Friday, December 17, 2010
W2W4: Rangers vs. Flyers
By Mike Hume
Yeah, we're a little early on this one, but with a 1 p.m. start time on Saturday against the Flyers we figured we'd get a jump on the action. Here's what to watch for when the puck drops in Philly.
You hear about intangibles all the time but Chris Drury gave everyone a great example of why he's so highly regarded on Thursday night. With Martin Biron struggling in net after giving up two early goals, the Rangers' captain tapped Biron's pads with his stick and told him to show some sarcastic fans chanting for Henrik Lundqvist what he's really made of. Biron responded, allowing just one more goal (on a Phoenix power play) and stopping all three Coyote shootout attempts to seal the comeback. Biron credited Drury's support after the game. Oh yeah, and the captain assisted on Derek Stepan's game-tying goal in the third. Pretty well-rounded night in his second game back.
Special Teams Slippage
Over their last five games the Rangers have struck on the power play, previously a point of concern for the Blueshirts, but their strong suit has taken a hit as well. Over that same stretch the Rangers PK percentage has slipped, 70.6 percent compared to their season average of 81.7. Meanwhile the Flyers' power play has struggled this season (16.6 percent), but their last four games they've been improving (21.4 percent) and with all the offensive weapons in Philly, you have to think that second number is closer to their true capabilities. The Rangers need to refocus when they're down a man.
The Flyers currently stand as the NHL's top team, but the Blueshirts hold the third most points in the Eastern Conference. A win over Philly, after claiming games against Pittsburgh and Washington in the past seven days and the Rangers would seem well on their way to joining that upper echelon of teams in the Eastern Conference on more than a passing basis. Their edge against the Flyers? Lundqvist. King Henrik has dominated the Flyers to the tune of a 14-8 record over his career. Sure, he lost 4-1 in the first meeting between the teams this season, but two of those goals came on the power play. He was particularly dominant at Wells Fargo Center last season, posting a .964 save percentage and a 1.31 GAA.