- Katie Strang, ESPN.com
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NEW YORK -- If Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux’s Game 4 guarantee made waves inside the New York Rangers dressing room, they did their best to keep that fact concealed, shrugging off their opponents' confidence.
After the Flyers’ 4-1 loss in Philadelphia on Tuesday night, Giroux boldly proclaimed:
“We’ll be ready for Game 4. We’re going to tie up the series and go back to New York.”
That sort of statement could have poured gasoline on an already bitter series, but the Rangers, keen on preserving their series lead, didn’t seem interested in playing into the postseason rhetoric.
“I heard some people say he said something, but why wouldn’t he? What’s he going to say, ‘We’re going to go in and lose’?” said veteran center Brad Richards. “He wants to win. I’m sure their focus is on that. None of it involves us either way, whatever he says.”
The Rangers have their own plans, namely to capitalize on the opportunity to build a commanding two-game series lead with another win at Wells Fargo Center on Friday. That would provide the Rangers with the opportunity to close things out at home in Madison Square Garden on Sunday.
“We want to go in and win tomorrow too. Does it matter what we say? It’s gonna be played out on the ice [Friday] night,” Richards said. “We’re going to have to be a lot better on the ice tomorrow night, a lot more disciplined, and that’s our focus.”
Rather than lobbing incendiary comments back in Giroux’s direction -- the most obvious ammunition being that he has been limited to a mere two shots on goal the entire series, for one -- the Rangers are hunkering down and trying to fine-tune their own game.
Given Tuesday’s emotional Game 3, the Rangers want to curb their enthusiasm and limit the amount of time they spend in the penalty box. They took six penalties in Game 3, leaving them short-handed for 7:19 in the game. While the penalty-killing unit was superb, aided by a zealous shot-blocking effort, they would rather not put themselves in a similar position Friday.
Though the Flyers have struggled at times on the power play in the first trio of games, going 2-for-9 with the man advantage, Philadelphia is reportedly making some changes to its special-teams unit. Flyers coach Craig Berube told local reporters Wednesday that he was not satisfied with his club’s ability to get shots through, indicating that the Flyers would look for ways to produce quicker puck movement and find more shooting lanes.
The Rangers are anticipating as much and know they have to keep the extracurricular activity to a minimum. They did a good job of that during the regular season, finishing ninth in the league among least-penalized teams with an average of 10 minutes per game. By comparison, the Flyers were the NHL’s most penalized team with an average of 14.4 minutes per game.
“We just need to play whistle to whistle,” said center Derick Brassard, whose linemate Benoit Pouliot took two undisciplined penalties Tuesday. “We try to tell each other before game, between periods, we want to play with emotions, we want to play hard and battle, but you just need that fraction of a second you need to decide whether you want to give extra shots or be in those extra scrums. I think we got away from it in Game 3. It’s something that’s going to be part of our plan [Friday].”
Coach Alain Vigneault said his club is aware of the hostile territory and that the chippy plays won’t always result in penalties in its favor. (Matt Read’s questionable hit on Daniel Carcillo was one particular example provided.) That can’t change their mindset regardless.
“It’s something we’re expecting,” Vigneault said. “Knowing the way they play, we’ve just got to play whistle to whistle.”