The Philadelphia Flyers have the opportunity to sweep the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden as Jackson Cates makes his NHL debut.
Starting the week on a winning note is a great feeling. With ten games left in the season, playing spoiler to the New York Rangers playoff hopes would emphasize such a great feeling. The Philadelphia Flyers could tonight; live from Madison Square Garden.
Last night, the Flyers played well. They came from behind to win in regulation, partly due to a gutsy performance from James van Riemsdyk. Jakub Voracek scored the eventual game-winning goal to seal the deal. Philadelphia recovered from a whimsical first period, taking control in the second and third.
Believe it or not, the Flyers have control of the season series between the two rivals. While Philadelphia has been on the receiving end of crushing defeats, ranging between margins of five to nine goals, they’ve got the best of the Rangers in terms of wins and losses.
With another win tonight, the Flyers secure the season series against the Rangers while booting them from playoff contention.
Voracek scored the game-winning goal, but his presence on the ice allowed Philadelphia to generate scoring opportunities. His powerplay unit did not score against the Rangers in the 3-2 victory, but his even-strength play proved to be the difference-maker. On an odd-man rush with Claude Giroux, Igor Shesterkin faced a dual threat. Voracek and Giroux are as great as any other duo in the NHL during two-on-one situations. Giroux threatening across the slot allowed Voracek to sneak a wrist shot past Shesterkin, who didn’t stand much of a chance.
During a close game, the Flyers rely on their veteran core. Leading the Rangers, 2-1, Voracek remained the best Philadelphia forward on the ice. Starting in the offensive zone helps, but Voracek helped keep pressure on Shesterkin. Voracek, calculated in creating offense, scored on the only shot he took the entire game.
Kaapo Kakko excelled at a lot of the fine details as Voracek, minus scoring. His line did help create a scoring opportunity to give the Rangers their only lead. After the first period, the Flyers improved on possessing the puck in the offensive zone, taking control away from the Rangers forwards.
Aside from Kakko, Filip Chytil is another Rangers forward contributing on the third line. Chytil recorded an assist.
Those two will continue to keep Nicolas Aube-Kubel honest and test Jackson Cates during line changes.
“Left side, strong side.”
Instead of “Remember the Titans,” it’s worth remembering the performance from Travis Sanheim and Shayne Gostisbehere last night. Both contributed in different ways. Sanheim bounced back after playing a heartbreaking role in the shootout loss to the Islanders last Sunday. Gostisbehere notched an assist on the game-winning goal. Confidently, the best defense came from the left side of the ice.
Gostisbehere stole the show for Philadelphia, adding the assist, finishing with a plus-one rating, and blocking a shot. His powerplay prowess didn’t take precedence. Watching him excel during even-strength hockey was refreshing.
Opposite of Gostisbehere was Brendan Smith. He is not known for his two-way defense but scored following Philippe Myers’ penalty. Additionally, Smith blocked three shots and recorded a hit. Smith did visit the penalty box twice, allowing Konecny to get under his skin once.
Myers found his way back into the lineup in place of Samuel Morin last night. He’ll remain in despite an untimely penalty during the first period last night.
Alex Lyon will start after Brian Elliott turned in two great performances. Tonight will be the second start of this season for Lyon, who is 0-1-0. His only previous start was against the Washington Capitals. The Flyers lost that game, 6-3.
Alexander Georgiev could start tonight if his knee has recovered from locking up on Sunday versus the Islanders. If not, expect Keith Kincaid to take his place in the crease. Shesterkin will likely rest after carrying the load. Georgiev is undefeated against Philadelphia this season. Kincaid is 0-0-1 versus the Flyers.
Elliott has played with a zen-like focus lately. Lyon hasn’t proven that he can keep this Philadephia roster in a game with a performance this season. The Rangers have an advantage in the goaltender matchup.
Can Cates make the same impression Wade Allison has with the Flyers? If he can, that will boost Philadelphia to compete again with the Rangers.
Flyers 4, Rangers 3
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Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre