Rangers Return Home Looking to End Slide

The Rangers host the Flyers for the second time of the regular season this afternoon at Madison Square Garden.

In the first meeting of the season played at The Garden the Rangers prevailed, 5-1. Henrik Lundqvist stopped 25 of the 26 shots he faced and the Blueshirts got goals from five different players. The penalty kill was perfect and the power play scored once in two opportunities. It was about as complete a game as they have played since the calendar flipped to 2018 and unfortunately it may also represent the highlight of the new year as the Ranger record is just 7-14-0 since.

Al Trautwig and Steve Valiquette look at how the Rangers ended their skid with a commanding victory over the Flyers at The Garden.

Yesterday afternoon the Blueshirts extended a losing streak to three with a 6-3 loss to the Senators in Ottawa. Henrik Lundqvist gave up the game’s first goal on the first shot he faced just 1:03 into the contest. That is the fourth consecutive game that he has given up the opening goal within the first five minutes. It has been a recurring theme over the course of the season that likely has no answer. Lundqvist’s game day prep begins the morning of and he is the consummate pro when it comes to preparation.

When a team has a stretch of poor results they will inevitably find different ways to lose a game. The Rangers have certainly found ways recently and once again, play in the defensive zone was the culprit in Ottawa. Turnovers and giveaways have probably been the number one source of disaster in the defensive zone over the course of this season. Against the Senators, it was not paying attention to the four guys without the puck that was the killer.

Most teams defend in a “swarm the puck” manner and as a result of that helter-skelter defending it is crucial that you are aware of and look around to find the trouble away from the puck. Something that was not done well enough yesterday and it was another way the Rangers found to chalk up a loss.

[Watch Rangers-Canadiens Thursday on MSG2 & MSG GO. Download the app for free.]

The Flyers have done a nice job turning their season around after a 10-game stretch in late November saw them go without a victory. They are 20-8-3 since and find themselves solidly placed in the postseason playoff race. GM Ron Hextall has done a nice job of building through the draft and sticking to the plan of growing from within. Sean Couturier is having a breakout goal-scoring season with 29, while captain Claude Giroux, moved to the wing, leads the team in scoring with 66 points. Goaltending is a bit of cause for concern but this roster has a nice mix and they could be an interesting playoff watch.

3 KEYS 

1. Avoid the Hole

Falling behind early has haunted the Rangers in four consecutive starts. The Rangers are having a difficult time scoring and digging a hole early does not help the cause.

2. Head on a Swivel

The most dangerous players on the ice are usually the four players without the puck. Looking around sooner than later and knowing where all opponents are, not just the puck carrier will give a better chance to defend.

3. Protect the Net

The Flyers will charge the net with pucks and bodies. Clearing the path for Henrik and allowing him to see the puck through traffic will give him the best chance to defend. Expect Philly to come hard.

[Watch Rangers-Canadiens Thursday on MSG2 & MSG GO. Download the app for free.]

The Garden of Dreams Foundation helps kids facing obstacles in the Tri-State area, including Rangers fan Taylor Ryan who is battling a rare blood disorder called Langerhans cell histiocytosis.