Even though the NHL Winter Classic is always a spectacle and a fun game to watch, it’s still a regular season game.
A game like this between two division rivals is typically called a four-pointer, since one team is able to gain two points and prevent their rival from gaining two points. A Flyers win today would also start off the calendar year right.
Here are three keys to beating the Rangers in the 2012 NHL Winter Classic.
Use Experience As An Advantage
The Philadelphia Flyers currently have nine players on their roster who competed in the 2010 NHL Winter Classic against the Boston Bruins. Most of these players are integral to the team, such as Claude Giroux, Danny Briere and Kimmo Timonen.
The New York Rangers, on the other hand, only have one player who has ever participated in a Winter Classic—Mike Rupp, a fourth-line enforcer.
Experience is on their side.
With all of the festivities and sideshows to the game, it’s easy to lose focus and get caught up in the atmosphere. The Flyers need to keep their heads in the game and just try to score some goals.
Goaltending Must Be Solid
Sergei Bobrovsky was named the starter for the Philadelphia Flyers by fellow netminder Ilya Bryzgalov after practice on January 1st, before coach Peter Laviolette had a chance to formally address the media and announce it himself.
Goaltending controversies aside, Bobrovsky just needs to keep doing the things that have helped him compile an 8-2-1 record in 11 starts with the Flyers this year.
The Flyers have scored the second highest total of goals in the league. Putting the puck in the net is not a problem for them. They just need to make sure that their goalie does just enough to put them ahead.
Be Physical, Not Undisciplined
The 2012 NHL Winter Classic features two of the three most penalized teams in the league. The New York Rangers average 15.2 PIM per game (28th) and the Philadelphia Flyers average 16.6 PIM per game (30th).
Those are two angry teams.
If the Flyers can manage to stay disciplined and not take stupid penalties, they should be able to win this game. Their power play is better than the Rangers, so if they can draw a few penalties early, they should be able to score on the PP and play with a lead.
Playing a physical game can be a tough tightrope to walk on. The Flyers need to give hits, not take penalties.