Tuesday, April 22, 2014
W2W4: Rangers at Flyers, Game 3
By Katie Strang
At a glance: With the series tied at a game apiece, it’s the Philadelphia Flyers' turn to host the New York Rangers. The Blueshirts dropped both regular-season games at Wells Fargo Center this season, but they're aiming for at least a split in Games 3 and 4 to keep their hopes of advancing to the second round afloat. With the Flyers coming off a pivotal 4-2 win Sunday afternoon, the Philly crowd will be amped for the team to return home, ensuring a hostile environment for the Rangers on Tuesday night. And what about the escalating chippiness between the two teams? Said Flyers' winger Wayne Simmonds: "I kind of get the feeling we're just getting warmed up here."
Still on the shelf: Flyers starting goaltender Steve Mason remains out with an upper-body injury sustained during the last weekend of the regular season. Backup netminder Ray Emery will make his third straight start of the series. The 31-year-old battled back after surrendering two goals in the first period Sunday to finish the day with 31 saves and his first playoff win of the year. His strength of play has not only inspired confidence in his coach and teammates, but has alleviated the pressure on Mason to return. The 25-year-old Mason said he is still shooting to come back in time for Game 4 on Friday, though it is not immediately clear whether coach Craig Berube will simply hand over the reins as soon as he’s healthy.
Changes on the way: Flyers coach Craig Berube said he will stick with veteran center Vinny Lecavalier on a second line with Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn. The newly-configured trio got some time together Sunday with Berube searching for fresh legs after his club spent 11:27 down a man while killing penalties. Rangers coach Alain Vigneault would not reveal whether he plans to make a lineup change, though it appears possible that gritty forward Daniel Carcillo may make his series debut Tuesday against his former team. Vigneault didn't tip his hand, but when asked about Carcillo had this to say: "With Dan in our lineup, we've had a very good record."
Fourth time's a charm: Veteran forward Martin St. Louis was announced as one of three finalists for the NHL's Lady Byng Trophy, awarded annually to the player that best exemplifies sportsmanship. The 38-year-old St. Louis, who has taken home the hardware three times previously, had only 10 penalty minutes in 81 games this season for Tampa Bay/New York. St. Louis seemed more concerned with Game 3 than the possibility of winning the award at the end of the season: "It's an honor to be [nominated] for any award," said St. Louis, but I think the focus is on something bigger and better right now."
Raise their game: Rangers veteran center and alternate captain Brad Richards admitted that the Blueshirts didn't bring enough intensity to match the “desperate” Philly squad Sunday. The team will need to bring more urgency into Tuesday’s action to have a chance at stealing a game in enemy territory. A boost from the power play would certainly help the cause. Though the unit tallied twice on the man-advantage in Game 1, the troops were limited to only one man-up marker on six attempts Sunday in a superb penalty-killing effort by the Flyers. Keep in mind that the Flyers were the most penalized team in the league during the regular season, though, so the Rangers could be in line for more practice Tuesday, especially if the nastiness from Game 2 carries over.
Matchup game: Alain Vigneault hasn’t been a huge matchup guy in his first season as Rangers coach, and he didn’t seem to belabor the issue in the first pair of games against the Flyers, either. Will that change as the series progresses? No longer on home ice, Vigneault won't have the benefit of having the last change. Will Craig Berube try to take advantage? Watch to see how he employs his top line of Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek. The third line of Matt Read, Sean Couturier and Jason Akeson has also been an effective one for the Flyers, so expect it to draw work against the Rangers’ top trio of Rick Nash, Derek Stepan and Martin St. Louis.