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Greenberg: Playing with the scenarios

by Jay Greenberg / Philadelphia Flyers

Only two points separated the Flyers and Rangers during the 2013-14 regular season. Head-to-head in a playoff series, these factors will make one team superior.

  • They resolve to be more disciplined than during most of the regular season. The Flyers’ 357 minors were the second most in the NHL. The Rangers power play is a middle-of-the-pack 18.2% but the strength of the Flyers is their four-line attack. And too many players sit for too long when the penalties pile up.
  • They execute a relentless plan to throw the puck past Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal and Dan Girardi and make them play along the back wall. McDonagh and Girardi will draw most of the duty against Claude Giroux, the most talented player in the series, but there won’t be enough zone time for him to do his thing if he, Jake Voracek and Scott Hartnell don’t get the puck deep. New York will score off counters.
  • They trust the system that turned around their season from a 1-7 start. Playoff games are won with structure, sometimes a lesson learned the hard way by young teams. The only playoff success most of the Flyers have had – twelve of them played in 2012 -- was in an untypically wide-open Pittsburgh series. They couldn’t get the puck back in the next round against the more disciplined Devils and went down easily in five.
  • Turn the key standard to most series: Frustrate the opposition’s most talented offensive player, Martin St. Louis, who is coming in already frustrated with just one goal after being acquired at the trade deadline. Score on the power play. Win at least 50% of the faceoffs.

  • They try to pick corners on Henrik Lundqvist. Rather than hitting under the crossbar or just inside the post, the percentages are much greater hitting Lundqvist and getting to the rebounds. Missing the net and having the puck rim out is a recipe for disaster. The Flyers just shot on Marc-Andre Fleury with the belief they can score on him. They have to feel the same about Lundqvist.
  • They aren’t stronger along the walls in third periods. Flyers had 11 third-period comebacks for victories but a Stanley Cup winner is lucky to get two of those over the course of four rounds. Most playoff games are won by getting ahead and staying ahead and in Pittsburgh last weekend, the Flyers twice gave up a one-goal lead in the final minutes. The puck has to get out of the zone.
  • They can’t handle the size and speed of Rick Nash with...  Nick Grossmann? It will be interesting to see how Craig Berube plays it. Rangers have three defensemen better by reputation than any the Flyers have. Some of them have to show they are better than the league believes.
  • Madison Square Garden, where they have lost eight straight, proves in their heads along with Lundqvist. It’s the same building, albeit remodeled, where until this streak, Flyers teams never had had a problem winning.
  • There are bad goals, like too many bad goals in playoff years past. It is a dropoff from Steve Mason to Ray Emery, but the latter has more playoff experience and played just as well as the No. 1 guy down the stretch. Should he win Game One, there will be no hurry to rush back to Mason. Solid, not spectacular, will be required to keep the Flyers in the series.
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