Struggling Flyers try to solve hot Rangers goalie (Jan 25, 2017)
It was a little more than a month ago when the Philadelphia Flyers were the hottest team in the NHL. They had won 10 in a row, had points in 12 of 13 games and looked like a team that had a good bead on a playoff spot.
Six weeks later, and the Flyers are coming to Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night desperate to go into the All-Star break on a positive note.
The Flyers are 4-9-3 since the 10-game winning streak ended. They have one regulation victory in their past 16 games and sit in the final wild-card spot in the East with the rest of their conference breathing down their neck.
They finish their first half with the Rangers on Wednesday and the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday.
"Yeah, both these games have implications directed to us in the standings," goalie Steve Mason, who will start against the Rangers, told CSN Philadelphia. "Both being Eastern Conference teams and they are right with one another.
"We have to have a short mindset. We have the Rangers and that's going to be a tough game going into MSG. Once that game is over, we focus on the Leafs."
The focus on the Rangers should be solving Henrik Lundqvist, who has stopped 80 of 84 shots in three straight wins after hitting rock bottom last Tuesday when he allowed seven goals to the Dallas Stars.
"Their goaltender has been outstanding over this past stretch for them," Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said to CSN Philadelphia. "Their team is playing well.
"We have to worry more about our team. We're not going to control what their side is going to do. We can control what we do."
The Rangers, one of the highest-scoring teams in the league all season, have won their past three games focusing mostly on defense. The Kings had 38 shots Monday, although few were dangerous, but the Rangers stifled the Red Wings in a 1-0 overtime win and held the Maple Leafs to 28 shots in a 5-2 win.
Lundqvist has made some big saves over that time but he hasn't been under siege like had been before this win streak.
"I think we do a good job in front of (Lundqvist)," Rangers center Derek Stepan said. "Teams are going to get chances and mistakes are going to happen, but I think where we've been better the last few games is when they happen, we have four or five guys in front of the net. How many scrambles have you seen the last few games where we have all five guys touching the crease? It starts there and we go on from that."
"You look at the 1-0 (against Detroit), and three goals (against the Kings) -- it wasn't offensive performances by us," Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh said. "It was playing well in our own zone, maybe too much time than we like, but keeping the chances against down. And that's a sign of good things to come hopefully.
"As we continue down the stretch here, you know the games are going to be tighter, you know the offensive looks aren't going to be as many so when you do get them, make sure you try to capitalize on them."
The defense has come at the expense of offense the past two games -- the Rangers had just 19 shots against the Red Wings and 17 against the Kings. The Flyers have 83 shots the past two games and are fourth in the NHL with an average of 32 shots per game.
The Rangers may have to beat the Flyers the way they beat the Kings -- with a lot of Lundqvist and few shots of their own.
"We're a team that has been winning in different ways and we have the skill that we don't need that many chances to score," Lundqvist said. "We just need the right type of chances."