Last week the Philadelphia Flyers suffered a 3-1 loss to the New York Rangers on NBC’s Wednesday Rivalry Night.
This continues the Flyers woes at Madison Square Garden. Philadelphia has now dropped their last eight games at the Square, with a combined score of 31-9.
New York’s fans showed a playoff-like atmosphere when the Flyers came to town. This was perhaps to give them a taste of what it might be like come playoff time, as New York and Philadelphia would play in round one if the season were over today.
With just a couple weeks left before the Stanley Cup Playoffs we are starting to see matchups form for round one. Flyers-Rangers would certainly be one of the more polarizing of these series because it is no secret that these teams do not like each other.
As one of the NHL’s most exciting rivalries, it would provide fans with a nasty battle between Broadway and Broad Street.
New York and Philadelphia have not only battled in their division, but have met in the playoffs 10 times in their history. The Flyers currently have the advantage, winning six of the meetings.
Players on either team, however, are practically strangers in the postseason. The last time these teams met was in the 1997 Eastern Conference Finals, which Philadelphia won, 4-1.
So this series would certainly be a well overdue battle, but a welcomed one among fans.
It will feature some of the NHL’s biggest stars on both sides.
For New York, the biggest is Henrik Lundqvist. The superstar goaltender has been dominating his opposition for years, and hasn’t slowed down a bit.
In 58 games played this season, he boasts a record of 30-23-4, a GAA of 2.44, a save percentage of .918 and has managed five shutouts.
Lundqvist sees the support of the superb defensive duo of Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh. Up front, Rick Nash leads the Rangers in goal scoring despite missing a portion of the season to injury. The newly acquired Martin St. Louis has also fit in nicely and should help New York move the puck.
Their biggest loss was that of captain Ryan Callahan, who was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning. He gave them a great presence on the penalty kill, and was one of their top forwards.
For Philadelphia, their top player and captain Claude Giroux will be the best skater on the ice. Although Nash will make a case for that honor because he is a star in his own right, Giroux has elevated himself to superstar status this season.
With 78 points on the year, third best in the NHL, he leads the Flyers in goals and assists. After being left off the Canadian Olympic team in Sochi, he has played with a chip on his shoulder, and proven he deserved to be there.
The Flyers are weaker on defense when compared to New York, but they have a much deeper forward core.
Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek have both elevated their play this season. Simmonds specifically has made a case for one of the top power forwards in the NHL. He is tied with Giroux for goals with 25, and also ranks third in the NHL in powerplay goals.
So who wins this series?
Currently, the table tilts in favor of New York.
They would currently have the home ice advantage if the season ended today. However, the Flyers have played two games less on the year. So there remains the possibility of Philadelphia claiming home ice over New York with a few good wins.
The reality is that this series would likely go at least six or seven games, and the victor is likely to be the team who captures home ice for round one. Both teams have incredibly passionate fans who fuel their teams, and in the end that will make the difference.
HartnellDown Tracker: Scott currently sits at 245 HartnellDowns this season.