PREVIEW: FLYERS @ RANGERS
Having been shut out three times in the last six games, the Philadelphia Flyers (8-11-3) will try to restore a measure of self-respect coming off yesterday’s nationally televised 3-0 home loss to the New York Rangers (10-8-4). The two teams will rematch today at Madison Square Garden. Game time is 1:00 p.m. EST. The game will be televised on CSN Philadelphia.
This is the third of four meetings between the teams this season, and the third within the month of November. The season series concludes on Feb. 28 at the Wells Fargo Center.
On Nov. 19 in New York, the Rangers dominated the Flyers for two-plus periods and went on capture a 2-0 win that was only that close because of spectacular goaltending by Philadelphia netminder Steve Mason (32 saves). The Flyers goalie had no chance on either Kevin Klein’s even strength goal in the first period or Rick Nash’s power play tally in the middle stanza. Backup New York goaltender Cam Talbot earned a 31-save shutout, making 13 of his saves in the third period.
Yesterday, the Flyers fell apart again and made life easy on Talbot en route to 26-save shutout in which he faced only a couple of bonafide scoring chances (most of the better chances got blocked or missed the net by several feet).
A first period power play goal by Dan Boyle through a heavy screen gave New York a lead they would ride for the final 53:50 of the game. Derek Stepan earned the first of his three primary assists in the game.
In the second period, a fat rebound on a Stepan right circle shot was claimed and stashed home by Martin St. Louis at the 4:14 mark. Any chance the Flyers had at a third period comeback evaporated during a four-minute power play early in the period. Philadelphia’s top power play unit yielded a 3-on-1 rush that was finished off by Rick Nash.
Things won’t get any easier for the Flyers in terms of schedule difficulty after completing the home-and-home with the Rangers. The team embarks next week on a California road trip that will take the team through San Jose on Tuesday, Anaheim on Wednesday and Los Angeles on Saturday. The Flyers will then make a Dec. 9 stop in Columbus before returning home for three games.
The Rangers schedule will lighten considerably — in volume, not in difficulty — for nearly the two weeks after the home-and-home with Philly. Between Nov. 30 and Dec. 12, there are just three games on the docket. New York will host Tampa Bay next Monday, have four nights idle before traveling to Detroit next Saturday, host Pittsburgh on Dec. 8 and then have four more idle nights before embarking on a three-game road trip through western Canada. Flyers outlook
The Flyers have been a mess ever since a five-night break of their own in November. In the eight games that have followed, the team has posted a 1-6-1 record. They have not led at any point in seven games they have lost.
Usually, when a team is in a losing skid, they can at least build upon certain things they are doing well and simplify the rest of their game to stay competitive. Of late, quite frankly, there has been very little salvageable from any of the losses except the one to Minnesota last Thursday.
The Flyers overrely on their top line, top power play unit and their goaltenders to bear the entire burden. When those facets do not shine in spectacular fashion, the team has been losing ugly. Too many Flyers players look they are waiting for something else to save them. Too many players aren’t skating, forechecking or defending up to NHL standards — not even NHL playoff caliber standards, but like players who even belong in the league.
Steve Mason was average in yesterday’s game. The rebound on the second goal was a bad one (then again, it is allowed for defenders to help out by clearing the puck to safety). The Nash goal came on a 3-on-1 rush but the back end of the play looked like tough but possibly makeable momentum save.
Yesterday, out-of-favor right winger Jason Akeson cleared waivers and was assigned to the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms. On the Flyers’ injury front, Chris VandeVelde (lower body) is on injured reserve. Defenseman Luke Schenn has been a healthy scratch the last two games, along with fellow blueliner Carlo Colaiacovo. Rangers outlook
The Rangers bounced back from a 4-3 regulation road loss in Tampa Bay on Wednesday by outskating and outplaying the Flyers for the decided majority of yesterday’s game. The club blocked 19 shots in front of Talbot and outshot the Flyers in both the first and second periods. Once Nash made it a 3-0 game, New York went into cruise control the rest of the afternoon.
