NHL Winter Classic 2012: Strong Matchup Between Rangers and Flyers

Dominic ErricoCorrespondent IDecember 28, 2011

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 08:  Overall view of the stadium field shows the floorboards are already down on the baseball field at Citizens Bank Park on December 8, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in preparation for the upcoming 2012 Winter Classic.  (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

The 2012 NHL Winter Classic is approaching, and the NHL has a great matchup to present to you this year.

If you take a look at the current standings you'll notice that the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers are the first and second place teams of the Atlantic Division, and both are at the top of the Eastern Conference.  

These are two division rivals who have a strong dislike for each other.  The fanbases of Philly and New York hate each other, so that only adds to the intrigue of this game. 

The NHL certainly hoped both teams would be having strong seasons heading into this game.  Add in the fact it's an outdoor event that you only get to see once a year, and I think you have a recipe for a highly dramatic game that should captivate the minds of sports fans, whether they are casual or hardcore fans of the NHL.

The Rangers come into the game having allowed the fewest goals in the entire NHL (76).  The Flyers will bring the third-highest scoring attack to try and put a dent into those totals.  

If you're looking for star power, both teams have it. 

For the Flyers, they have the NHL's leading scorer in Claude Giroux (17 goals, 27 assists).  Scott Hartnell also ranks amongst the best goal scorers in the league with 17 and veteran winger Jaromir Jagr is having a strong season (11 goals, 19 assists) as well.

The Rangers counter with NHL-leading goal scorer Marian Gaborik (22 goals, 11 assists), and of course they boast a Vezina Trophy candidate in Henrik Lundqvist who ranks fourth in GAA (1.95) and save percentage (93.6 percent). 

I think the edge in goal has to go to the Rangers.  Ilya Bryzgalov (3.01 GAA, 89 percent save percentage) has been a bit of a disappointment for the Flyers.  Not exactly what they envisioned when they poured some offseason capital into him.

If you're looking for a slight intangible for Philly, the fact they have already played in a Winter Classic might help a little bit.  Plus they are the home team, even though the NHL passes out a lot of the tickets to neutral parties. 

All eyes in the hockey world, and some from beyond it, will be focused on these teams come January 2nd.  It's an event you need to check out.  You won't be disappointed.