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The New York Rangers celebrate at Citizens Bank Park after defeating the Flyers in the 2012 Winter Classic.
The Flyers opened the season with an impressive victory against the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Boston Bruins, in Boston. Since then, they have not beaten the Bruins nor the New York Rangers in four attempts.
With the Rangers riding Vezina Trophy candidate Henrik Lundqvist, and with the Bruins steamrolling opposing clubs with a combination of high scoring, stifling defense and the goaltending of Tim Thomas, it stands to reason that the Flyers would have to go through at least one, if not both, of these foes in the playoffs in order to reach the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Flyers were sluggish in the first meeting with the Rangers, falling 2-0. In their second meeting, Ilya Bryzgalov allowed a couple soft goals as the Rangers downed the Flyers 4-2. Their third meeting, the Winter Classic, clearly added the most frustration of all. The Flyers led 2-0, courtesy of Brayden Schenn's first NHL goal and Claude Giroux's only tally in January.
Then Mike Rupp took over.
His screened shot on the following shift cut the lead in half. Rupp added fuel to fire by giving the Flyers' bench a Jagr-arian salute, which drew the ire of Claude Giroux, amongst others. HBO's 24/7 showed that the Flyers became almost obsessed with exacting revenge for that act rather than focusing on their game plan. The Flyers led 2-1 after two periods of play, but Mike Rupp tied the game on a short-side shot, which Sergei Bobrovsky should have saved. Brad Richards scored on a rebound to give the Rangers a 3-2 advantage. The game marked the first time all season that the Flyers lost in regulation when leading after two periods of play.
In the Flyers' second meeting against the Bruins, on Black Friday in Philadelphia, the Flyers fell behind early and never got into the game. The Bruins embarrassed the Flyers by a final count of 6-0. Last Sunday in Philadelphia, the Flyers fell to the Bruins but found some solace in the loss. Scott Hartnell tallied a hat trick, the Flyers rallied from an early 1-0 deficit and Brayden Schenn exhibited his skills as a fill-in for Jaromir Jagr on the top line. On the flip side, Ilya Bryzgalov allowed two questionable goals in regulation and went 0-for-2 in shootout save attempts.
The injury-riddled Flyers will not receive any pity or mercy, and they know that. They will need better goaltending and sharper overall play to defeat both the Rangers and Bruins. They will have three more shots at the Rangers and one more shot at the Bruins in the second half of the season.