Rangers won Game 3 with a simple approach
Rangers beat Flyers with a simple approach, and made sure to stay away from making stupid mistakes.
THE BEST POETRY often springs unexpectedly and unintentionally.
Consider this brilliant, accidental verse from Rangers forward Brad Richards:
"We've just got to just keep it real simple. Just keep it stupid."
Richards spoke Tuesday and referred to the Rangers' consistent frustration of the Flyers' offense; how the Rangers blocked shots, killed all five penalties and took advantage of backup goalie Ray Emery.
In fact, the Rangers owed their Game 3 win Tuesday as much to being not stupid as to being stupefying simple.
They cleaned up the game, minimized their chippy, extracurricular shenanigans . . . and still managed to stifle the Flyers.
Which might be the worst news possible for the Flyers.
After seven periods of off-the-puck pushing and hacking and taunting, after 2 1/3 games of petulance, the Rangers abandoned that strategy. Maybe it had something to do with commissioner Gary Bettman attending Game 3, but it ended.
After the teams left the ice for the first intermission, a referee kept Richards and Flyers forward Sean Couturier on the ice. He spoke strongly with both.
Afterward, Richards obfuscated, saying the conversation had something to do with Richards wanting to know about the Flyers' complaints . . . except Richards didn't do much talking to the official.
Couturier claimed to not have been involved in the conversation at all.
To that point, in the game the Rangers had continued their tactic of pointed, muted instigation off the puck.
Rangers defenseman John Moore baited Claude Giroux with his stick in front of the goal. Dan Carcillo crosschecked Adam Hall after shoving a glove in his face. Vinny Lecavalier fended off Derick Brassard's unwanted advances, and Dan Girardi upended Michael Raffl. Derek Dorsett could have drawn an embellishment penalty when Wayne Simmonds was whistled for a high stick (the Rangers had two embellishment penalties in Game 2), a play after which Simmonds compared Dorsett to a common house pet.
And, of course, Benoit Pouliot sabotaged two Rangers' power plays when he took penalties with his team a man up - once, after a Flyers penalty killer had lost his stick.
By then, the Rangers had a 2-0 lead. They could afford to cool it.
And, so, they did.
Well, most of them did. Even after the first period, Carcillo tried to start two fights; turned a glancing blow from Matt Read's shoulder into a grassy knoll dive; and, after he put the game away late, he taunted the Flyers' crowd.
Mostly, though, the Rangers protected their end, blocked Flyers shots and trusted Henrik Lundqvist, who stopped 31 of 32 shots.
The Flyers expected the Rangers' tactics. They spoke after Game 2 of not retaliating, and they generally didn't in Game 3. They had taken 14 penalties in the first two games, most warranted, some specious; perhaps the result of the Rangers' capitalizing on a worn-out stereotype.
The Broad Street Bullies might be the best and most accurate nickname in sports history, but it predates most of the current Flyers' birth certificates, and it carries a tiresome legacy.
This Flyers bunch is about as bullyish as the Brady Bunch.
The perverse irony from Tuesday is that Carcillo was awarded the smart, little black fedora, the Rangers' team totem given after each win to the player who makes the most significant contribution that night - perverse, because Carcillo was rewarded for not following orders.
He did not play with control; he flopped, and he roughed Giroux to give the Flyers a power play, and he scored his goal fresh out of the penalty box, where he had landed for hooking Read.
Carcillo aside, what should be chilling for the Flyers is, even when the Rangers cleaned up their act, they still managed to smother the Flyers' best attacks.
Flyers coach Craig Berube can preach patience, faking and deception, but the Rangers appear to be ready to block anything coming their way. They blocked 28 on Tuesday.
Lundqvist loved it; called it "paying the price."
Richards was proud of the shot- blocking and the conservatism, and betrayed his appreciation for Cubism:
"It wasn't pretty, it was no Picasso, but it worked," Richards said.
Conversely, the Flyers need to be a bit more artful to succeed.
They continued to speak about faster puck movement and more shot fakes, which will cause Rangers defenders to commit to blocks, which should then open more lanes for better, stronger shots at Lundqvist. They stressed the need to use the screens set up in front of Lundqvist, which work only if the shots get through. They want to manufacture rebounds, which . . . well, you get the point.
More good shots.
Keep it simple.
Keep it stupid.
If ever two teams were equipped for such duty . . .
On Twitter: @inkstainedretch