GREENBERG: How to bounce back
Flyers columnist looks at how the Flyers can break the Rangers wall of shot blocking
Of course some Flyers power play goals would help but the Rangers didn’t need any to win Game Three and they are not a requirement to win Game 4.
That’s a tight Ranger box, but the Flyers don’t have overcomplicate things for themselves to break it. What they have to do, to win this game at even strength or on special teams, is:
The forward without the puck takes one potential shot blocker to the net, opening up precious room for the late guy. And the late guys – defensemen jumping up into the play – have been the Flyers’ best guys in the series.
We mean, not just to the man coming late, but with a shot or two launched at eye level, if only to loosen a little of the steely Ranger resolve to risk their limbs and faces. Nothing targeted and vicious, just a little something to complicate the thoughts of a few handsome and debonair New Yorkers.
Scoring first would help, but Game Three was the first one where the team that got the first goal won. The problem with mentality of first goal or die is what if you don’t get it? Getting down 2-0 for a third straight game, would be a very bad idea, however. In Games One and Two, the Flyers had more blocked shots than the Rangers by a wide margin, a reminder that rope-a-dope only works when you have a working lead.
It worked in ’97 when Ron Hextall came on for Garth Snow after a Game Two clunker. Hextall outplayed Mike Richter the rest of the way, and at that stage of Hexy’s career, nobody would have predicted that. In 2011, Peter Laviolette undid a bad decision to start Michael Leighton in Game 6 in Buffalo by making an in-game change to Brian Boucher. Flyers rallied to win in overtime and dominated in Game 7.
Steve Mason probably has picked up some rust, but also a reserve of adrenaline that can work for the Flyers Friday night.
That goes for fans and Flyers alike. Brayden Schenn, for one, is gripping his stick very tight and was on for the last two Ranger goals in Game Three. He is not in this alone, not a bad thing to remind yourself as you go about other duties besides scoring. Claude Giroux has largely been stifled but he is not playing uptight, exponentially increasing the odds of a breakout by a star with 57 points in 53 career playoff games. As long as the Captain believes the Flyers still will win this, they can.
As we said, it is hard to get a frustrated power play going in mid-series, when the penalty killing confidence of the opposition is growing with each kill and the people who pay good money to boo power plays are in full voice. No wonder the Flyers’ road power play is so much better than the road version. And, hey, the Flyers still have the road team advantage for two more games this series.
Currently that seam pass either to or from Giroux for one-timers is not there, and neither is the lane to Wayne Simmonds at the post for either the one-time pass or the turn stuff. So the pucks predictably go up top, and the Rangers line up like the Rockettes to kick them out.
So yeah, there has to be a new plan other than just more of the pump fakes publicly suggested by Craig Berube. He wouldn’t be telling us that if there wasn’t another strategy. Game Three turned on a crank by Dan Girardi that exploded over a screened Ray Emery’s shoulder. Damn however many Rangers aspire to block it, Mark Streit has the best slapshot on the Flyers. It should be used.
The story of Game Three was the Rangers’ shot blocking, and they didn’t score on the power play either. But three minor penalties in the first period did not help the Flyers to the start they needed.
Meanwhile Benoit Pouliot took a couple of dumb penalties to cancel Ranger power plays, and Dan Carcillo remains Dan Carcillo, reminder that the Rangers aren’t always under the best of control, either. They can hurt themselves, same as the Flyers.