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