It was Game 7 for the New York Rangers Friday night at Madison Square Garden. They played accordingly, and they have lived another day.
It wasn’t Game 7 – technically speaking – for the Flyers, but it probably would’ve been a smart move to have treated it that way. Not taking anything away from the Rangers here: they played an almost perfect game by their standards and deserved the victory. However, it’s frustrating that the Flyers couldn’t string together one complete period in this game, let alone a complete effort. The Orange and Black inserted Jeff Carter into the line-up, his first action since missing 8 straight games with a non-displaced fracture in his left foot. Carter was, as expected, not a factor in the least bit. In the process of Carter returning, Ville Leino had his spot eliminated from the line-up, something that I’ll personally never understand. It’s not that putting Carter in doesn’t make sense – if he can go, it certainly does. It’s just the simple question of “Why Leino?” What has he done to hurt the team since he’s taken over full-time status since Carter’s injury? Regardless of this writer’s opinion, Leino will continue to be the odd-man out and have his roster spot wasted. On to the action…
The Rangers held a very heart-warming ceremony on the ice pre-game, honoring Ryan Callahan with the Stephen MacDonald Award. As one of my roommates, who is a die-hard Ranger fan told me, MacDonald was shot in the line of duty a few years back, paralyzing him and severely disrupting his ability to speak. It was a nice sight to see Office MacDonald on the ice pre-game trying to rally up the Garden crowd. Callahan himself is a classy guy, and although he is a Ranger, it’s hard to dislike him – he plays hockey the right way. Once the action started, the energy in the building evaporated quickly.
In a sight that is rarely seen, Marc Staal turned the puck over in front of his own net, and Mike Richards was there to retrieve the loose disc and shoot it past Henrik Lundqvist less than a minute into the game. Seconds later, Aaron Voros was goaded into a stupid penalty by Daniel Carcillo to put the Flyers on the power-play. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, in a season in which the Flyers have been given so many opportunities, they seldom ever take advantage. So was the case Friday night, as the Rangers had a huge penalty kill to keep it a one goal game. A few minutes after the Rangers killed a powerplay, they were granted one that was four minutes in length courtesy of a Carcillo high stick that drew blood on Brandon Prust.
The Rangers, knowing their season was on the line, did more than just execute; they took advantage. Goals by Chris Drury on the power play, and less than three minutes later by Jody Shelley off a HORRENDOUS defensive display from Braydon Coburn allowed the Rangers to take a two to one lead, and brought the noise factor at MSG back into the game. The Flyers played a laid back style for about the next twenty minutes of action, as the Rangers controlled play for the most part, and scored again off a beautiful pass from Marian Gaborik to the stick of Brandon Dubinsky who roofed it over Brian Boucher. To the Flyers’ credit, however, the team certainly didn’t bring their “A” game, but they did bring a game. Danny Briere and Mike Richards helped the Flyers storm back to tie the game at three and grab some momentum back at a key stage in the game.
However, a costly Chris Pronger turnover, and an unlucky redirection off Matt Carle’s stick off a Gaborik shot made it 4-3 Rangers with a little over three minutes to go in the second period. The goal would prove costly as it would be the final score. However, it’s not like the Rangers didn’t deserve a break like their last goal. They were outworking the Flyers, and pressuring the Orange and Black each and every time the Flyers had the puck on their stick. It was almost a matter of time, really. Not if, but when.
So, now the Flyers and Rangers head to the Wachovia Center in South Philadelphia for a winner-takes-all match-up. There are technicalities where the Flyers could get in with an overtime loss, but who really cares about that. This team was supposed to be a playoff team in the beginning of the season, and with the players they have on their roster now, they can make it happen. They are a good team when they want to be and hopefully one of those occasions will be on Sunday afternoon. The Rangers are going to come in the confident group, and for good reason. But the Flyers have to treat this game as their Game 7 and play accordingly. There’s no sense in not leaving everything out on the ice at this point, because if the Flyers aren’t able to snatch two points Sunday afternoon, it would mark two years in a row that their Atlantic Division rivals have taken the season ending home and home from the Orange and Black.
And that, my friends, is the last type of deja-vu the Flyers want to happen.