Flyers-Rangers scouting report
A look at key points as the NHL playoff series gets underway.
FLYERS: Claude Giroux (86 points), Jake Voracek (62) and Wayne Simmonds (60) all posted more points than Rangers' leading scorer Mats Zuccarello (59) this season. The Flyers finished with a league-high seven 20-goal scorers to highlight their depth. On the surface, the Flyers finished tied for fourth in the Eastern Conference in goals scored. But when you take a deeper look at the numbers, they scored just 22 goals in their first 15 games. So, they've really been operating at a 3.19 goals per-game pace in the 67 games since - coinciding with their turnaround - which would have made them tops in the East (262 goals) over the whole 82-game season.
RANGERS: Even with names like Rick Nash (39 points) and Brad Richards (51) on their roster, the Blueshirts struggled to score at times this season. Those two players were the only ones to break the 20-goal mark. Nash is certainly one player to keep an eye on with nine game-winning goals, tied for third in the NHL - though he has just eight points in 16 career playoff games. Marty St. Louis (one goal in 16 games) was quiet since his shocking trade deadline deal, but he is better than a point (68) per game (63) in his playoff career.
FLYERS: High-priced free agent acquisition Mark Streit will be one of the x-factors for the Flyers. He finished the season with the NHL's longest active point streak - six goals in his final 10 games. The always cerebral Kimmo Timonen, 39, saved his best hockey for after the Olympic break and he is more motivated than ever for a Stanley Cup. Andrew MacDonald has $30 million reasons to play well. If Nick Grossmann, Braydon Coburn and Luke Schenn can find a way to limit turnovers, this Flyers' defense corps is more than capable to win a series. Center Sean Couturier, strange to include in the defense category, won't have one particular line matchup, but he will be an enormous key.
RANGERS: If anyone was watching this season, Ryan McDonagh should be nominated as a finalist for the Norris Trophy. The smooth-skating defenseman has frustrated the heck out of the Flyers with partner Dan Girardi. They have shut down Claude Giroux and Co. pretty well - especially at Madison Square Garden. The only question: Is McDonagh completely healthy following his late-season, left-shoulder injury? If not, the Flyers will have the edge, as John Moore, Anton Stralman, Kevin Klein and Marc Staal aren't exactly world beaters.
FLYERS: So, after days of jockeying, Ray Emery will be in net for Game 1. Emery's season stats (9-12-2, .903 SV percentage) aren't impressive, but he's been well-tested with stiff competition since the Olympic break and he has the Flyers' confidence. Undoubtedly, Steve Mason is quick and has been making much more acrobatic saves this season. But it's important to keep in mind that Mason has almost zero playoff history - in four starts, he's never had a lead in a single game. He also hasn't played since 2009. Emery won a Stanley Cup last year as the backup in Chicago and he also led Ottawa to the Stanley Cup final in 2007.
RANGERS: It is impossible not to give the check mark to Henrik Lundqvist in this size-up - especially with Emery in net. Lundqvist, 32, has owned the Flyers with a career 27-13-3 record and four shutouts against them. There is, however, some doubt in New York as to whether he can win in the playoffs. His career save percentage (.920) is the same in the regular season (574 games) as it is in the playoffs (67), but he hasn't been able to get the Rangers over the hump yet. He's lost to the Bruins, Devils and Capitals each of the last three springs.
FLYERS: The Flyers' power play (19.7 percent) finished eighth in the NHL, while their penalty kill (84.8 percent) did slightly better at seventh. Pittsburgh and St. Louis were the only other teams to have a combined special teams percentage higher than the Flyers. Being the most penalized team in the league, the Flyers' PK was most impressive. They ended the season killing off 57 of 63, during which they killed 22 consecutive penalties on the road - a run of eight perfect games. The power play (5-for-17) also enters the playoffs on a strong note, though their 5-on-3 unit needs work.
RANGERS: New York can certainly kill penalties (85.3 percent, third in NHL), but the Rangers had trouble capitalizing on opportunities with the man-advantage (18.2 percent, 15th). The Rangers are entering on a run of just 2-for-17 (11 percent) over their final five games. The Flyers will need to find a way to combat New York's super aggressive penalty kill, which runs with Ryan McDonagh as the ring leader.
FLYERS: This is Craig Berube's first playoff run as a head coach. He said on Tuesday that he doesn't expect to be any different in Game 1 than he has been all season. That's good news for the Flyers, who owe a lot of their success to the man behind their bench who never gets rattled. Berube is calm and confident, requirements for the playoffs, and he has been around long enough as a player and coach to know what works and what doesn't.
RANGERS: Yes, Alain Vigneault has been to the Stanley Cup final. Yes, Vigneault's teams have qualified for the playoffs six straight seasons. But his situation really isn't all that different in New York than Berube's since it's his first year with a new team and a relatively new system. Plus, Vigneault's teams have won only one of their last nine playoff games - his Canucks were swept last year in the first round by San Jose.
FLYERS: The Flyers set a franchise record with 11 third-period comeback wins this season. No deficit is too large. And they won't be fazed by a series hole if they're in one. Plus, in some ways, Flyers fans believe this year's team is playing with house money after many wrote it off in November as a lost cause.
RANGERS: The Rangers have won eight straight games vs. the Flyers at Madison Square Garden, but those numbers won't mean a thing if the Flyers capture one of the first two games in New York. Like the Flyers, the Rangers play in front of an impatient fanbase that hasn't had the playoff run the city has so desperately craved.