Madison Square Garden has been the Flyers’ house of horrors over the last few seasons with wins being few and very, very far between. It looked like this trend was going to continue through this series with game one offering no relief with a because of a convincing win by the Rangers. For the Flyers to make it out of the first round they would need to steal at least one game from the Rangers at MSG and they did just that in game two this afternoon.
I have to admit game one did not feel like a normal Flyers’ playoff game. They seemed flat and they looked like they were missing the normal intensity that is associated with playoff hockey. They made sloppy passes, were outworked in a lot of the puck battles, and were completely dominated in the possession game.
So what changed?
1. Emery played a phenomenal game
Ray Emery was on point today. He may have looked a little shaky in the first period, and the two goals allowed were not all on him, but he really shut it down in the 2nd and 3rd. It was great to see that he was able to keep his head in the game and make some real game defining stops. If Steve Mason is ready to go for game three I’m glad I don’t have to make the decision if he starts over Emery or not. Do the Flyers go back to their starter or play the hot hand in Razor Ray?
2. The intensity was there
Even though they fell into a 2 goal hole early on, the Flyers responded very well and all of the lines played very well after that. This game definitely felt like a playoff game. Intensity leads to strong play and strong play leads to goals. It’s a long series and the team that can continue to keep their energy up will come out on top.
3. They adjusted to the Rangers’ play
In game one the Rangers were making a lot of East to West plays with the puck through the slot. This resulted in Emery being caught out of position due to his inability to move laterally very quickly. The Flyers’ defense adjusted in this game and kept a lot of the shots to the outside. This allowed Emery to remain more square to the shooter and allowed the Flyers defense as a whole to reduce the viable scoring chances.
What do they need to improve on to ensure success returning to Philly for game three?
1. Take fewer penalties
This needs to be addressed. The Rangers were on the power play 6 times in game two, which is way to many times. I know that some of those penalties were questionable, but they can’t control how the refs are going to call the game. The Flyers have to find, and walk, the fine line between playing with an edge while not taking penalties, something they are very capable of doing.
Claude Giroux has been absolutely shut down at MSG all year because of these guys and it has not changed in the playoffs. He has no space to work with, and because so much of the offense runs through him and the first line, it has caused some serious problems in terms of his production. Hopefully Berube can get him away from these two by taking advantage of last change on home ice.
Some other side notes:
Jason Akeson looked very strong again after being arguably one of the best players on the ice in game one; he also scored his first playoff goal in his 4th NHL game. I am so happy that he remained in the lineup after the unlucky penalty he took in game one. The kid can play and I’m glad the coaching staff recognizes the skill he brings to the team is much better than anything Tye McGinn or Steve Downie could offer. He has not looked out of place at all since being called up and has played with the shut down line to boot.
I will be running my ‘On The Fly’ series for the rest of playoffs a way to keep track of the Flyers’ success as they make their run for The Cup.
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