What the Flyers Must Change in Order to Beat the New York Rangers
After three games, the Philadelphia Flyers trail the New York Rangers 2-1 in their opening-round NHL playoff series. By no means are the Flyers out of this series, but they do need to make some changes if they hope to come back and eliminate their rivals to the north.
Here is a list of five things Philadelphia must do to turn this series around. They are listed in order of importance.
The Flyers will change goaltenders for Game 4 as Steve Mason is expected to get the start. Ray Emery wasn't outstanding in the three games he played, but he also wasn't the reason the Flyers lost twice. Philadelphia needs to continue to get good goaltending, but that is not on this list as Emery was playing well enough to win.
Feel free to comment on any of the items on the list or to add one of your own. As always, indicate why you feel the way you do.
5. Get the Power Play Going
The power play is always more important during the playoffs than it is during the regular season. Goals are usually harder to come by, checking becomes more intense and teams clamp down defensively during the postseason.
A look at the first three games of this series demonstrates the importance of the power play for Philadelphia. The Flyers scored twice in three chances on the power play in the game they won, while going a combined 0-for-6 in the two games they lost.
Wayne Simmonds led the Flyers with 15 power play goals during the regular season. Scott Hartnell, Vincent Lecavalier, Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux each had at least seven tallies while Philadelphia had an extra attacker.
Regardless of who gets things going, the Flyers need to take advantage of their chances on the power play to win this series.
4. Get Claude Giroux to Simplify His Game
Giroux is the leader and captain of the Flyers. Thus far, through three games of this series, he has just two shots on goal and has yet to put a puck behind Henrik Lundqvist.
Giroux's importance to the team cannot be understated. He was third in the league in scoring after a slow start. Plus, when their captain scored, the Flyers almost always won. Philadelphia was 21-2-1 during the regular season when Giroux scored a goal. When he failed to tally, the Orange and Black were just 21-28-9.
When a player is in a slump, it's best to go back to basics. In baseball, that means hitting the ball back up the middle. In hockey, it means putting the puck on net and making the available play rather than trying for the fancy, highlight reel move.
Giroux is more of a setup man than a sniper, but he needs to get back to basics and be more productive offensively. Instead of trying to make the perfect play, he has to make the simple one, at least until he gets back on track.
The Rangers have been very effective at blocking shots and getting in the passing lanes. By keeping it simple, Giroux and the Flyers will get more chances to score, and that's one thing they need to win some games.
3. Slow Down the Rangers' Skilled Forwards
The Flyers outshot the Rangers in Game 3, but the Rangers had more quality scoring chances than Philadelphia, and they won the game.
The Flyers need to strengthen their team defense and slow down the Rangers' most talented offensive players.
Veterans Rick Nash and Brad Richards have done the most damage so far. Nash has 18 shots on goal in just three games while Richards isn't far behind with 14.
Martin St. Louis only has five shots on goal in the series, but they've been quality chances, and he has already scored two important goals. Derek Stepan has a pair of goals on just six shots.
Philadelphia needs to play better team defense, and we're not just talking about the defensemen here. Forwards need to back check and make sure the Rangers' speedy and skilled forwards don't have as much room to operate through the neutral zone and the Flyers' zone.
The Flyers have to box out the Rangers and keep them from getting chances on deflections and rebounds. If Philadelphia fails to do this, it won't matter which goalie head coach Craig Berube decides to start.
2. Stop Taking so Many Penalties
Through the first three games of the series, the Rangers have had 16 power play chances while the Flyers have had only nine.
Keep in mind that this includes at least two instances where New York was called for embellishment or diving, which canceled out more potential power plays for the Rangers.
Fans can complain all they want about unfair officiating and bad calls, but ultimately, the Flyers need to make sure the power play chances are a lot more even if they want to win the series.
Philadelphia led the league in penalty minutes during the regular season with 1,180. The Rangers were a distant 22nd with 817.
The Flyers can't stop being aggressive and physical, but they do have to stop taking foolish penalties and do everything they can to take a Rangers player off with them whenever there's a shoving match or scrum after the whistle.
Philadelphia's penalty kill has allowed three goals in 16 opportunities, and that's not good enough, but the best way to slow down the Rangers' power play is to not give them so many chances.
1. Make Things More Difficult for Henrik Lundqvist
The Flyers outshot the Rangers in Game 3, 32-23, but it was the visiting team that had the better quality scoring chances.
The Rangers were able to block 28 shots in the game and kept the Flyers from screening Lundqvist or from getting quality scoring chances from the in close near the slot.
When it came to shots, the Flyers had quantity, but to win, they need quality. The Rangers did a much better job of screening the Flyers' goalies than Philadelphia did of disrupting Lundqvist.
Philadelphia has size up front, now it needs to utilize it better. Sean Couturier is 6'3", Scott Hartnell, Adam Hall, Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds are all listed at 6'2" and Vinny Lecavalier is 6'4". These players need to get closer to the New York goal and set up screens, make deflections and create quality scoring chances.
The Flyers need to reduce the number of shots the Rangers block and increase the number of chances they get in close near the blue paint in front of Lundqvist.
If they can do that, Philadelphia can win this series and advance to the next round of the playoffs.