It’s no secret the Rangers have beaten the Flyers eight straight games at Madison Square Garden dating back to March 6, 2011.
So it’s fair to say that will be fairly prominent in the minds of Craig Berube’s team when it hits the ice Thursday night in New York in Game 1 of the playoffs.
There are, however, two positives in this series that should give the Flyers some confidence that they have a chance to beat goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who has outright owned them for three years.
One, they split a competitive season series, 2-2.
Two, and this is key, both the Rangers and Lundqvist got a bit rattled during their March 1 encounter in Philly when the Flyers scored two goals on their first two shots during an eventual 4-2 victory.
Sure, the game wasn’t in MSG, but the key is the Flyers struck first. They know they have to get a split in the series to have a chance to win.
Score first, score quickly and suddenly, you can put some doubt into the Rangers’ heads.
Lundqvist’s career record against the Flyers in 45 games is 27-13-3 with four shutouts. He has a 2.45 goals-against average and .916 save percentage.
“Lundqvist is a good goalie,” said Wayne Simmonds, one of seven 20-goal scorers the Flyers had this season. “Most of the time he doesn’t really give up two quick goals like that. We played a really good game that night.
“To get pucks past him you’re going to have to take away his eyes and keep peppering him and peppering him. That’s the way we are going to go about it. We are going to try to not let him be a factor in the series.
“We just have to go about our business the way we’re going to go about it. We have to worry about ourselves.”
Matt Read said the Flyers realize getting a quick jump in Game 1 is paramount in a building where they seem cursed at this point.
Hey, Jakub Voracek has been in the league six years and is 0-8 in MSG. If he’s aware of that, so are his teammates.
“I think we’ve got to go into Madison Square Garden on our toes and ready to play the first five minutes and take the momentum away,” Read said. “It’s up to us.
“It’s hard to prepare for a game in probably one of the best arenas in the world and it’s something we need to get together in the locker room and find a way to come out in the first five minutes and get the momentum right away.”
Berube says he sees a difference between the Rangers under Alain Vigneault versus former coach John Tortorella.
“Speed -- they play a fast game, they're an attack team now,” Berube said. “They have three balanced lines that can score. They play a fast game and they try to forecheck hard. Their defense is also aggressive. It's a quick game out there with them.”
From a standpoint of team chemistry, the Rangers' spark plug and gritty former captain, Ryan Callahan, is no longer around. Some feel that has had a negative impact on the current group. The playoffs will decide the answer.
Kimmo Timonen said it’s hard to pinpoint the fine difference between this club and other Ranger clubs.
“Their system is different,” Timonen said. “They are a really good team. They finished in the standings higher than us. So obviously they are a really good team.
“I’m just talking about our team and we just need to play as a team. Play as a confident group. I won’t say it’s easy. It’s going to be tough games, but I’m looking forward to it.”
Timonen also said the focus is not to get a split at MSG so much as to assure the Flyers win the first game. Win first and you regain home ice and series momentum.
“Who’s favorite, who’s not, it doesn’t matter in the playoffs,” Timonen said. “We just have to go in there with the mindset that we have to win the first game. And move on to the next game. And don’t think about anything else, just the first game is on Thursday.”
You can expect Berube will use his shutdown unit of Read, Sean Couturier and quite possibly Jason Akeson against the Rangers' top line of Derek Stepan centering Rick Nash and Marty St. Louis.
Couturier is already thinking defense, as opposed to scoring first.
“It’s just playing our game the right way for 60 minutes,” he said. “If we play tight defense and we don’t get scored [on] it’s a zero-zero game.
“In the playoffs, one-goal games are almost every game. Whether we’re up a goal or down a goal early it doesn’t matter. We’ve got to play to the end.”