Defensively, the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal matchup between the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Rangers is about as even as they come. They’re neck and neck in hits, blocked shots and virtually every other defensive category. For the Flyers, the defensive struggle has been constant throughout the entire season, hence why they acquired Andrew MacDonald at the trade deadline. In Game 5, it was no different. With Nick Grossman out due to an injury he suffered in Game 4, Hal Gill was called in as the replacement. To make a long story short, he didn’t have the greatest of games. Now the Flyers may not have any other choice but to start Erik Gustafsson tonight in Game 6.
Head coach Craig Berube hasn’t fully committed to bagging Gill just yet, but he did admit that speed at the point was an issue in Game 5. Should Gustafsson see time tonight, it will be his first bit of playoff action since 2012.
According to nj.com‘s Matt Lombardo, Gustafsson sees no setbacks in his game saying, “I’m pretty confident I’ll be ready to go.” For Gus, it was looking like this year might be the year he would actually get some decent playing time, but that wasn’t the case. Numerous things put a road block into that plan, but in the playing time he did see this season, he made the most of it. In 31 games this past season, he scored two goals and had eight helpers. He also finished with a plus/minus rating of plus-7.
In the eyes of many, starting Gus would be the logical play. It’s pretty clear Gill can’t handle the playoff pressure — not anymore at least. They would have nothing to lose and everything to gain at this point, should they start Gustafsson.