New York has recorded shutouts in three of its last four games (twice at the Flyers’ expense). Today, Henrik Lundqvist will return to the net. The former Vezina Trophy winner recorded a 21-save shutout of Montreal prior to losing to Tampa.
Defenseman Ryan McDonagh returned to the Rangers’ lineup yesterday from a separated shoulder. So did Lee Stempniak, who missed several games back spasms. The team now has no reported significant injuries. Key team stat comparisons (NHL overall ranking)
Non-shootout goals per game: Flyers 2.68 (15th), Rangers 2.82 (11th)
Non-shootout goals against per game: Flyers 3.00 (T-23rd), Rangers 2.64 (18th)
Even strength Goals For/Against Ratio: Flyers 0.93 (22nd), Rangers 1.21 (7th)
Power play efficiency: Flyers 21.2% (9th), Rangers 16.4% (21st)
Penalty killing efficiency: Flyers 73.7% (28th), Rangers 81.1% (18th)
Faceoff percentage: Flyers 51.3% (12th), Rangers 47.2% (28th) Projected lineups (Subject to change, will be updated)
10 Brayden Schenn – 28 Claude Giroux – 93 Jakub Voracek
12 Michael Raffl – 49 Scott Laughton – 17 Wayne Simmonds
18 R.J. Umberger – 14 Sean Couturier – 24 Matt Read
36 Zac Rinaldo – 78 Pierre-Edouard Bellemare – 40 Vincent Lecavalier
5 Braydon Coburn – 47 Andrew MacDonald
8 Nicklas Grossmann – 32 Mark Streit
15 Michael Del Zotto – 55 Nick Schultz
29 Ray Emery
[35 Steve Mason]
Scratches: Luke Schenn (healthy), Carlo Colaiacovo (healthy), Chris VandeVelde (lower body, IR).
61 Rick Nash 16 Derick Brassard 36 Mats Zuccarello
47 J.T. Miller 21 Derek Stepan 26 Martin St. Louis
62 Carl Hagelin 13 Kevin Hayes 63 Anthony Duclair
12 Lee Stempniak 28 Dominic Moore 19 Jesper Fast
18 Marc Staal – 22 Dan Boyle
27 Ryan McDonagh – 5 Dan Girardi
44 Matt Hunwick – 8 Kevin Klein
30 Henrik Lundqvist
[33 Cam Talbot]
Scratches: Tanner Glass (flu), John Moore (healthy), Chris Kreider (death in family).
*********** QUICK HITS: NOVEMBER 29
* The Phantoms dropped a 4-2 decision in regulation to the Albany Devils last night in Atlantic City. Starting goaltender Anthony Stolarz was pulled after allowing three goals on 14 shots. ECHL callup Martin Ouellette stopped 11 of 12 shots. Taylor Leier (power play) at Petr Straka tallied second period goals to cut the gap to one goal but the Phantoms were unable to tie the game in the third period and yielded a late insurance goal. Tonight, the club is back home in Allentown for a 7:05 p.m. tilt with the Norfolk Admirals.
* Over on the International Ice Hockey Federation’s official website, I took an in-depth look at Jakub Voracek’s surge to stardom in Philadelphia. The article also looks at Voracek’s international career with the Czech national team, his memories of being a 14-year-old standout on Kladno’s J20 team when the Czech Republic hosted the IIHF World Championships in 2004, and the upcoming 2015 World Championships in his home country.
* On the Flyers Alumni Official Site we have added a page for the daily Today in Flyers History entries than list notable games, trades, Alumni birthdays and career retrospectives for Flyers players who were born or died on that day of the calendar.
* We have also added feature articles several days per week on the News and Events section of the Flyers Alumni site. Next week, we will publish the first of what will become a monthly feature in the site: a where-are-they-now article on notable Flyers players of the past. First up will be Mikael Renberg.