New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers - 4/20/14
Philadelphia Flyers (42-30-10) at New York Rangers (45-31-6)
NHL Hockey: Sunday, April 20, 2014 at 12:00 pm (Madison Square Garden)
The Line: New York Rangers -156 / Philadelphia Flyers +142 --- Over/Under: 5 See the Latest Odds
It was about as dominating a performance as you're going to see a team have in a post season game, and yet the outcome was still up in the air midway through the final period. The New York Rangers controlled every aspect of Thursday night's Game 1 match up with the Philadelphia Flyers, but their inability to capitalize offensively almost cost them. The Flyers managed to do a few things in the opening period but still were outshot 14-6 in the frame. Andrew MacDonald gave Philadelphia a 1-0 lead when his point shot was deflected off the stick of New York's Marty St. Louis and passed goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. Prior to the game Flyers head coach Craig Berube talked about how his club needed to change their game plan against New York's Ryan McDonagh, and on their goal they did exactly what he talked about. Scott Hartnell was quick to the puck on the forecheck and leveled McDonagh behind the net, stripping him of the puck in the process. His pass back to MacDonald set up the goal and it looked like Philadelphia might be in line to end their eight game losing streak at Madison Square Garden. From that point on however it was all New York, even if it didn't reflect it on the score board. The Rangers would tie the game in the first period when Sean Couturier lost track of Mats Zuccarello who swooped in to bury a rebound between Ray Emery's legs. Emery, filling in for the injured Steve Mason in goal, didn't play poorly in this one, but he received no help from a lifeless club in front of him. The two teams were scoreless in the second period but New York took over the game in the third. Rookie Jason Akeson was whistled for a double minor high sticking penalty when he lost control along the boards attempting to check New York's Carl Hagelin. Akeson's stick came up and hit Hagelin right in the face, leading to the penalty, and ultimatlely deciding the game. New York wasted little time as Brad Richards broke the tie with a power play goal on the first half of the minor, and a beautiful tic-tac-toe passing play set up Derek Stepan for a goal on the second half. Hagelin then buried a rebound off a shot by Richards from the top of the right circle and the Rangers would hold on for the 4-1 win. The shots were 13-1 for the Rangers in the third period and 35-16 for the game. Lundqvist didn't have to do much at all in this one and despite the game being tied 1-1 for the majority of the game it never felt like the Flyers had much of a chance. For a club that lacks a solid defensive group, the Flyers desperately need their forwards and offense to dictate play in this series. That didn't happen at all in Game 1 and it better change quickly or the Flyers are going to be in serious trouble.
For whatever reason the Flyers just don't seem to match up well with the Rangers, especially in New York. Philadelphia hasn't wont a game at Madison Square Garden since 2011, and after their ninth consecutive loss reaffirmed to them that the playoffs haven't changed anything in this series, it's hard to see them really thriving in this building. Being the road team in a best of seven series the Flyers know that they'll need to win at least one game on the road if they're going to win the series. As the series go on it will get even more difficult for the Flyers to win in this building, so that makes Sunday afternoon's Game 2 that much more important. Forget about how difficult it is to come back from 2-0 down in a playoff series, the mental effect for this club of getting down like that will be enormous. If you're New York you just keep doing what you've been doing lately because the Flyers didn't have any answer for it on Thursday. New York's depth on defense and ability to match up against the Flyers top line was overwhelming. Claude Giroux and Jakub Voraeck both failed to record a shot in this hockey game. The Rangers' forward depth and speed also really gives Philadelphia a lot to handle in their own end. Steve Mason looks like he will be back in the lineup for Game 2, but goaltending wasn't what did the Flyers in the first game. Giroux needs to carry this team on his back if Philadelphia is going to win this game or this series. Juding by the way he's played when matched up against the McDonagh-Dan Girardi pairing, it's hard to see that happening. Philadelphia needs to skate and draw penalties, because their power play is going to be the only way they have a shot.
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