There is no love lost between these two Metropolitan division rivals and the same could be said for the cities themselves. Tough talkin' Philadelphians have little patience for the know-it-all New Yorkers and battles range from everything to who has the best pizza to who has the best hockey team. Of course, we all know who has the best cheese steaks - but I digress. But one thing that will undoubtedly be decided is which team rules on the ice.
We will need the postseason to answer that question because the regular season has left us vexed. The teams split their season series with each club earning a pair of wins in their own building. Therefore the home ice advantage that the Rangers enjoy could be pivotal in determining which team survives and advances to the next round. The teams last met on March 26th in New York where the Blueshirts skated away with a 3-1 victory.
Where's the Edge?
The Rangers will need the customary extraordinary performance from their goaltender extraordinaire Henrik Lundqvist. The rangy Swede has not had a sparkling regular season overall by his lofty standards but when considering that the entire team caught fire in the second half then it is not surprising that so too did Lundqvist. Since January 1st the Rangers goalie has a .929 save percentage compared to his counterpart in Philadelphia, Steve Mason, who has a .912 mark over the same time frame. Lundqvist also has oodles more playoff experience than Mason who last saw the postseason as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets several years ago and got swept in four straight in the opening round. To make matters worse, Mason is nursing an injured shoulder yet is slated to make the start in Game 1.
However, if Mason doesn't go it might not be the worst thing in the world as backup tender Ray Emery has had enormous success against the Blueshirts posting a 7-2 record against the Rangers complemented by a 1.87 GAA and a stellar .936 save percentage. Needless to say, the Flyers will need a huge effort in order to win this opening game in a hostile environment.
Clearly the Rangers have the edge in net but they also hold all the cards on the defensive side of the ice. The Rangers defensemen, led by an ailing Ryan McDonagh, are more mobile and skilled than the mediocre-at-best Flyers corps. However, Philadelphia's offense is what gives them a chance in this game and in this series. Captain Claude Giroux is one of the most devastating offensive forces on the planet and his efforts have been bolstered by the production from both Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek.
Free NHL Pick
While this series appears to be a jump ball this game is not. The Rangers will be looking to duplicate their efforts from three weeks ago when they tallied three goals and were led by a terrific performance from Lundqvist who stood on his head and stoned the Flyers until 1:53 left in the game when Jakub Voracek finally broke through and ruined the shutout bid.
Everything except the first offensive line favors the Rangers and though Giroux can single handedly steal a game, this is not the team that will allow him or his cohorts to do so. New York is too good defensively and more than capable offensively to allow Philly to steal the opening game on their home ice. Take the Rangers for your picks.
Hockey Picks: New York Rangers -150 in NHL odds at Bet365.com.