Before Chuck Fletcher addressed the Philadelphia Flyers fans, the team dropped two winnable games. In the first, the Flyers were surprisingly stingy. The second time around, Philadelphia played from behind to make up for a porous defensive performance.
After Fletcher addressed the media yesterday, he put a spotlight on a few players. Namely, Erik Gustafsson, who he said has performed “as advertised.” The genetic makeup of the Flyers has not gelled in the way Fletcher had hoped before the season. Philadelphia can prove their past wrong and begin anew is in completing three full periods against an opponent.
There isn’t a better team to make a statement against than the New York Rangers. Tonight, they visit the Wells Fargo Center after dismembering the Flyers in the last meeting.
Losing by nine goals is worse than stubbing your toe as you wait in line at the DMV.
Remarkably, Philadelphia is two points out of a playoff spot. Somehow, they’ve gained ground lately behind the Boston Bruins. These next two games against the Rangers are critical. Holding a two-point lead ahead of New York, the Flyers will need to prove that they can swim. The culmination of this weekend will make or beak Philadelphia in 2020-2021.
New York Rangers – Forward Spotlight
Noted Flyers killer, Chris Kreider, has four points in as many games against Philadelphia this season. His offensive prowess isn’t the eye-opening feature of his game. When he excels defensively (an even plus-minus or better,) the Rangers are undefeated versus the Flyers.
“But that’s the Sabres!”
Keep in mind, Kreider slays against Philadelphia. He was the best forward on the ice, not named Mika Zibanejad, in the 9-0 embarrassment. Zibanejad scored a natural hat trick in the second period. In completing that feat, Kreider had an assist.
New York Rangers – Defenseman Spotlight
If there were a game show where the object was to talk about the Rangers defense without mentioning Adam Fox, I would lose in exponential record time. He, arguably, performed better than Kreider against Buffalo. Where Kreider had a powerplay goal, Fox had an assist. The difference is Fox scored in even-strength hockey, one-upping Kreider.
In two-of-three games against the Flyers, Fox registered an assist. The key to overcoming the Rangers players in the spotlight is cleaning up the Philadelphia penalty kill. Already, that takes points off the scoreboard and stat sheet for Kreider and Fox.
Against the Rangers, the disciplined team will win. That doesn’t always mean the one who commits the least amount of penalties. It is vital to limit the breakaway scoring opportunities. The Rangers thrive in transition, which has been the alarming flaw on the Flyers defense. Discipline and attention to detail could make this cursed team perform as projected during the preseason.
New York Rangers – Goaltending Spotlight
Alexandar Georgiev is the goaltender to start if the Rangers correctly play the matchup. He’s yet to lose to Philadelphia this season and is riding the momentum of a nine-goal cushion shutout in the last contest. Only Keith Kincaid (lost in overtime) and Igor Shesterkin (lost in regulation) fell to the Flyers while representing the Rangers.
Philadelphia Flyers Prediction
The last thing anyone would expect is for someone to say that this game could go “either way.” It’s cliche, but it is true. Usually, following a press conference from a general manager, that team plays with fire. Tonight, Philadelphia has everything to lose. Every game, from now until the end, has the season balancing on a thin cable.
Flyers 3, Rangers 2
Photo Credit: Alex Mcintyre