3 Stars: Rangers flatten Flyers in crucial Metropolitan Division matchup at MSG

3 Stars: Rangers flatten Flyers in crucial Metropolitan Division matchup at MSG

A look at the Philadelphia Flyers’ 3-1 loss to the rival New York Rangers on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden in New York City through the perspective of crippling turnovers, a group of players that were hardly noticeable and one dominant goaltender.

In what could quite possibly have been their biggest game of the season, the Flyers came up short. Real short.

That’s now eight straight losses for the Flyers at Madison Square Garden.  Ouch.

 

3. Defensive-zone turnovers

Go back and watch replays of each of the Rangers’ three goals and you’ll find a common theme: Really bad defensive-zone turnovers that led to the puck winding up in the back of the Flyers’ net within seconds.

Slightly before the Rangers’ opening tally, Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen couldn’t handle a pass along the boards from his netminder, Steve Mason. The Rangers were there to pounce on the turnover and throw the puck on net. Derek Dorsett ultimately knocked home a rebound.

In the second period, Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald made a soft clearing attempt that Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh easily picked off and eventually sniped past Mason to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead.

And then in the third period, Flyers winger Michael Raffl fumbled the puck along the boards and turned it over. Moments later, a seemingly harmless wrist shot was deflected by Rangers winger Dominic Moore and trickled through Mason to complete the hat trick of horrible defensive-zone turnovers that wound up in the Flyers’ net.

Though he should have had the last one, Mason was pretty much left hung out to dry. It was the kind of defense that we had seen from the Flyers in October, not the kind we had seen over their recent hot streak. The objective now is to not make a trend down the stretch.

 

2. The Flyers’ top line

Forget about Jake Voracek’s goal late in third period because it didn’t mean anything except an upward tick in his goal total for the season. The game was well over by then.

The Flyers’ top line is listed here for all the wrong reasons.

Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell and Voracek really didn’t show up on Wednesday night at The Garden. They were hardly noticed when the Flyers needed them to step up and generate some offense in the worst way.

The Rangers’ top defensive pairing of Dan Girardi and the aforementioned McDonagh clearly keyed in on the Giroux line and did their best to take the Flyers captain and his linemates out of the game. They got the matchups they wanted. Girardi and McDonagh are really good defensemen but the Flyers’ top line has to have a much better showing than what we saw Wednesday night.

Flyers TV analyst Rick Tocchet even took to twitter to say he felt Wednesday was the worst game he had seen Giroux play in some time.

A legitimate argument can be made that the Flyers’ fourth line was the team’s most effective line in the offensive zone. Good for them but not good for the Flyers.

 

1. Henrik Lundqvist

That, my friends, was what you would call a superior goaltending performance.

Lundqvist was his usual spectacular self, making 31 saves for his 27th career victory over the Flyers. They weren’t all easy saves, either.

His second-period save on Adam Hall was a sight to see as he somehow flashed his pad over to rob the Flyers center on a rebound. At the beginning of that second period, he made an equally remarkable save when kept the puck pinned between his skate blade and the ice as Flyers swarmed the crease for a Brayden Schenn rebound.

Lundquvist was at the top of his game and asserted his dominance from the time the puck dropped. You could say it was vintage Lundqvist. Is he old enough or been in the league long enough to say that?

Whatever you want to call it, you just don’t want see it come playoff time if you’re a Flyers fan if the teams do meet in the opening round. A lot can happen over the next few weeks, though.

 

Two straight losses are never good at this time of the year. But Wednesday’s loss in New York is a bit more concerning than the loss to Los Angeles this past Monday because the Flyers didn’t bring their best effort in a crucial game. There was basically no pushback to the Rangers’ onslaught. The Rangers’ second goal seemed to deflate the Flyers and they could never recover.

The good news is that the steaming tire fire that is the Toronto Maple Leafs – losers of six straight and – comes to South Philly on Friday. It’ll be a prime opportunity for the Flyers to get back on their feet against a team that considers defense highly optional and gives up more shots than the Sixers’ 2-3 zone.

Sixers merchandise sales on the rise along with win total

Sixers merchandise sales on the rise along with win total

Between recent wins and Joel Embiid’s All-Star push, fans are buying their Sixers gear.

According to Fanatics.com, a sports apparel website partnered with the four major sports, the Sixers rank fourth among all NBA teams in total merchandise sales over the past seven days. The Warriors, Cavaliers and Bulls are ahead of them.

Joel Embiid was the fifth-best selling player over that period. His popularity has risen during his enthusiastic All-Star campaign, which included celebrity shoutouts and an outpour of social media activity. Embiid is now up to 553,000 Twitter followers.

The Sixers have ranked in the league’s top 10 of merchandise sales since the beginning of the 2016-17 season. They hold the largest year-over-year increase during that time frame in the NBA this season.

In September, Ben Simmons ranked in the top 10 of NBA players in merchandise sales since draft night.

Sales from the Sixers' and NBA's official online stores are included in these statistics.

Sixers clicking just in time to face surging Raptors on Wednesday

Sixers clicking just in time to face surging Raptors on Wednesday

The Sixers are clicking just in time to face their toughest competition in over a month. The Raptors (28-13) come to Philadelphia as the Sixers have won six of their last eight games by holding one another accountable and taking each outing step-by-step.

“You feel like the group is coming together,” Brett Brown said. “You feel like all the work that we have put in is starting to pay dividends in relation to a solid foundation.”

The Raptors sit second in the Eastern Conference, just one and a half games behind the Cavaliers. The last time they met, the Raptors beat the Sixers 123-114 on Dec. 14 at the Wells Fargo Center.

A lot has changed since then, especially the rotations. Brown started Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor together against the Raptors, an experiment that waned out after six games. The Sixers have found a formula to winning with an established starting lineup and a consistent second unit, with the added experience of Gerald Henderson and Nerlens Noel. They will be tested Wednesday as both Joel Embiid (illness) and T.J. McConnell (wrist) are questionable.

“When you look at this team, it’s a lot of talent but we didn’t play as a team,” Ilyasova said of the start of the season. “Now we come together. I think it’s all about the chemistry, we trust each other.”

The Sixers are looking to carry over the momentum of a 113-104 victory over the Bucks in Milwaukee on Monday. They got a test of All-Star caliber talent against Giannis Antetokounmpo, whom they held to two points in the second half. The Sixers will have their hands full with the backcourt duo of Kyle Lowry (22.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, 7.2 assists) and DeMar DeRozan (28.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists).

One key to countering talent like that placing an importance on accountability. The players are not letting each other off the hook for mistakes on the court, regardless of who the opponent is.

“I could see it over the past couple weeks, guys coming out here and being more vocal on both ends of the court,” Noel said. “If one guy messes up, you’ve got to let him know so it won’t be a recurring thing. With that, guys are taking steps in the right direction, both leadership roles because everybody on this team can be a leader in their own way.”

The Raptors come in on a four-game winning streak.