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Meltzer's Musings: Line Matching, Team Stat Comparisons

April 16, 2014, 8:20 AM ET [1096 Comments]
Bill Meltzer
Philadelphia Flyers Blogger •NHL.com • RSSArchiveCONTACT
LINE MATCHING MAY BE TOUGH VS. BLUESHIRTS

One of the difficulties of playing against the New York Rangers is the depth of talent throughout the New York lineup. The Flyers' first-round playoff opponent is not one against whom line matching is an especially effective strategy even in the games (three, four and six) in which Philly would have the last line change as the home team.

After yesterday's practice, Flyers head coach Craig Berube said that every opponent calls for different adjustments. He acknowledged the Rangers' depth and said that he was not currently planning to try to get shutdown center Sean Couturier out against any particular New York forward line.

Of course, that could change depending on the complexion of the series. The Rangers' top line of Rick Nash and Martin St. Louis flanking Derek Stepan is the most likely to be a game-breaking trio that could necessitate special attention. However, an opponent would be foolish to overlook the Brad Richards or Derick Brassard lines.

The Flyers also have plenty of depth. They have seven forwards who scored 20 or more goals during the regular season -- Wayne Simmonds (29 overall, 15 on the power play), Claude Giroux (28 overall, 7 PPG), Jakub Voracek (23, 8 PPG), Matt Read (22, 2 PPG, 4 shorthanded), Scott Hartnell (20, 9 PPG), Vincent Lecavalier (20, 8 PPG) and Brayden Schenn (20, 4 PPG). The aforementioned seven players plus Couturier (13 goals, 3 PPG, 1 SHG) and defenseman Mark Streit (10 goals, 4 PPG) were among the nine Philly players to reach double-digit goals this season.

However, it is no secret that team captain Giroux is the Flyers tone-setter. As he goes, so the rest of the team tends to follow. There is little doubt that New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault will try to get his top defense pairing of Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh out against the Giroux line whenever possible.

The Flyers scored just 22 goals in the first 15 games of the regular season this year; an anemic 1.47 per game. During that span, Giroux did not score a goal. Once he finally potted his first goal, the floodgates opened on a team-wide level. The Flyers finished the regular season averaging 2.84 goals per game; good for 8th in the NHL.

During the four-game regular season series against the Rangers in 2013-14, Giroux generated two assists. He did not score a goal. In 32 career regular season games against the Rangers, Giroux has 30 points (six goals, 24 points). Most of the production has come on home ice.

Excluding Martin St. Louis, who scored all but one of his 30 goals this season as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning prior to his trade to the Blueshirts, New York only had two players who reached 20 goals this season. Nash had 26 in just 65 games and Richards had a 20-goal season. However, the Rangers have nine players on their playoff roster who scored double-digit goals for the club this season; all with at least 14 goals.

The Rangers have an above-average ability to generate counterattacks. They also are a good puck possession team. Combine that with their formidable top three defensemen and the goaltending talents of Henrik Lundqvist and it is easy to see why the Blueshirts are a tough foe for the Flyers. New York finished the season ranked 18th offensively in the NHL (2.64 goals per game) and ranked fourth defensively (2.32 GAA).

During the John Tortorella years, a match against the Rangers was often a game played to one; in other words, whichever team scored first would usually win. More often than not, it was the Rangers who scratched out the first goal. New York eventually ran into playoff trouble because they couldn't score goals and it was too much to ask even Lundqvist to win every game 1-0 or 2-1.

The Rangers have since tried to add a little more offensive pop and Vigneault has opened things up a little bit offensively. However, New York is still first and foremost a team against whom it is difficult for opponents to score goals.

Here is a look at where the two opponents ranked in team statistical measures. The higher ranked team is bolded:

OVERALL SCORING/ DEFENSE
Non-shootout goals per game: Flyers 2.84 (8th) , Rangers 2.61 (18th)
Non-shootout goals against : Flyers 2.77 (20th), Rangers 2.32 (4th)
Shots per game: Flyers 30.4 (14th) , Rangers 33.2 (2nd)
Shots against per game: Flyers 30.6 (19th) , Rangers 29.4 (15th)

GOAL DIFFERENTIALS BY PERIOD
1st PD: Flyers +3 (60 GF, 57 GA), Rangers E (60 GF, 60 GA)
2nd PD: Flyers -4 (79 GF, 83 GA), Rangers +7 (78 GF, 71 GA)
3rd PD: Flyers +5 (90 GA, 85 GA), Rangers +18 (74 GF, 56 GA)
Overtime: Flyers +2 (4 GF, 2 GA), Rangers -1 (2 GF, 3 GA)

SITUATION PLAY
Five-on-five goals for/goals against ratio: Flyers 0.96 (17th), Rangers 1.07 (10th)
Power play efficiency: Flyers 19.7% (8th), Rangers 18.2% (15th)
Penalty killing efficiency: Flyers 84.8 (7th), Rangers 85.3 (3rd)
Opposing shorthanded goals yielded: Flyers 11 (28th), Rangers 7 (8th)
Shorthanded goals scored: Flyers 8 (14th), Rangers 10 (4th)
Average PP/SH time per game: Flyers 28th, Rangers 5th

PLAYING WITH LEAD/ PLAYING FROM BEHIND

Scoring first: Flyers 39 of 82 games (47.6 percent), Rangers 38 of 82 games (46.3 percent)
Winning percentage when scoring first: Flyers .744, Rangers .816
Winning percentage when trailing first: Flyers .302, Rangers .318
Record when leading after 1st period: Flyers 21-5-2, Rangers 20-4-2
Record when leading after 2nd period: Flyers 29-2-4, Rangers 28-1-2
Record when trailing after 1st period: Flyers 8-18-3, Rangers 6-18-0
Record when trailing after 2nd period: Flyers 7-22-2, Rangers 5-23-2

IN-GAME BATTLES

Faceoff winning percentage: Flyers 50.0 (16th), Rangers 48.8 (22nd)
Credited hits: Flyers 2,174 (6th), Rangers 1,905 (14th)
Blocked shots: Flyers 1,200 (15th), Rangers 1,119 (21st)
Credited takeaways: Flyers 445 (28th), Rangers 564 (12th)
Charged giveaways: Flyers 587 (10th), Rangers 706 (20th)
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