Sure, the New York Rangers may have beaten the Flyers 10 out
of the last 11 times they met. All that matters right now though is that the
Flyers must win tonight.
That record isn’t much of a confidence boost obviously, but
hey, it’s not like either club’s play has been very inspiring this season,
either. New York – thought to be one of the top contenders for the Stanley Cup coming
into the year – is clinging to the eighth and final playoff berth in the East,
a mere five points ahead of the Flyers, and really it’s up for grabs for any
franchise not named the Florida Panthers.
So it goes without saying this is a huge two points on the
line for the Orange & Black. Then again they have all been huge for awhile
now, but it hasn’t always been reflected on the ice.
At least the Flyers demonstrated once this season they are
capable of defeating the Rags after they were swept in six tries last season. Philly
took the first encounter of 2013 in a hard-fought 2-1 victory, but it’s been
all New York again in the past two.
In their last matchup on March 5, the Bullies jumped out to
a 2-1 first-period lead, only for the Rangers to come roaring back – sound
familiar? Ryan Callahan and Rick Nash each potted a pair of goals to help the
bad guys secure a 4-2 win.
While the onus for that loss doesn’t fall entirely on Ilya
Bryzgalov, the Flyers will be searching for an effort more like what they’ve
been getting from the cosmonaut in two of his last three. He looked far more
confident in their win over New Jersey 10 days ago, and even against the
Penguins on Sunday night. However, Billy is just 1-5 versus the Rags over the
past two seasons with a 3.33 GAA and a .868 SV%.
Bryz could use a little help, too, this time from the
offense though. Philadelphia has fallen to 18th in the NHL in scoring with 2.61
goals per game, lighting the lamp two or fewer times in eight of their last 11.
That coupled with Danny Briere’s absence has led to another
shakeup in the lineup. Tye McGinn has been recalled, and joins Claude Giroux
and Jakub Voracek on the top line, while Peter Laviolette will try pairing
Scott Hartnell, Brayden Schenn, and Wayne Simmonds. Panotch is calling that
second group a “Crash Line,” and suggests it could be a special grouping just
for New York.
The Flyers begin a
five-game homestand tonight, and they have a chance to make serious headway
against opponents vying for those final playoff spots in the Rangers, the New
York Islanders on Thursday, and the suddenly-rising Washington Capitals on
Sunday. Win those, and yes, they will in fact control their own destiny.
Lose a handful of them, and, well… that’s pretty much what a lot of folks are
expecting at this point, is it not?
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