In order to avoid falling into an 0-2 hole, the Philadelphia Flyers will have to do what they haven’t been able to do since 2011, and what they were unable to accomplish on Thursday; win in Manhattan.
Thursday’s game against the New York Rangers looked like a carbon copy of the Flyers’ previous performances at Madison Square Garden this season. The team came out flat, and was never able to duplicate the pace of the Rangers. The Flyers were ultimately outshot 36-15, and looked baffled when it came to executing the forecheck and getting the puck into the Rangers’ zone for prolonged periods of time.
Despite this, the game was still tied 1-1 in the third before a tough break for Jason Akeson (pictured) and the Flyers put them shorthanded for 4 minutes. The resulting power play saw two goals scored, and the rest was history. Below is a look at the good things the Flyers did, as well as the bad, and the ugly.
- Ray Emery looked on his game. The Flyers’ backup netminder, forced into duty due to Steve Mason’s upper-body injury, was a bit shaky early on. But, he picked it up as the Rangers dominated play. “Razor” made 32 saves on 36 shots, and those that he didn’t stop would not have been saved by anything short of a brick wall. Mason rejoined the team Thursday night. Though, there’s no news on who will start game two.
- Jason Akeson was perhaps the team’s best energy player. Despite his unlucky double-minor penalty in the third period, Akeson truly did have a strong first playoff game. The young forward, who led the Phantoms in points this season, looked solid as part of the team’s third line with Sean Couturier and Michael Raffl. We’ll see if Craig Berube sticks with that young line in game two.
- That third line was by far the Flyers’ best. Raffl and Akeson combined for 6 shots, while Couturier was solid with the exception of New York’s first goal.
- Andrew MacDonald continued to prove that he is a top-four defenseman in the NHL. Fresh off signing a 6 year, $30 million contract earlier this week, the Flyers’ blue liner led the team with 22:15 TOI and recorded their only goal, a snipe from the point in the first period. If Kimmo Timonen is going to be hobbled for the majority of this series, Philadelphia’s success is going to hinge on MacDonald’s ability.
- The team was rather aggressive physically, especially against the Rangers’ defensemen. With Ryan McDonagh still nursing a sore shoulder, that type of physicality will prove crucial later in the series.
- Jakub Voracek, despite a scoreless day, was impressively aggressive. He looked as good as he has all season, and should be a force for the remainder of the series.
- Claude Giroux now has zero shots against the Rangers in his last three games in MSG. That’s unacceptable for a player who is considered by most as one of the top-5 in the world. Philadelphia will need more out of him if they’re going anywhere this series.
- The refereeing was rather atrocious. I get that you want to let them play in the playoffs. But, not calling the blatant interference on Wayne Simmonds in the first, or the rather obvious slash on Scott Hartnell in the second, was ridiculous. The refs had no problem whipping out the whistle in the third, when they called Philadelphia for four penalties. In all, the Flyers only got two calls their way. Meanwhile, the Rangers got six. The Flyers cannot win this series unless their power play gets time on the ice.
- The Flyers’ netmouth coverage was once again abysmal. This has been happening all season. So, expecting anything to change now would be insane. On the first Rangers’ goal, Mats Zuccarello out-muscled Sean Couturier (a player twice his size) for the puck on the rebound. Philadelphia has had trouble clearing the puck out of their zone for awhile. It will probably come back to haunt them again.
- Kimmo Timonen is clearly injured. The Flyers’ veteran blue liner was a -2, and looked uncomfortable all night. Philadelphia will have to decide whether to stick with a hobbled Timonen, or go with Hal Gill or Erik Gustafsson.
- Brayden Schenn was an absolute albatross in game one. The only times you even heard the kid’s name is when he was going offsides or committing an atrocious penalty when the Flyers were set to go on the power play in the second period. Schenn is a restricted free agent this offseason, so his play the rest of the way could go a long way in deciding whether or not the Flyers deal him at some point.
- Meanwhile, the team’s big acquisition last year, Vincent Lecavalier, might have been even worse. It’s one thing to not be the scoring machine that he once was. It’s an entirely different disaster to be as bad with the puck on his stick as Vinny is. There’s a reason Lecavalier was demoted to the fourth line, and he showed it on Thursday. Just a ridiculous performance by him. The stat line? Goose eggs. Lecavalier, in 7:42 of ice time (lowest of any player on Philadelphia) didn’t record a single statistic. The Invisible Man.
- Craig Berube’s ice-time distribution was odd to say the least. Giroux only played 17:08. Voracek got 14:22. Meanwhile, Couturier and Matt Read each got over 20 minutes of ice time. The Flyers want to keep Giroux and the top line away from the Rangers’ best defenders. But, at some point, you need to have them out there if they’re going to contribute to your team.
- While I respect what Nick Grossman has brought to the team this season, it’s pretty clear that his foot is so banged up that even skating with the puck is a hardship. Philadelphia has a solid, young blue liner in Gustafsson just sitting on the bench. He should probably be active instead of Nick. But, he won’t be. For some reason, Berube really likes this veteran defenseman.
- Finally, the ice at MSG was as slushy as it has ever been. I understand southern teams having a hard time keeping their ice in pristine shape. But, New York should be able to figure it out eventually, right? This has been going on for years, and keeping the puck from going on its edge has become a lesson in infamy. I’m not saying that the ice is responsible for the Flyers’ losing streak in New York. But, it certainly hasn’t helped.