy 2-man forecheck (2-1-2 or 1-1-3 formations) and aim to keep you pinned in your own zone.  Each line Craig Berube deploys mixes finesse, two-way play, and grit. Common line combos are as follows:

Hartnell – Giroux – Voracek
Simmonds – Schenn – Lecavalier
Raffl – Courtier – Read
McGinn/Rosehill – Hall – Rinaldo/Downie

That type of balance will make for tough matchups since our lines kinda have their own unique identities instead of mixing and matching skill-sets.

5 on 5 Offense Advantage: Neutral

Defense:

This season the Flyers gave up 2.74 goals per game, which ranked them 19th in the league, an improvement from last season, but still not a team strength. They have gotten tighter in the neutral zone and Craig Berube seems to be getting most of his forwards to backcheck, which is something Laviolette never really got these guys to do. However, they still trade too many chances.

The Flyers aren’t a great puck possession team, at least based on the shot attempt definition. According to extraskater.com, this season Philly is ranked 23rd in the league with a -3 Fenwick (shots + missed shots) differential /per 60. The Rangers are ranked 5th with a +6.2.

From a defensive systems standpoint, Craig Berube has the Flyers playing a hybrid strategy mixing and matching man-on-man coverage and zone coverage depending on the location of the puck. Their actual defensemen are good at moving the puck up ice and are willing to protect their goaltenders, but executing actual defensive assignments can be spotty.

Recent line combos include:

Schenn – MacDonald
Grossmann – Streit
Coburn – Timonen

5 on 5 Defense Advantage: Rangers

Goaltending:

Justin, our resident goalie expert, already broke this down. Be sure to read his scouting report on Steve Mason here.

Goalie Advantage: Rangers

Special Teams:

If I’m Craig Berube, I want this series being decided by special teams because this is where the Flyers are on par or perhaps even better than the Rangers. Both teams feature PK’s that keep opposition PP’s from scoring 85% of the time. On the power play, the Flyers run the same 1-3-1 formation the Rangers feature, but they convert at a 20% rate while the Rangers convert at 18%.

Plain and simple, the Flyers are going to goad us into taking bad penalties. They’re gonna run Hank. They’ll deliver late hits to our D on the forecheck. Our forwards will receive more than love taps during neutral zone face-offs.

Whether or not you think the Rangers should answer the bell or try to ignore the cheap shots is simply a matter of personal preference. I’m not going to tell you what to think here. Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves just how much impunity we are willing to live with.

Special Teams Advantage: Flyers

Series Prediction: Rangers in 6, but I could see this going the other way. 

"First Round Playoff Preview: Rangers vs. Flyers", 5 out of 5 based on 6 ratings.

23 Responses to “First Round Playoff Preview: Rangers vs. Flyers”

  1. TeaneckMike says:

    Unless Lunquist steals two games, this series goes to the Flyers in five or six games. Simple fact is that the Flyers are much too physical for the Rangers and will wear them out very quickly. Hartnell will blind side and run people when they are vulnerable and the Rangers will haul off and give him a dirty look…can they stop the Flyers from running Lunquist? We can only hope.

    • Gary says:

      IMO the Flyers are just about the most over rated team in the league. Everybody thinks they’re the dark horse and on the brink of their former glory. It’s weird and I don’t know where this comes from.

      They have mediocre at best goal tending. Hartnell is one of the most over rated players in the league. Simmonds, B. Schenn and Couturier I grant you are players to be aware of. And the French kid, the captain. What’s his name? Anyway, he’s very good.

      But the D is middling and this team is beatable. I guess I agree with Dave’s Rangers in 6. But I am not afraid of the Flyers at all. In fact, I wanted them over Columbus (Mason vs. Bob).

      As much as Ranger fans hate the Flyers, they sometimes seem to give them too much respect. What is this, a victimization complex remnant from Schultz on Rolfe?

      Screw the Flyers. I hate them and I think the Rangers are going to roll all over them. The Rangers are barely mentioned by the wise guys on the NHL channel while Philly gets all sorts of dark horse consideration. See/hear Craig Button yesterday? Even here in Boston the word was that the Bruins should want to play Philly to get REAL competition and see what they’re made of, as if they are much better than Columbus or Detroit, which I don’t buy.

      • Gary says:

        “I guess I agree with Dave’s Rangers in 6.”

        Oops, meant the Suit.

      • Puck Luck @Centerman21 says:

        I’ve got news for you bro. The Bruins will have their hands full with Detroit & I didn’t wanna play Columbus in the 1st round either. The Pens (if they even win that series) will come to the 2nd round limping. That team is big and physical. The Flyers still have a tough time on D even tho this is the best back end they’ve had since Pronger went down. Maybe longer.
        I never liked going from Man to zone in defensive coverage. Players that aren’t too savvy on D get caught out of position often if you move the puck well around the zone. I hope we get Kreider back soon. He adds an element of speed we lost without him. Mason is the best goalie they’ve had in a while but he’s still not a top notch guy and with no playoff experience. I bet Emery plays his fair share of ice time in this series.

