Feb 5, 2012, 11:55 AM EDT
OK so, few New York sports fans are terribly worried about what happens in today’s 1PM visit from the Flyers to Madison Square Garden, where they’ll take on the Rangers. The Super Bowl is finally here, pitting two pillars of the NFL’s Axis of Evil against each other in Indianapolis. It’s undeniably as big as it gets when one of your teams is still standing in February.
But that doesn’t mean the appetizer is any less interesting in its own right, particularly for those of us watching the Super Bowl with only a passing interest (that being, New York teams losing at anything they attempt). On tap this afternoon is one of the top matchups in the NHL, the one that has received the most attention this season.
Can the Flyers shake off yesterday’s disappointment and come in with the momentum gained in its latter half? To win today, they’ll have to find a way to crack the man currently wearing the crown of the league’s best netminder—Henrik Lundqvist.
Hank’s behind only Brian Elliott in GAA with a gorgeous 1.82 mark and leads the league in save percentage at .939. He’s currently riding back-to-back shutouts, broken up by his appearance in the All-Star Game. Lundqvist has been outstanding, but he’s hardly done it alone. Loquacious backup Martin Biron also has a GAA south of 2.00, well below his career 2.59 mark and very indicative of the sound defense played in front of the Rangers crease regardless of who is in it.
The Rags are currently behind only Detroit for points in the league, and they’ve played four fewer games than the Red Wings (as well as two fewer than the Flyers, who are three points beneath them in the standings). We’ve seen enough of them to know they are bona fide Cup contenders this season, and along with a few others in the East, stand between the Flyers and the ultimate goal.
However, the Rangers did prove human during a January stretch that saw them lose four of eight as their offense went cold. They’ve played only once in February, winning a game that was scoreless after both regulation and overtime, decided in the shootout (how awful does that sound?).
SEEN THE LIGHTS… GO OUT ON BROADWAY
Part of the issue for the Rangers is an anemic power play lately. Katie Strang of ESPN points out that the game-winning goal on a man advantage in overtime (meaning it was scored 4 on 3) against the Bruins on January 21st was their first in eight games, and they haven’t scored another since.
The Rangers be rested today, having only practiced since Wednesday (including a 40-minute power play session), a stark contrast to the Flyers’ schedule that included games on Thursday and Saturday.
But if anything, the visitors should be champing at the bit to get back on the ice and see if they can erase the embarrassment of yesterday’s loss and build on its final 30 minutes, during which they actually beat the Devils by a 4-0 count. Hopefully they’ll have a bit better luck with the refs and their own discipline, because the Rangers certainly don’t need any help.
Ilya Bryzgalov was in net for the second half of yesterday’s see-saw match, and he’ll draw the start today. Can he continue his trend of positive play and help the Flyers build some crease confidence during the stretch run?
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