Spying on the Saboteur: Philadelphia Flyers at New York Rangers


Tonight, the Philadelphia Flyers face the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Who will take control of the season series?

This season has been a disappointment following the success a year ago. In 2019-2020, the Philadelphia Flyers were franchise taking on the “elite” label. Now, they’re not even top five in their division. Tonight, they’ll face the New York Rangers, the fifth-ranked team in the Mass Mutual Eastern Division. The Flyers, sixth-ranked, are 3-2-1 against the Rangers in 2020-2021.

Lately, Philadelphia has played a lot of hockey in a short amount of time. That’s the nature of the beast known as hockey during a COVID era. Usually, the Flyers would have played one or two games by this stage of the week. They haven’t taken to the ice since their overtime shutout loss to the New York Islanders on Sunday.

Ironically, Philadelphia was most recently shut out by the Rangers before the Islanders did it Sunday. Overtime wasn’t necessary. The Rangers mutilated the Flyers, 9-0.

Brian Elliott was brilliant against the Islanders, so he’ll start again while Carter Hart recovers from an injury. He’ll need the same quality of play tonight from his teammates as he had on Sunday.

Philadelphia should be relieved Ilya Sorokin isn’t occupying the net on the opposite end of the ice.

Forward Spotlight

Wade Allison is refreshing. On Sunday, he forced puck battles and compressed the Islanders’ attack in the neutral zone. Allison did take a late penalty, but the Flyers’ penalty kill remained perfect. Showing tenacity on the forecheck while not taking many bad penalties is an improvement. Alain Vigneault likes the impression Allison has made, which is a stark contrast from Nicolas Aube-Kubel.

Aube-Kubel may have been the most effective Philadelphia forward against the Rangers when these two teams last played. He contributed an assist during the game-winning goal. More importantly, Aube-Kubel didn’t visit the penalty box. Lately, that’s why he’s received minimal amounts of ice time.

Keeping Allison and Aube-Kubel honest will be Kaapo Kakko. During line changes, Aube-Kubel must keep in front of Kakko while remaining out of the penalty box. On the Rangers’ second powerplay unit, Kakko could make his presence known.

Allison, undoubtedly, will fight in the dirty areas on the Flyers’ second powerplay unit. Already, a lot of pressure rides on special team production and hockey discipline.

Defensive Spotlight

The second and third pair of defensemen turned in solid efforts against the Islanders. Unfortunately, Nick Leddy scored the overtime game-winner because the puck deflected off of Travis Sanheim. Philadephia had a season full of heartbreak thus far. Losing a game like that is a microcosm of how 2020-2021 feels. Aside from that moment, Sanheim deserved praise.

Samuel Morin, when he isn’t sloppily committing penalties, has played well. He took off against the Rangers, scoring a game-winning goal. Recently, Morin silently navigated a physical performance. He compliments Shayne Gostisbehere well, as long as both players keep forwards in front of them.

Philippe Myers could find his way into the lineup in place of Morin. The plan remains the same. Keep the opposition in front, don’t let them creep behind.

Adam Fox is a Rangers defenseman who usually finds his way onto the stat sheet. On the right side of the ice, Fox is a top twenty-five defenseman.

On the first powerplay unit, Fox becomes more dangerous alongside the team’s most prolific scorers.

Goaltender Spotlight

Elliott will start, as previously mentioned. Again, his performance on Sunday deserves high praise. He’s been great in his role this season. Against the Rangers in 2020-2021, Elliott is 2-1-0. He did appear in four games, replacing Hart in the 8-3 loss without taking the result to his record.

The Rangers will likely start Igor Shesterkin. He and Elliott have the common opponent in the Islanders as their last starts. Both suffered a loss to the Islanders, but Shesterkin allowed six goals. What’s worse for a goaltender mentally; allowing six goals in a 6-1 loss or losing 1-0 in overtime?

Tonight is about having a short memory. Shesterkin is another good, young goaltender, but Elliott was able to hang with Sorokin, however.

Shesterkin, in 2020-2021, is 1-2-0 versus the Flyers. If the Rangers were to start Alexandar Georgiev (2-0-0), they could have the advantage tonight between the pipes. Goaltender matchups have been clinical in defeating Philadelphia for opposing teams all season long.

Flyers vs Rangers prediction

Based on recent performances, the Flyers could perform better than what most anticipate against the Rangers. The Rangers won four straight against the Devils. As iron sharpens iron, Philadelphia introduced new prospects to the NHL against teams like the Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins. As they showed against the Islanders, the Flyers are still playing to figure themselves out before the season ends.

Don’t forget you can get exclusive Flyers merch over at FOCO!

Flyers 3, Rangers 4

Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre