New York Rangers: 3 Reasons Dominance over Flyers Will Continue in Playoffs
Their mutual hatred stems partly from close proximity to one another, and partly from them having met in the Stanley Cup Playoffs on 10 occasions (the Flyers having won six out of the 10 series).
The Broadway vs. Broad Street Bullies rivalry truly began when they faced each other during the 1974 Stanley Cup Semifinals, where the Flyers eliminated the Rangers in the seventh game of the series.
Since that time the two teams have always provided one of the most exciting, but at the same time most brutal and aggressive games to watch.
Although the nicknames remain, gone are the days when the Rangers will allow the Flyers to bully them. In fact, the Rangers have apparently figured the Flyers out and have defeated them in their last seven outings dating back to March 6 of 2011 when they walloped them in a 7-0 shutout at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers have continued their dominance over the Flyers into this season, winning the first five out of the six outings thus far.
They meet one last time in the regular season on April 3 in Philly before heading into the postseason, but there is no reason to believe that they will not continue their winning streak going into the playoffs.
There is no question that there is something special about this year's Rangers team, with their impressive perch atop the Atlantic Division, Eastern Conference and (thanks to Sunday's win against the Boston Bruins) NHL overall.
Here are three reason why the Rangers' dominion will continue over the Flyers, even into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Rangers' No. 1 netminder Henrik Lundqvist is one of the main reasons (perhaps the main reason) they are flying high this season.
Lundqvist is not only a contender for the Vezina Trophy but also for the MVP this year, which is an exceptional honor, because this award is mostly reserved for offensive players. Lundqvist, however, has been just that good this season.
At this time he has a record of 31-12-5 and is leading the league in save percentage at .938.
The main reason that Lundqvist has been able to maintain and perform at his best level to date is largely due to the fact that for the first time in years the Rangers have a strong backup goaltender, thereby giving Lundqvist the ability to rest instead of being expected to start in every single game.
That being said, Martin Biron's record of 11-3-2 and .911 save percentage isn't too shabby either.
In stark contrast, the Philadelphia Flyers starting goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov has a record of 24-13-6 with a .901 save percentage.
And sophomore backup goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky has a record of 12-8-1 and a .900 save percentage.
The Rangers organization is no stranger to great goaltending. However, the same cannot be said for the Flyers, who have seriously struggled with finding a good fit for their organization since Ron Hextall in the mid-1980s.
In an attempt to rediscover their one-time goaltending glory the Flyers signed Bryzgalov to a nine-year, $51 million deal last summer.
Having great goaltending that a team can have complete faith in makes all the difference with these two teams.
The Rangers have this major advantage over the Flyers, because there is no one they would rather defend them in net then King Henrik. On the other hand, the jury is still out on Bryzgalov.
Belief in the System
The Rangers are used to playing hard this season in every single game, because head coach John Tortorella demands nothing but the best from his team and expects them to play each game as if it were a playoff game.
This is especially so when paired against the division rival Flyers. Rangers forward Brandon Dubinsky was quoted as saying after a win against the Flyers on February 5:
"We have been neck and neck with those guys all year long. Every game we've played against them has been physical, a playoff type atmosphere."
Dubinsky sure isn't kidding with that comment. Every game is do-or-die—not only with these two teams, but in every matchup.
But what has truly prepared the Rangers for the long haul has been Tortorella's coaching style, which after his third year with the organization is thankfully clicking.
He runs a tight ship. If you make a mistake you are most definitely going to be benched, but if you play well, you can be sure to expect more ice team as a reward. Each player therefore has to earn their spot on the roster and egos and sloppiness will not be tolerated, no matter what your superstar status.
Most notably we have seen this with Marian Gaborik, who after a rough patch last season has finally assimilated to Tortorella's style of play. Look at the season is he is having as a result.
Every player has bought into this belief system, and it is working for them.
The Rangers believe in themselves and in each other. This new-found confidence clearly goes a long way and has made them virtually unstoppable not only against the Flyers, but in the league in general.
Increased Offensive Play
Although the Rangers have managed to clinch the No. 1 spot overall after Sunday afternoon's win against the Boston Bruins, the secret to their success this season hasn't primarily come from their offensive play.
What is ironic about this is when they play the Philadelphia Flyers, they seem to up their offensive game and have scored a minimum of at least two goals per game against them in each of the last seven outings.
The Blueshirts shut out the Flyers 2-0 on November 26 and beat them 4-2 on December 23 (both at the Garden).
They then defeated them 3-2 at the highly anticipated fifth annual Winter Classic in Philadelphia (which only further demonstrated the animosity between the two teams). They won 5-2 on February 5 at home and most recently defeated the Flyers 5-2 again on February 11 in Philly.
Where this strong offensive play comes from when they play the Flyers I am not sure, but they understand that it is a major component in the secret to their success against the team.
Even their power play scoring (which has also been a struggle for them this season) increases when they play the Flyers.
Back on February 11th's matchup the Rangers had a season high of three goals on the power play.
To sum up it is these three components (goaltending, belief in the system and increased offensive play) that I forsee as the reasons the Rangers dominance will continue throughout the remainder of the season and through the playoffs.
Things might get a little ugly (as is to be expected against these two rivals), but the Flyers better beware, because the Rangers are in it to win this year and nothing is going to get in their way.