Rangers own slight edge over Flyers in first-round playoff series
After having a night off in Montreal, Henrik Lundqvist is pumped to return in net against the Flyers on Thursday in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
"We had some great battles this year," the Rangers goaltender said after Saturday's game. "They can play a physical game and also rely on their skills. It's about trying to reach our top level, all of us. We're going to need it."
Some key categories:
Martin St. Louis can be a potent weapon, but the Rangers' scoring has been balanced. Nine players have at least 14 goals, led by Rick Nash (26). The Rangers will miss the size and speed of Chris Kreider (hand surgery), who had two goals and two assists in four games against the Flyers this season. J.T. Miller was called up from Hartford on Monday, and the skill set he brings gives Alain Vigneault a choice of extra forwards, including Jesper Fast and Dan Carcillo.
The Flyers, who scored 233 goals (the Rangers had 214), are bigger and more physical, and they can punish defensemen. Claude Giroux (28 goals) was third in the NHL with 86 points. They have seven players with at least 20 goals, including Wayne Simmonds (29). Their power play was eighth in the NHL at 19.7 percent -- first on the road at 25.2 percent but near the bottom at home (15.1 percent).
Vigneault has 78 games of playoff experience and is known as a tactician who pushes his teams to play the same pace at home and on the road. The Rangers improved gradually and responded when they had to, closing the season 9-2-2. They led the Eastern Conference with 25 road wins. Philadelphia had 18.
Peter Laviolette was fired after three games and Craig Berube, an assistant coach for seven years, took over. Berube, who collected 3,149 penalty minutes in 17 years as a forward with the Flyers, Capitals, Flames, Leafs and Islanders, stressed defense and guided a 42-27-10 turnaround.
Known as "Chief" because of his First Nations background, Berube wants aggressive play, but has said they also need to control their emotions.
Lundqvist returned to his Vezina Trophy form just before the Olympics and generally excels in the postseason. He is 11 wins behind Mike Richter in franchise playoff history. He allowed only eight goals in five starts down the stretch.
Steve Mason endured some growing pains with the Blue Jackets, going to the playoffs only once in his five seasons with Columbus. He won 30 games and earned the No. 1 role with the Flyers.
He ranks 25th in GAA (2.50) and 21st in save percentage (.917). Ray Emery, 31, has playoff experience with Ottawa and Chicago.
The Rangers' top three of Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal had superb seasons, particularly McDonagh, and it will be their job to keep Giroux and Simmonds under wraps.
The Rangers' third pair, Kevin Klein and John Moore, will be tested.
Two Flyers defensemen are former Islanders: Mark Streit, who can generate offense, and Andrew MacDonald. Kimmo Timonen and Brayden Coburn likely will play heavy minutes as the first pair.