If the Flyers were not going to their hated rival, the Pittsburgh Penguins, in the first round, a matchup with the Rangers is the next-best thing. The Flyers and Rangers have one of the more heated rivalries in the sport and they have for years.
This team is no exception.
The Flyers fans love to hate Rangers tough guy Dan Carcillo. The skillful play of Brad Richards and Rick Nash adds to the hatred as they possess the ability to take over a game by themselves. Add in the stingy New York defense and their all-world goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist, and you have a team that is a tough matchup.
It’s not a one-way street however. The Flyers can hold their own.
There are very few teams in the NHL that can match the depth of the Flyers forward corps. Philadelphia features seven 20-goal scorers including Scott Hartnell and Wayne Simmonds, two players Rangers fans hate because of their skill combined with their physicality and grit. The Flyers defense was shaky at the beginning of the year but since the resurgence of Kimmo Timonen following the Olympics and the acquisition of Andrew MacDonald, things seem to have calmed down.
While all of that is well and good, there are still some things that should worry Flyers fans.
3. Madison Square Garden Troubles
Everyone is probably tired of hearing this but, sadly, it is true. The Flyers struggle at Madison Square Garden. Something about the building makes the Flyers go nuts.
Philadelphia has not won at Madison Square Garden since February 20th, 2011 going 0-8 in their last eight games there. The struggles are real and it must be entering the back of the Flyers’ minds that they have struggled to win in New York City. They have been outscored 31-9 over the streak and have not scored more than two goals in any of the eight games.
The only remaining players from the Flyers last win in New York are Timonen, Hartnell, Claude Giroux and Braydon Coburn.
Flyers are 118-114-37-7 all-time against the Rangers but 51-61-23-3 all-time in New York.
2. Poor Starts
The 2013-14 Flyers are notorious for starting slow. Look no further than the franchise-record 11 comeback wins the Flyers had this season. You don’t have those comebacks if the Flyers don’t fall behind early.
This has been a problem against most teams but it is particularly the case against the Rangers. The Flyers tend to fall behind in the first 10 minutes of the games against the Rangers in New York. On January 12th, the Flyers first game at Madison Square Garden in 2013-14, the Rangers took a 1-0 lead just 2:14 into the first period followed up by their second goal just 2:42 into the opening period. By the time they reached the 10-minute mark of the first, the Flyers were already trailing 3-0.
In their second visit to Madison Square Garden, the Flyers struggled to get something going offensively and it was the Rangers who struck first again. Derek Dorsett got the Rangers on the board just 8:41 into the first period. They would go up 3-0 before the Flyers offense awake with 1:53 remaining in the game.
The Flyers cannot afford a slow start in the playoffs.
1. Steve Mason
The Flyers finally landed a No. 1 goaltender that they feel they could ride through a long playoff run. Steve Mason has played incredible between the pipes this season going 33-18-7 with a 2.50 goals-against-average with a .917 save percentage.
Unfortunately, Penguins forward Jayson Megna ran MacDonald into Mason and he hasn’t played since. Head coach Craig Berube announced on Wednesday Mason will be out for Game 1 tonight and Ray Emery will be starting in his place.
Emery is no slouch going 7-2-0 in his career against the Rangers with a 1.87 GAA and a .936 SV% but allowed four goals against New York back in January.
The Flyers playing without their No. 1 goaltender which is a cause for concern but things could be worse with Ray Emery.
The series kicks off tonight at 7:00 pm at Madison Square Garden.