Meeting for first time in the playoffs since 1997, the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers are set to drop the puck in Thursday night’s Game One of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal matchup.
Philadelphia beat New York 4-1 in the Conference Finals 17 years ago, only to be swept by Detroit in the Stanley Cup Finals. The Flyers make their return to the postseason after an atypical one-year absence, while the Rangers are in their fourth straight postseason.
The Rangers were two points better than the Flyers in the final regular season standings while they split their regular season series 2-2, but the longtime division rivals are expected to take the series the full seven games.
The squads matchup very well at the forward position with Philadelphia Hart Trophy candidate Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek up top, and New York sending Martin St. Louis, Rick Nash and Brad Richards on the ice. Still Giroux and Voracek, along with Wayne Simmonds proved far more consistent and put together the eighth highest scoring offense in the NHL with nearly three goals a game, compared to New York which was 18th in the league.
Instead, the Rangers will look to top net-minder Henrik Lundqvist and defensemen Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal to keep up their fourth ranked defensive production. Lundqvist was 15th in the NHL in goals allowed and save percentage, and the Rangers also owned the third-best penalty kill.
Lundqvist also has a proven track record against the Flyers, posting a 27-13 career record with four shutouts.
New York could have a better chance of scoring in the first two games of the series with Flyers starting goaltender Steve Mason expected to sit with what’s been reported as an upper-body injury. According to reports, the 25-year-old, who posted a 33-18 record as the starter during the regular season, won’t travel with the team, which also puts his status for Game Two in doubt.
Nine-year veteran and back-up keeper Ray Emery is expected to fill in for Mason. Emery’s regular season stats were less than stellar this year with a 9-12-2 record, but in 10 career matchups against the Rangers he owns a 7-2 record with two shutouts, a 1.87 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage. Emery was also the backup for Chicago during their Stanley Cup run last year.
Time: Thursday, 7 p.m. EST
TV Channel: NBC
Live Online Stream: A live online stream is available at NBC Live Extra here.
Game One Prediction: Rangers over Flyers, 3-2