The Philadelphia Flyers stole all momentum from the New York Rangers with their 4-2 victory at Madison Square Garden over the weekend. They also evened the series at one game apiece before it will shift to Philadelphia for Games 3 and 4.
Game 2 was a tough loss for New York after they seemed to be in complete control early on, but they can’t let the disappointment discourage them in Game 3. While adjustments always need to be made within the game, the Rangers need to approach Game 3 with the same game plan that’s fueled them all season. It starts with physical play, a strong forecheck and suffocating defense.
Overall, New York didn’t play terrible defensively during Game 2, but they did have one or two instances where a costly mistake ended up in the back of their net. None was more disheartening than Luke Schenn’s game-winning goal that occurred just moments after Philadelphia iced the puck. The Rangers lost the offensive zone face-off and played poor defense in transition as Schenn deposited a juicy rebound behind Henrik Lundqvist. Derick Brassard was late getting back to stop Schenn from skating right down the slot where the puck eventually bounced out. The Rangers need to avoid these kinds of mistakes because Philly doesn’t need many chances to put a few in the net. Penalty killing is also something that needs to improve for New York.
While the Rangers have only conceded four power plays in two games, half of those power plays have resulted in Flyer goals. The intensity only mounts as the series progresses, but the Rangers need to have a level style of play that is both tough and smart. That’s easier said than done, especially in the hostile environment waiting for them at the Wells Fargo Center. If New York sticks to their game plan and eliminates costly mistakes, they will be just fine in Game 3. One staple of Ranger hockey is blocking shots, and they need to do a little better at that moving forward. The Flyers have dominated in blocked shots so far, blocking 44 New York shots in the first two games. The Rangers have combined for 29 blocked shots so far in the series. Despite losing some momentum, New York has to be encouraged by the things they are doing well. The most encouraging element is that the Rangers continue to stifle Philly captain Claude Giroux.
Giroux had at least one shot in his previous 22 playoff games coming into this series. He has been limited to one assist in the two games and has zero shots. The last time Giroux went back-to-back games without a shot on goal was in March of 2011. At least the Rangers know they’re doing something well, and it’s imperative that they keep it up against Giroux. If he gets going, the Flyers become much better and substantially more dangerous.
The Rangers’ game plan should not change; it’s their level of execution that must. New York’s fourth line has to play well again like they did in Game 1. They also need to draw penalties and give players like Brad Richards and Derek Stephan a chance to make a play with a man advantage. The Rangers were outplayed physically in Game 2, and that part of their game needs to show up in Philly. Daniel Carcillo will dress for the first time this postseason for the Rangers. Look for Carcillo to ignite a physical game against his former team. He’ll skate on New York’s second line with Carl Hagelin and Richards, while Jesper Fast becomes a healthy scratch.