5 Things_2568x1444

Playing their 80th game of the 2023-24 season, John Tortorella's Philadelphia Flyers (36-32-11) are in Manhattan on Thursday to take on Peter Laviolette's New York Rangers (53-22-4). Game time at Madison Square Garden is 7:00 p.m. EDT.

The game will be televised on NBCSP. The radio broadcast is on 97.5 The Fanatic with an online simulcast on Flyers Radio 24/7.

This is the fourth and final meeting of the season between the teams, and the second at MSG. The Flyers are 0-2-1 in head-to-head meetings with the Rangers this season: 3-1 home loss on Nov. 24, 2-1 home loss on Feb. 24, and 6-5 road overtime loss on March 26. The Flyers' last win over the Rangers was a 4-3 road overtime win on April 3, 2022.

The Flyers are winless in their last eight games (0-6-2); a slump that has done severe damage to their bid for an Eastern Conference playoff spot. With three games remaining in on the Flyers' schedule, Philadelphia is four points behind the New York Islanders (four games remaining) for third place in the Metropolitan Division, two points and a tiebreaker disadvantage behind the Washington Capitals (four games remaining) for the lower wildcard seed in the Eastern Conference, one point and a tiebreaker disadvantage behind the Pittsburgh Penguins (four games remaining), and one point behind the Detroit Red Wings (four games remaining).

In addition to needing to win their own game against the Rangers, the Flyers need a lot of outside held on Thursday to stay alive in the playoff chase. All of the teams the Flyers trail are also in action: The Islanders host the Montreal Canadiens, the Red Wings visit the Penguins, and the Capitals visit the Buffalo Sabres. In the Detroit vs. Pittsburgh game, because the Flyers hold a 28-27 regulation wins edge over the Red Wings, the preferable outcome would be a Detroit win in regulation paired with a Flyers regulation win.

The Rangers, who are coming off a 4-2 road loss to the Islanders on Tuesday, have won eight of their last 10 games. The Blueshirts, with 110 points, are three points ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes (Metro) and Boston Bruins (Atlantic Division) in the push for home ice advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Rangers are one point ahead of the Dallas Stars for the President's Trophy.

Here are five things to watch on Thursday.

1. Restoring Much-Needed Confidence

For purposes of keeping their faint playoff hopes alive, the Flyers need a win against the Rangers. In the bigger picture, the Flyers need to restore a measure of self-confidence and self-respect in every aspect of the game. The team played decent overall hockey, despite leaving a few winnable points on the table, during their seven-game gauntlet against the top teams in the Eastern Conference and overall during the first five-plus months of the 2023-24 season. What's at stake (and in jeopardy) now is the sense of unity that had been building prior to the last eight games.

"The focus is on our team playing the right way, getting that confidence and swagger back in our game," Tortorella said on Tuesday.

2. Flyers Can't Chase Another Game

The Flyers have not played with a lead in any of their last three games. The last lead the Flyers held was a 1-0 lead over the Islanders in the first period -- for a total of 7:05 of game play -- of the April 1 game at Wells Fargo Center. In each of the last three games, the Flyers trailed by two or more games entering the third period. In fact, this has been the case in five of the last six games and in six of the eight games during the current winless stretch.

One way or another, the Flyers cannot afford to have to chase yet another game. Given the current fragile state of the Flyers' psyche, playing from even or ahead for the majority of a game against the Rangers is not a guarantee of a desperately needed win. It is, however, a critical step on that path.

If and when the Flyers run into some adversity in this game against the Rangers, the next few shifts will be crucial. This applies not only to the response of a New York goal, but also how the Flyers deal with something such as an unsuccessful power play opportunity or a would-be Phily goal that is taken off the board after a coach's challenge and subsequent replay delay.

3. Flyers Power Play vs. Rangers PK

The Flyers enter Thursday's game in an 0-for-16 drought on the power play. Neither PP1 nor PP2, regardless of their composition or attacking strategy, have been generating many high-end chances over the last eight games. For the season, the Flyers are 31-for-246 (12.6 percent) on the power play to rank last in the NHL. The have yielded four shorthanded goals.

Officially, since the NHL started to track power play percentage as an officially recognized statistic in 1977-78, the 2021-22 season (30-for-239, 12.6 percent) is the lowest full-season success rate in franchise history. Unofficially, based off box score research, the inaugural 1967-68 season (33-for-269, 12.3 percent) was at the bottom. Somehow and some way, the current Flyers need to scratch out a PPG or two over the final three games for the sake of immediate need even more than to avoid a dubious historical team record. 

