NHL Playoffs 2014: Round 1 Preview – New York Rangers vs Philadelphia Flyers

SERIES BEGINS: Thursday 17th April

PUCK DROP: 7:00pm ET (12:00am GMT) @ MSG

BY THE NUMBERS

NY RANGERS PHILADELPHIA
SEASON RECORD 45-31-6 42-30-10
POINTS 96 94
GOALS FOR/AGAINST  (DIFFERENTIAL) 218 / 193(+25) 236 / 235(+1)
LAST 10 GAMES 6-2-2 4-3-3
TOP POINT SCORER 59 PTS(M. ZUCCARELLO) 86 PTS(C. GIROUX)
TOP GOAL SCORER 26 G(R. NASH) 29 G(W. SIMMONDS)
MOST TOI/G  24:49(R. MCDONAGH) 22:26(B. COBURN)
TOTAL 5v5 SV%  93.1%(4th in NHL) 92.2%(15th in NHL)

Regular season series 13/14 tied 2-2.

Flyers hold an overall 6-4 lead in Playoff meetings.

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS SEASON LOWDOWN:

Over recent years the title of “Comeback Kids” has been levelled at the Flyers, and rather deservingly so. This season could be said to be no different. The Flyers looked almost doomed to a season of mediocrity in the early season, with Peter Laviolette being removed as head-coach and replaced by Craig Berube.

Many questioned The Chief’s ability to step into the high pressure role, but he has proved those doubters wrong emerging as a contender for the Jack Adams Trophy.

The Jack Adams trophy is awarded to “coach adjudged to have contributed the most to his team’s success”. A fitting description of Berube. He has transformed this Flyers club into what Ken Hitchcock described at the time his Blues visited the Wells Fargo Centre as “the scariest team in the NHL right now”.

This Flyers team is full of belief, passion and fight. Despite their somewhat shaky season it would be foolish to write them off.

The system the Flyers now play means they have depth scoring with 7 20+ goal scorers with at least one on each line which is the best in the regular season.

Perhaps the weakness in this Flyers team is the sometimes worrying way in which they can quickly lose control of games under hard forechecking, this is something new signing Andrew MacDonald has helped to eradicate somewhat, but against their first playoff opponents who are specialists in that style of play, it won’t be an easy task.

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS PLAYER TO WATCH:

It’s difficult to pick just one player for these, but barring the obvious selection of Claude Giroux, the most dangerous player (and player I believe should have won the annual Bobby Clarke Trophy awarded to the Flyers’ team MVP) is Wayne Simmonds.

Simmonds collected 60 points this season, including a team leading and personal best of 29 goals. He has quickly become one of the best “power forwards” in the league and is as dangerous as anyone on the PP, in which he has scored 15 of his 29 goals.

NEW YORK RANGERS SEASON LOWDOWN:

Very much like their playoff opponents, the Rangers had a poor start to the season. Alain Vigneault took the place of the outgoing head coach John Tortorella in the off season and it took the Rangers a little while to get used to the new coach’s style of hockey.

One thing that could be said to be lacking from this Rangers team this season could be the lack of points from their bigger players. With only two 20 goal scorers and the likes of Rick Nash and Brad Richards having relatively quiet seasons in points terms, they will need their bigger players to come up trumps in this series.

But one consistent in the Rangers’ play is just how stingy they are in their own zone. Allowing only 191 goals on the season which comes in at 4th in the entire NHL. The Rangers have two elite defencemen in Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh who have played their part in restricting their first playoff opponents in the Flyers to only 8 goals in 4 regular season meetings this year.

A huge factor for the Rangers this season has been their penalty kill coming in at 85.3% which reaches to 3rd in the NHL. This number may not seem to significant however when combined with the Rangers’ 5-5 F/A average of 1.07 it shows whilst not scoring lots of goals, they remain defensively solid throughout all 60 minutes.

NEW YORK RANGERS PLAYER TO WATCH:

Despite only putting up 8 points in 19 games since being traded to the Rangers, Martin St. Louis could be a huge factor in this playoff series.

It’s always going to be hard moving to a new organization after being part of the Lightning for 13 seasons. But a look at his stats in the playoffs, show that in 63 games he has amassed 68 points including 24 in 23 on road to his Stanley Cup in 03-04. Clearly a man who likes the playoffs.

PREDICTION:

In the four games played between the two clubs this season the series came out tied at 2-2 with both teams winning both their games on home ice, however the Rangers outscored the Flyers 10-8.

The first two games are to be played at the Garden, which holds somewhat of a jinx over the Flyers club, who have not won there since February 2011.

If the Flyers are to win this series, I feel they have to win at least one of the opening two at the MSG and break the streak of bad results.

Without “chickening” out of calling this series, I think if the series comes down to defence the Rangers will edge it, but if my gut feeling is right and it comes down to who scores the most goals, the Flyers will take it.

It’s a very close series to call, but when forced to come to a result I have the Flyers winning the series 4-3.

STAY TUNED FOR THE NEXT INSTALLMENT OF ICE NATION UK’S NHL PLAYOFF PREVIEWS.

Follow James on Twitter, and while you’re at it follow Ice Nation UK for all the best hockey talk throughout the playoffs!

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