New York Rangers vs Philadelphia Flyers: Stanley Cup 2014 first-round preview

Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. Image Courtesy of Wikipedia.

This one could go either way. I am a believer that defence wins in the postseason and the New York Rangers are the defensive class in their first-round series against the Philadelphia Flyers. That being said, sometimes sheer intangibles win the day in the Stanley Cup playoffs and the Flyers do possess a bunch of grit, edge and Claude Giroux, so they could do well for themselves in this series.

Both teams enter the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs with new head coaches. The Rangers hired former Stanley Cup finalist Canucks’ bench boss Alain Vigneault this past off-season. After an 0-3 start to the 2013-14 season, the Flyers hired first-time head coach Craig Berube. They are new coaches to their team, but only Berube is new to the Stanley Cup playoffs. Vigneault may have a decisive edge in coaching.

Up front the Rangers pack a punch that would’ve been deadly five years ago with veterans Brad Richards, Martin St. Louis and Rick Nash leading an offence corps that is a nice blend of old and young.

The Flyers forwards are more of an in-the-now group, consisting of the NHL’s third highest scorer and likely Hart Trophy candidate Claude Giroux, as well as, bruising winger Wayne Simmonds and skilled Czech Jakob Voracek.

One can’t truly judge a team’s defence by solely analyzing its group of defencemen because to be a good defensive team, more is required than six good blue liners – forwards have to buy-in to a defensive philosophy and strictly adhere to it. However, for arguments sake, the Rangers defence corps is top notch – arguably the second best unit in the Eastern Conference behind the Boston Bruins and right there with the Montreal Canadiens.

Ryan McDonagh has emerged as one of the game’s finest blue liners this season, even receiving some Norris Trophy consideration from media. In my experience watching hockey, top defencemen usually have playoff success. In fact, since 1985, every Norris Trophy winner has earned his name on the Stanley Cup at some point in his career, except the most recent winners Erik Karlsson and P. K. Subban.

Between the pipes the Rangers have a decided edge with veteran Henrik Lundqvist manning the goal. The Rangers’ King has been around the block in the postseason – he should be able to handle the pressure and manage the expectations and keep cool under fire. Whereas, Flyers netminder Steve Mason is lacking in playoff experience, making him a playoff wild-card.

New York Rangers Injuries: F Chris Kreider (hand), D Ryan McDonagh (bruised shoulder).

Philadelphia Flyers Injuries: G Steve Mason (upper body), D Nicklas Grossman (bruised ankle), F Zac Rinaldo (undisclosed).

*Injuries courtesy of TSN.

Sal’s Prediction: Rangers in 6.

Sticking with my theme, I believe the Rangers will beat the Flyers in the first-round because they’re better defensively. That being said, Phillly have that ex-factor that could lead them to victory. But I can only pick one and it’s the Blueshirts.

Brett’s Prediction: Flyers in 7.

This is a hard series to gauge. Both lineups are deep with the Flyers boasting seven 20-goal scorers this season, while the Rangers are healthy with threats and experience through the line-up. New York holds the edge in net and with the D corps as, but the Rangers scoring always seems to dry up in the post-season. Don’t see this year being much different (Let’s go Steve Mason!).