The New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers have alternated wins in the first five games of their best-of-seven series with neither team having won consecutive times. The Rangers will try to break that cycle with a series-clinching victory at Philadelphia in Game 6. In order to accomplish this, New York needs to rely on their speed to blitz the Flyers’ defense.
New York’s speed through the neutral zone is specifically what’s most important. When they smoothly gain the offensive zone with speed, good things have happened. A quick transition from defense to offense also limits the time Philly has to forecheck. The Rangers’ top defensive pair of Ryan McDonaugh and Dan Girardi must play smart in their own end to try and keep the Philly forecheck at bay. Game 4 of this series displayed how well Philly can play if they stifle New York’s speed in transition. After the first period of Game 4, the Flyers dictated the pace of the game and were more physical on the boards than New York. When the Flyers make adjustments as they did in Game 4, New York has to respond in some way. A quick attack may also be the key to getting Rick Nash in the goal column for the Rangers.
While Nash has appeared to have an average series at best to this point, he’s still tied with Brad Richards for the team lead in shots on goal with 23. Speed through the neutral zone will be the best way to free up some space for Nash. The left-winger can be very dangerous with the puck when given some open ice to work with. That allows Nash to use his great skill and big body to get quality scoring chances.
The Rangers need Nash to score and they also need some life out of their power play, but team speed and quick shifts will be extremely important. Rangers coach Alain Vigneault has been shortening each shift at times this series to as small as 20 to 30 seconds before changing lines. Obviously, you need fresh legs to establish a quick pace. Luckily for the team and especially Nash, New York has gotten contributions from everyone in their lineup. In fact, Derek Dorsett is the only Rangers forward who does not have a point in the series thus far. Also, Martin St. Louis has found his scoring touch, but Game 6 is more about the team playing as one unit.
If New York can successfully close out the nemesis Flyers in Game 6, it will set up a second-round matchup with another divisional foe, the Pittsburgh Penguins.