Flyers face Rangers with second place on line
While you’ll never get them to admit it, here’s a fact of NHL life.
Not all two points are created equal.
No, you don’t get extra credit for beating the first place Penguins or Bruins rather than last place Edmonton or Nashville. But don’t believe there’s not a psychological effect if not a tangible difference. The same applies when facing teams in your own division, especially since the two points you get are two points the opposition doesn’t get — or one point should it come down to overtime or a shootout.
Which brings us to the Flyers and Rangers tonight at the Garden, where Philadelphia has come up empty its last seven trips, stretching back to February, 2011. During that span they’ve been outscored a mind boggling 28-8, including a 4-1 loss January 12 when former Flyers enforcer Dan Carcillo scored early to jump start his new team and his old one never recovered.
With the two teams seemingly headed on a first round playoff collision course, where home ice could make the difference, this one takes on even greater significance. The Rangers’ 4-3 come-from-behind overtime win over Phoenix Monday, coupled with the gracious host Flyers’ 3-2 loss to old pals Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and the Kings, has bumped Broadway’s team a point over Broad Street’s into second place in the Metropolitan.
But keep in mind regardless of what happens in this one, the Flyers still hold two games in hand. Of course that would be a lot more comforting — not to mention confidence boosting for the post-season — if they can win or at least salvage a point getting it to overtime tonight.
“It’s a tough building to play in, MSG,’’ said Scott Hartnell, who needs a goal to reach his seventh 20-goal season. “They’re playing good hockey as well so we’re going to have our hands full. We’re going to need big efforts from our best players and we need to play a clean game.”
As for his team’s less than sterling track record in Henrik Lundqvist’s home turf, Craig Berube insists that’s all in the past.
“We’re a different team than we were,’’ said Berube, who undoubtedly will go with Steve Mason in net, after Ray Emery played well — but not well enough vs. the Kings. “I don’t even think about that. We’re going to go up there and give them our best game. That’s what I believe.”
He also has to gain confidence from the Flyers 4-2 home win March 1, since it was the first time they’d beaten Lundqvist more than three times since December 18, 2010. They’ve been on a roll ever since, going 7-1-1, before stumbling Monday.
They’re hoping that was just a momentary glitch, knowing there’s still work to be done before the post season gets underway.
“We’ve got to make sure we got to be ready in New York,’’ said Jake Voracek, who joined Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds and Matt Read in the 20-goal club, with Hartnell and Brayden Schenn (18) next in line. “If we played the way that we played today for 40 minutes in the Garden we’ll get beat 5-0. We’ve got to make sure that we are ready to play and it’s going to be a great game.”
After tonight the Flyers take on Toronto Friday, then the Atlantic Division-leading Bruins at home in a Sunday matinee, before finishing with five of their last eight on the road. But as the battle for playoff positioning moves into the home stretch, the intensity will only continue to ratchet up
“I don’t care who we play against, we’ve got to look at what we do,’’ said Kimmo Timonen, who was victimized on Dwight King’s game winner midway through the third. “We didn’t play well enough to win tonight. We’ve got to move on and play way better on Wednesday.’’
Because these two points might be the most important ones all season.