The Flyers-Rangers series is well underway having played three games.
Well the good news is that the Flyers only trail the series by a single game; the bad news is that they have a lot of issues to figure out. The main issue has been shooting. In the first two games, the Flyers were outshot by the Rangers and while they outshot New York last night, only 32 of 78 shots they took were put on net; 28 were blocked by the Rangers’ defense. The shot-blocking has been there for both teams all series but the Rangers’ shot-blocking last night was the shining star; debatably more-so than Lundqvist’s 31 save effort. The Flyers need to be more aggressive with their shooting. The team was able to finally move the puck around last night, a serious Game 1 problem that has seemed to solve itself as the series has gone on, but much of this was due to the New York skaters staying low in their positioning. Too many times the Flyers attempt to dazzle by making highlight reel plays instead of just firing the puck on net to create a rebound. Garbage goals are what will save the Flyers; the fast-break plays won’t always be there as they weren’t last night.
The Flyers also need to be more disciplined. The Rangers have had 16 power plays from 42 Philadelphia penalty minutes — the most notable being Jason Akeson’s double-minor in Game 1. The Flyers have had 9 power plays on 28 New York penalty minutes, five of the nine power plays occurred last night. Thankfully for the Flyers, they’ve killed off nine-straight penalties after allowing power play goals on three of New York’s first seven power plays. The PECO power play needs to convert more, but much of this comes back to the issue of the Rangers’ shot-blocking abilities.
Lastly is goaltending. Ray Emery has been under a lot of fire by the fans, especially after Game 1 and again after last night. Most fans have been calling for Steve Mason’s return throughout the entire series, even after Emery earned the first star in Game 2. I was happy to hear Emery would be starting in Game 3 because of how hot he was by the end of Game 2. Emery proved me wrong allowing a very weak first period goal from Derek Stepan (mirroring many of the Rangers’ goals from early in the series), and Steve Mason returned from injury replacing Emery in the third period. Mason only faced three shots, but looked promising. Needless to say, Steve Mason will be the main key to victory in Game 4.
The other keys will be to solve the Rangers’ shot-blockers. Jim Jackson’s suggestion of intentionally taking both wide-angle shots and missing shots wide (and therefore shooting around the defenders) are a good plan to start. At least one forward will need to be in front constantly and to stuff in the rebound. The Flyers will need to constantly flurry shots on Lundqvist if they want to solve their goal-scoring issues. They need to play a full 60 minute game, just like Game 2.
Game 4 will be Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center. The puck will drop at 7pm and you can watch the game locally on CSN Philly and nationally on CNBC.