The New York Rangers got back in the driver's seat with a victory on Tuesday, and they will look to floor it in Game 4. A victory for the boys in blue would set up an elimination Game 5 at Madison Square Garden for the weekend, and a loss would tie things up.
Claude Giroux has channeled his inner Mark Messier by guaranteeing a victory for Game 4, and you can expect the Philadelphia Flyers' bearded leader to come out flying on Friday.
Claude Giroux: "We'll be ready for Game 4. We're going to tie up this series and go back to New York."— Adam Kimelman (@NHLAdamK) April 23, 2014
He's been invisible to date, so it is better that he makes an appearance sooner rather than later.
The Rangers are riding a ton of momentum, but a goaltending change for the Flyers could ultimately swing the pendulum in Philadelphia's favor.
Tuning into Game 4 is a perfect way to start the weekend, so here's everything you need to know before puck drop.
|Date||Result||Final Score||Series Stats/ TV Information|
|Thursday, April 17||W||NYR 4 - PHI 1||Rangers Lead 1-0|
|Sunday, April 20||L||PHI 4 - NYR 2||Series Tied 1-1|
|Tuesday, April 22||W||NYR 4- PHI 1||Rangers Lead 2-1|
|Friday, April 25||7 p.m.||Rangers at Flyers||CNBC, MSG, CSN|
|*Sunday, April 27||12 p.m.||Flyers at Rangers||NBC|
|*Tuesday, April 29||TBD||Rangers at Flyers||MSG, CSN|
|*Wednesday, April 30||TBD||Flyers at Rangers||MSG, CSN|
Time: Friday, April 25, 7 p.m. ET
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
TV: CNBC, CSN, MSG
Key Storylines for Game 4
There is one major storyline for Game 4, and it is the return of Steve Mason. After Ray Emery surrendered his fourth goal of Game 3, Philadelphia's bench boss wisely yanked him and inserted Mason for the final seven minutes and 15 seconds of regulation. It allowed Mason to acclimate himself to some game action and also gave him an opportunity to test his comfort level in net.
Mason will be the man in Game 4, and he will have to shut the door if the Flyers want to get back in the series. If Mason doesn't pitch a solid effort, this series is more than likely over. The odds of the Flyers winning the final three games of the series would be slim to none.
Key Matchup: (NYR) Rick Nash vs. (PHI) Defense
Rick Nash has yet to score a goal in this series, but he could finally break out in Game 4. In Game 3, Nash played 17:08, took five shots and recorded two assists. His first assist came on a Derek Stepan goal—Nash lobbed the puck on net, and Stepan buried a rebound after Emery misplayed the puck with his glove.
Nash has been one of the top defensive forwards for the Blueshirts thus far, and his active stick has disrupted a number of chances for the Flyers.
The Flyers defense has done a good job of sticking Nash when he tries to cut in from the perimeter, and they will need to continue that in Game 4 if they want to keep him off the scoreboard.
Goaltending Tale of the Tape
Steve Mason is making his first start of the series, and Henrik Lundqvist is between the pipes for Friday night's contest. Mason was perfect in his short relief stint, and Lundqvist is coming off an outstanding performance in Game 3. Goaltending is going to play a big role in who wins Game 4, and Mason has a tough task in front of him as he tries to keep the Flyers in this series.
Rangers' Projected Lineup
Rick Nash | Derek Stepan | Martin St. Louis
Benoit Pouliot | Derick Brassard | Mats Zuccarello
Carl Hagelin | Brad Richards | Dan Carcillo
Brian Boyle | Dominic Moore | Derek Dorsett
Ryan McDonagh | Dan Girardi
Marc Staal | Anton Stralman
John Moore | Kevin Klein
Flyers' Projected Lineup
Scott Hartnell | Claude Giroux | Jakub Voracek
Michael Raffl | Brayden Schenn | Wayne Simmonds
Matt Read | Sean Couturier | Jason Akeson
Zac Rinaldo | Vincent Lecavalier | Adam Hall
Kimmo Timonen | Braydon Coburn
Mark Streit | Nicklas Grossmann
Andrew MacDonald | Luke Schenn
Rangers Will Win If...
The Blueshirts will take a 3-1 series lead back to MSG if they pepper Mason with shots early and often. Yes, he got some reps in during the waning minutes of Game 3, but starting a game is a lot different than entering a game that is out of reach.
If the Rangers make him uncomfortable in net, Mason could crumble and they could build an early lead. The Blueshirts should also continue crashing the net. Doing so will force Mason to come out of his comfort zone, and that should lead to goals.
The Rangers will also win if they avoid taking stupid penalties—cough, cough, Benoit Pouliot, cough, cough—because giving the Flyers chances to burn them on the power play is just downright dumb.
Flyers Will Win If...
If Mason plays up to his capabilities, the Flyers will squeak out a win in Game 4. They will also win if Giroux decides to show up and if guys like Scott Hartnell and Jakub Voracek are factors.
For all the talk about how the Flyers have multiple 20-goal scorers on their roster, their offense hasn't been impressive thus far. They are averaging 2.00 goals a game through three games (compared to the Rangers' 3.33), so if they get contributions from their top forwards, they will be successful on Friday night.
Prediction: Philadelphia Flyers 3, New York Rangers 2, OT
When you consider that the Flyers are getting Mason back in net, their general success against the Rangers at home and the fact that Giroux is due to score, it is very easy to give the Flyers an edge in Game 4.
No matter how you look at it, this game should be close, and the result could be flipped for the Rangers if the bounces work in their favor. The return of Mason really should give Philly a huge boost, and they will tie the series at two games apiece.