    • Puck Luck @Centerman21 says:

      There’s no way the Flyers are winning the first 2 at the Garden. They haven’t won there in 9 tries. The Flyers play indisciplined hockey much of the time. If that’s them trying to get the Rangers to retaliate then they aren’t too bright.
      When the time is right the Rangers will fight back. They will need both Carcillo & Dorsett in the lineup each game of this series. Mason has been better but the NYR will pepper him with shots until a bad one goes in. That’ll start a meltdown and we see Emery in. That’s series. NYR in 6.

  2. Walt says:

    I see this as a very tough series that could go either way. Hank has to be Hank, if we are to stand a chance of winning. This Filthadelphia team is dirty, nasty, and would do anything to win. The question then becomes, “Are we as willing”?

    The person that I fear the most on their team is the guy pictured, Wayne Simmons. The guy has 29 goals, is tough as nails, and will go up against anyone out there. Funny, he is skinny, tall, but knows how to throw hay makers, and he has to be stopped.

    I hope your right, Rangers in six, but I fear that it’s going to be rough going for our boys!!

    • Puck Luck @Centerman21 says:

      We can win in Philly. They have trouble in NY. Before the 2 wins in Philly this year the Rangers beat them 9 or 10 straight in both cities. They get off their game easy with too much physical play.
      The guy that worries me most on that team is Craig Berube. He’s a good hard nosed coach that has the ears of that team. He will keep them in it. No matter what.

  3. SalMerc says:

    The match-ups on home ice should allow us to put our Nash or Zucc line out against who we want. To me, that is why you play for home ice. Is Mcd ready? I home so because you know they will be running him into the boards every chance they get. I think the MSL factor will be large. He can be very quick around the net and draw some penalties. We need to be good on the PP.

  4. Bloomer says:

    Having McDonagh in the lineup and Lundquist with his groove back, I believe the Rangers have a huge edge defensively although Dias is a turnover machine and that will become crystal clear this series. The Rangers are feisty but my concern is the dirt bag Flyers will hammer them on every occasion and there is no one in the lineup to stop them from doing so. It will be a close series and barring any major injuries I forecast the Rangers in 6 (that is where I have my money).

  5. Chris F says:

    Anyone have knowledge of how TV coverage works this year? I see the schedule is split between NBCSN, CNBC, CBC, RSD, TSN…

    Rangers games 6 and 7 are on TSN which I don’t get on Directv. Is there secondary coverage anyone is aware of?

    • Rangers Fan in Boston says:

      There has to be. I think because there are no set times yet for those games, NBC hasn’t decided which of its networks will carry the game.

      This is the case for all of the matchups, where the final games are TBD.

    • Becky says:

      TSN is Canadian, there has to be secondary coverage. Are you in the States?

      • The Suit says:

        All playoff games will be available on national networks.

      • Chris F says:

        YEs, I’m in the States, Becky. I was pretty floored when I saw there was only Canadian coverage for these likely series clinching games. Makes no sense to me.

        But, RFiB makes a good point. It may only be listed as TSN until NBC determines which stations will air these games.

        There absolutely must be US coverage (especially here in NY) for Rangers/Flyers!

  6. Rangers Fan in Boston says:

    Interesting little tid bit from Newsday’s Steve Zipay:

    “Chris Kreider (surgery on left hand March 28) is progressing and the 17-goal scorer should be ready if the Rangers advance to the second round.”

    http://www.newsday.com/sports/columnists/steve-zipay/alain-vigneault-steers-rangers-ship-into-frustrating-playoff-waters-1.7689090

  7. Ray says:

    I think special teams are a huge plus for the Rangers. By my count, since the St. Louis trade, the Rangers have given up three PP goals and scored seven short-handers. The power play has slumped a little with only six PP goals and one SH against, but a combined 13-4 differential is impressive.

    Further, the improved PK is real – St. Louis is so much better than Callahan in this area – while the PP woes look like a slump. And the Flyers should give the Rangers plenty of time to break the slump.

  8. Mike O. says:

    Suit- I’ve enjoyed your articles over the season and like your analysis, but please please lose the “war” stuff. If you’ve ever been in a real war you’d never do that. U.S. soldiers are fighting real wars around the globe so we can enjoy our silly athletic events. Never forget that. It’s not just you; most of the cretins who write/comment about sports have never been within 5000 miles of a war zone, and would run crying to their mommies after about 15 minutes.
    Thanks for reading this- Rangers in 7.

    • Chris. C says:

      Really!!! I am a retired Desert storm, kosovo, and afghan veteran, and I didnt have a relapses from the every scary word. The travesty is people like you that twist the context to scare others.

      • The Suit says:

        Apologies. Meant no disrespect. I have nothing but love and appreciation for those in uniform.

        It’s silly that these words are so often used in sports culture and locker rooms, and I’m certainly a byproduct of that. I’ll try to be more cautious next time.

      • Walt says:

        As a Viet Nam veteran, the term doesn’t bother me at all, but I can appreciate what Mike is saying. Also Chris, thanks for your service to our country!!

        • Chris. C says:

          2thank you also Walt, have 3 half brothers that are Vietnam Vets. Respect brother.

  9. Sauce Life says:

    Not exactly the first time since ’97 they’ve played for their lives, see: 2010