The Flyers exorcised some demons last Thursday, defeating
the New York Rangers for the first time in nine tries over nearly two full
calendar years. Now they must find a way to repeat their effort, or they risk slipping
into sole possession of last place in the Atlantic Division.
Philadelphia and New York are currently tied at the bottom
with four points, although the Rangers have a game on their rival. One point
for an overtime loss would match either of them with the New York Islanders –the
Isles are in action tonight at the Pittsburgh Penguins however. Regardless of
what happens in that one, best-case scenario is the loser of this second tilt
between the Flyers and Rags remains entrenched in the cellar.
Is it too early to be worried about the standings? Perhaps, especially
with all five clubs separated by just three points – only the Northwest
Division is as tightly contested. That said the Flyers do need to be concerned about
falling into a hole in this shortened season, as they are already behind eight
teams in the Eastern Conference. Every point is magnified this year.
Last week’s 2-1 victory is probably still fresh in everybody’s
minds, as it was the type of game that can turn seasons around, even in these
early stages. If nothing else, the Flyers destroyed a lot of the mystique the
Rangers had built during their dominance over Philly. Instead of skating against
a narrative, tonight the orange sweaters can skate against their opponents.
That’s not all the Flyers busted up in a hard-hitting battle
that featured a few fights. They also held the Rangers’ struggling power
play in check. New York converted on one-of-four advantages, with Ilya
Bryzgalov and his mates fighting off a 5-on-3 and 5-on-4 consecutively in the
final half of the third period.
The Rangers are now ranked 27th in the NHL, scoring on just
9.1% of their power plays. Then again, the Flyers haven’t been much better,
coming in at 24th while lighting the lamp on 12.9% of their chances. Plus, the
opportunities should be there against Philly’s killing unit, which is coming up
with the stop only 69% of the time – good for 27th in the league.
They seemed to have found the on-switch after a huge 7-1
victory over a shorthanded Florida Panthers club over the weekend, scoring and
killing power plays alike. On the second half of a Sunshine State back-to-back
however, the Tampa Bay Lightning sent the Flyers right back to square one in
both areas during a 5-1 mauling.
It should be interesting to see which Flyers squad comes out
tonight. The good news is Bryz is back in net after taking Sunday off, and he
has looked very solid through five starts thus far. Zac Rinaldo also returns to
the lineup for the Orange & Black, although it appears impressive rookie
Tye McGinn will be headed back to Adirondack to make room. Don’t worry, Tye – you’ll
be back, and you’ll always have this beatdown.
The bell sounds for this heavyweight fight from Madison
Square Garden at 7 p.m., and it’s a big one.
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