For the season, the Rangers have overtaken the Flyers for the No. 3 ranking in the NHL on the penalty kill. The Rangers' PK has been successful 83.7 percent of the time (36 opposing power play goals in 221 opportunities). The Rangers are tied with Toronto as the seventh least-penalized team in the NHL in terms of times playing shorthanded. Dating back to March 1, over a 19-game span, the Rangers' penalty kill has succeeded at a rate of 85.7 percent.

Head-to-head this season, the Flyers power play has gone 1-for-13 against the Rangers' penalty kill.

4. Flyers PK vs. Rangers Power Play

The Flyers have not had to kill in a penalty in two of the last three games. Unfortunately, they have struggled at 5-on-5 to a degree that the lack of opposing power plays has been a non-factor. Columbus, ranked 30th in power play percentage (15.4 percent), was 1-for-3 on the power play against the Flyers in last Saturday's game. The Sabres and Canadiens did not have any power plays.

For the season, the Flyers are ranked fourth leaguewide on the penalty kill at 83.5 percent (39 opposing power play goals on 236 opportunities). However, over the Flyers' last 12 games, the team has slumped at a 68.2 percent penalty killing rate (opposing power plays are 7-for-22). 

The Flyers still lead the NHL with 15 shorthanded goals scored (Dallas is second with 12). For much of the season, the Flyers' prolific rate of shorthanded tallies helped offset some of Philly's power play struggles. More importantly, before the Flyers' PK hit a rut in recent weeks, they were ranked No. 1 in penalty killing percentage.

The most recent Flyers shorthanded goal was scored by Tyson Foerster against Toronto on March 14. For the season, Travis Konecny leads the Flyers with five shorthanded goals. He's followed by Ryan Poehling (three), Scott Laughton (two), two by former Flyers defenseman Sean Walker (now with Colorado), Garnet Hathaway (one), Travis Sanheim (one) and Foerster (one). 

The Rangers have a formidable power play, ranking in a tie with Carolina for second in the NHL (64-for-238, 26.9 percent). They've yielded six shorthanded goals. Recent trends: No. 1 in the NHL in the 19 games since March 1 (17-for-50, 34.0 percent, one shorthanded goal allowed), No. 1 in the NHL in the 13 games since March 16 (12-for-29, 41.4 percent, one shorthanded goal yielded), third in the NHL in the five games since April 1 (6-for-15, 40 percent). 

Head to head this season, the Rangers' power play has gone 1-for-9 against the Flyers' penalty kill.

5. Behind Enemy Lines: New York Rangers

Igor Sheshterkin stopped 24 of 27 shots in the Rangers' 4-2 road loss to the Islanders on Tuesday. The final Isles' goal was an empty netter.  Among Sheshterkin's saves: a penalty shot denial of Mathew Barzal. 

In a losing cause, Chris Kreider (39th) and Adam Fox (16th) tallied power play goals for the Rangers. Artemi Panarin's primary assist on the Kreider goal was the Russian superstar's 70th helper of the season.

Overall this season, Panarin leads the Rangers -- and is fourth in the NHL -- with 116 points (46g, 70a). He is followed by Vincent Trocheck (25g, 51a, 76 points), Kreider (39g, 33a, 72 points), Fox (16g, 54a, 70 points), Mika Zibanejad (26g, 43a, 69 points), and Alexis Lafreniere (27g, 29a, 56 points).

For the most part, the Rangers have been a healthy team down the stretch. Only the long-term absences of Blake Wheeler and Filip Chytil have subtracted on a sustained basis. Thirteen players on the New York roster have been able to dress in 73 or more games. Fox (69 games played) missed most of November but has otherwise been healthy.

Offensive defenseman Fox leads the Rangers with an average 23:29 of ice time per game.  He's followed by fellow defenseman K'Andre Miller (21:36), Trocheck (21:24), veteran defenseman Jacob Trouba (21:19) and Panarin (20:08).

In goal, Sheshterkin has posted a 34-17-2 record with a 2.65 goals against average, .911 save percentage and three shutouts. Thirty-eight-year-old Jonathan Quick is 18-5-2 with a 2.56 GAA, .913 save percentage and two shutouts. Quick last played in the Blueshirts'  4-3 win (31 saves on 34 shots) in Detroit on April 5.