After three meetings this season, the Rangers are still looking for their first point against the Flyers this season. Considering it was the Flyers who eliminated the Rangers on the last day of the regular season last year, the Rangers must be ready for a win against Philadelphia. Unfortunately for New Yorkers, the teams are going in opposite directions right now and the trends aren’t in their favor.
The Flyers are running away with both the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference with a 38-15-5 record (81 points). As a team, they’re a +45—also tops in the East. They lost on Friday, which was Rod Brind’Amour night in Carolina; but that doesn’t change the fact that they’ve been the most dominant team in the East as of late. The loss was only their 5th loss in 2011 and only their 3rd loss in February. It certainly didn’t help that captain Mike Richards missed his first game in two seasons on Friday night and is questionable for Sunday afternoon’s game. It sounds like he’s going to give it a go, but we won’t know for sure until game time.
On the flip side, the Rangers have been struggling lately. Their 3-6-1 record has seen them slip to 7th in the East and only 6 points ahead of 9th place Buffalo (who has 3 games in hand). They lost 1-0 to the Devils the last time they took the ice and only managed 16 shots on goal. Then again, on Thursday the beat the hottest team in the league (Los Angeles Kings) in a shootout. If the team that played against the Kings shows up, then it should be a great game. But if it’s the team that played against the Devils that shows up, it could be a long game for Rangers fans and hockey views alike.
Of course, talking about statistics and records wouldn’t do a rivalry game like the Rangers and Flyers justice. For those who last month’s game, there’s a little bad blood that may spill over to Sunday afternoon’s game.
In the second period of that Jan. 16 night, Sean Avery decided to use Matt Carle’s face as a punching bag. Avery dropped Carle to the ice and continued pounding him when the defenseman was down. In five seasons in the league, Carle had never been involved in a fight.
“I really didn’t know what was going on,” Carle said following the game. “I had the jersey wrapped over my head and the next thing I know I’m getting punched in the face. That’s the kind of player he is.”
Nothing like a little carry-over hate to get the blood pumping. There were multiple Flyers who wanted to exact revenge on Avery, but they chose to play the score and earned the two points instead of doing something stupid. But Sunday will be a new game—and 60 minutes is a long time for a team that hasn’t forgotten.
Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing, just something to keep in mind if the teams drop the gloves in early in the 1st period.