Spying on the Saboteur: Philadelphia Flyers vs Rangers; Part Two

Tonight, the Philadelphia Flyers look to rebound after an ugly outing at Lake Tahoe versus the New York Rangers.

Six days ago, the Philadelphia Flyers faced off against the New York Rangers for the first time this season. A shorthanded roster rallied behind Joel Farabee to knot the score at two before the end of regulation. In the end, the Rangers earned the shootout victory.

Almost a week later, the Flyers welcome back two players from COVID protocol. Claude Giroux will return to home ice to provide a crucial boost. Justin Braun will remain out of the lineup, however. These two returning players denote positive progress for Philadelphia.

The Flyers, 0-0-1 against the Rangers in 2020-2021, are searching for a rebound after Sunday. A lot of the lineup remains the same for Philadelphia, only adding Giroux into the mix. The Rangers will be without Artemi Panarin, who is on a leave of absence following a likely fabrication from Russian media. In the shootout win, Panarin claimed the game-winning goal.

Following a decisive loss in Lake Tahoe, the Flyers need a return to the win column. A rematch from six days ago could become the catalyst. The captain will have to help navigate the ship. Can Philadelphia find their way?

New York Rangers – Forward Spotlight

Relieving Panarin on the first-line is Alexis Lafreniere. The first overall pick of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft scored his second NHL goal last Saturday. He has started every game of his rookie season to date. Through sixteen games, the two scores are the only points he’s contributed. Tonight will either propel him into high gear or expose his defensive game.

Lafreniere, a minus-seven rating thus far in 2020-2021, could be a defensive liability tonight. He’ll play head-to-head against James van Riemsdyk. Already, the Flyers create a personnel matchup mismatch for the Rangers. The rookie was stellar against Philadelphia six days ago, but he’ll take on a larger role tonight. Previously, Lafreniere excelled against an inexperienced bottom-six.

New York Rangers – Defenseman Spotlight

Anthony Bitetto notched an assist recently versus the Washington Capitals. Only allowing one goal in the regulation victory, the Rangers defense exceeded expectations. Bitetto finds his role on the third pair with Libor Hajek. Overall, the Rangers defense hasn’t been anything to write home about in 2020-2021. As of late, it is time to give credit where it is due.

Bitetto and Hajek could thrive against the Flyers. Philadelphia is not healthy enough to push a formidable bottom-six. Alain Vigneault would be smart to keep the shifts short with his fourth-line. In Lake Tahoe, the Boston Bruins took advantage of line changes with their first line against the Flyers bottom-six. Tonight, Philadelphia needs to replicate that same gameplan with their first-line against the Rangers’ bottom half.

New York Rangers – Goaltender Spotlight

Igor Shesterkin is the probable starter for the Rangers. Tonight, he’ll embark on a head-to-head battle with Brian Elliott. Last time, Alexandar Georgiev earned the victory versus Carter Hart. Shesterkin will face the Flyers for the first time in his NHL career this evening.

Since he earned his first win of 2020-2021 (at Buffalo Sabres), Shesterkin has amassed a bevy of quality starts. His first win was seven starts ago. Throughout that span, Shesterkin is 4-3-0. In six of those seven starts, he has saved higher than 92% of shots. With Shesterkin, the Rangers are a stubborn team to play against.

Flyers Phlight Deck

Braun Returning This Weekend?

Technically, Braun has returned. He participated in a skate session this morning with Giroux. He’ll remain a scratch tonight but aims to play Saturday.

During his absence, the Flyers penalty kill hasn’t improved. An undisciplined brand of play doesn’t do a penalty kill unit any favors, but Philadelphia ranks towards the bottom of the league in man-down situations. Braun is a regular on the Flyers penalty kill. When he returns, he’ll provide help on special teams. The challenge will be maintaining and elevating the penalty kill throughout the rest of the season.

Friedman to Pittsburgh

Ron Hextall got his man. Yesterday, Mark Friedman had to clear waivers to be placed in the AHL or on the taxi-squad. As we anticipated, the Pittsburgh Penguins added Friedman. The in-state rival adds salt to the wound with their latest addition.

The Penguins were on the right side of a bargain, acquiring Friedman on waivers. Before the 2020-2021 season began, Friedman made sense as a third-pair defenseman for Philadelphia. He was a defenseman that could have replaced Braun during or after this season. Unfortunately, Vigneault wasn’t satisfied with his performance, placing Friedman in limbo. Pittsburgh pounced at the right time.

Flyers Prediction

Tonight is the night the Flyers reconnect with the win column. Philadelphia has rebounded after an ugly loss behind Elliott before. I believe Giroux’s return gives the Flyers an edge. I correctly predicted the score between these two teams last time, in favor of the Rangers. This time, Philadelphia comes out on top.

Flyers 3, Rangers 2

Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre

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