NHL Extra: Breaking down Rangers vs. Flyers

Looking for the numbers breakdown for how these two teams stack up? Look no further as we’ve got you covered as the Rangers take on the Flyers at 12:30 p.m. ET from Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Insider’s Preview

CSN Philly’s Ryan Bright takes a look at both teams.

CSN Philly’s Tim Panaccio looks at the Flyers facing adversity for the first time this year.

Team scoring

We took a look at how rough scoring has been of late for the Rangers. Overall this year, the Rangers have scored 186 goals, a mark that puts them 11th in the NHL. Their average is not so hot though at 2.67 goals per game  – a number that puts them 20th overall in the NHL. That’s not very good, even more so for a team looking to make the playoffs. Brandon Dubinsky is their leading scorer with 43 points (19 goals, 24 assists). Shockingly, Brian Boyle is the team’s leading goal scorer with 20. The team’s leading scoring defenseman is Dan Girardi with three goals and 23 assists. We’re a bit surprised ourselves to read that. The Rangers will get Marian Gaborik back in the lineup today and if all goes well he can get the offense generated for New York.

Philadelphia’s offense is a bit better. They’ve scored 208 goals this season, a mark that puts them fourth overall in the NHL. They goals per game average is a stellar 3.22, a mark that only trails Detroit and Chicago in the league. Claude Giroux is leading the team in scoring with 59 points (21 goals, 38 assists) while Jeff Carter and Daniel Briere are the top goal scorers with 28 each. Bad news today, however, is that Carter will not play because of illness. Matt Carle leads the scoring along the blue line with 29 points (1 goal, 28 assists) but Kimmo Timonen is just one point behind him. Scoring goals isn’t generally an issue for the Flyers.

Goaltending

There’s a stark difference between these two teams and it comes in goal. The Rangers come at you with all-world superstar Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist is 26-23-4 this season with a 2.33 goals against average and a .921 save percentage. With the Rangers in a push for the playoffs and regular backup Martin Biron out with a broken collarbone, it’ll be Lundqvist or bust the rest of the way for New York. If Lundqvist sees trouble and gets chased from the game, Chad Johnson is his backup. No, this Chad Johnson doesn’t have a show on Versus with Terrell Owens, this one instead went to the University of Alaska and saw some playing time last season with the Rangers as well.

Philadelphia has been working an effective two-headed monster approach in goal with Brian Boucher and rookie Sergei Bobrovsky. With Bobrovsky getting the start against Buffalo yesterday afternoon, Boucher gets the start today. Boucher this season is 15-7-2 with a 2.33 goals against average and a .919 save percentage. Should Boucher get into trouble today, Bobrovsky’s record is 24-11-4 with a 2.52 goals against average and a .917 save percentage. They’ve each had streaks of outstanding play this season and when things have cooled off, one relieves the other and runs with the starts for a while. Will that work in the postseason? We’ll see.

Special teams

New York’s ability to kill penalties is a boon for them. The Rangers PK runs at 83% efficiency, good for 11th in the NHL. Their power play, however, could use a little work as the Rangers score 16.2% with the man advantage. A rate like that is good for 22nd in the league. Considering how much of a hard time they’ve had scoring goals at all, this isn’t much of a surprise.

Philadelphia has about the same sort of luck on the power play scoring at 16.6% of the time, good for 21st in the league. If you’re banking on penalties and power plays deciding this game, perhaps hoping teams will decline them would be better off. The Flyers PK is outstanding killing 84% of the power plays they face, a mark good for seventh in the league.

Streaks and standings

The Flyers are the top team in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference with 86 points. They’re two points better than Boston for the overall top spot in the conference while they’re now just two points ahead of Pittsburgh for first in the division. The Flyers three game losing streak of late and being losers of five of their last seven has helped the Penguins and Bruins both catch up to them. What once was a dominating lead is now a fight to the finish atop the standings.

New York is seventh in the Eastern Conference with 72 points. Their lead on eighth place Carolina is just one point and ninth place Buffalo lurks behind them by two points. With the Rangers struggles of late, the pack has come back to them and the Sabres and Maple Leafs are within one hot streak of jumping into the playoffs and taking over their spot. If the Rangers want to avoid a scenario like they saw last year, racking up wins now would be a good idea.

Fisticuffs and agitation

Jody Shelley is in the lineup for Philadelphia today. The former Rangers enforcer will be out there to keep the peace or to throw fists with the likes of Brandon Prust of New York. With pests Sean Avery and possibly Dan Carcillo also suiting up for this game, expect things to be their usual spicy selves between these two rivals.

NHL Extra

If you’d like to ask James and I questions and get our thoughts on today’s game, you can join us for NHL Extra online and follow along with the action that way. To join us for NHL Extra click here. We’ll be kicking things off at 12:30 p.m.

PHT Morning Skate: On David Booth escaping death last summer

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–The Flyers will be without Andrew MacDonald for a month. That might open the door for youngster Samuel Morin, who made the roster out of training camp. Morin’s NHL-ready, per the Flyers, so it’ll be interesting to see how he fits in. (Courrier-Post)

–Team USA and Team Canada’s Women’s teams played the first game of the “The Time is Now Tour” in preparation for the 2018 Olympics. Team USA came out on top. (USA Hockey)

–The Score takes a look at three teams that made a big statement over the weekend. The Maple Leafs bandwagon has picked up a lot of steam since last season, but the Senators took care of them on Saturday night. (The Score)

–The Colorado Avalanche look better this year than they did all of last season, but they’ve been hit by injuries lately. Both Tyson Jost and J.T. Compher will miss an extended period of time. (Denver Post)

Riley Sheahan went 79 games without a goal last year, but the Penguins felt like a fresh start in a new city is exactly what he needed, so they went out and acquired him from Detroit over the weekend.  “It’s been a crazy last day, but I’m looking forward to the opportunity. I’m leaving behind a great organization and some great teammates, but I’m definitely excited for the change of scenery and to get started with such an awesome organization.” (Pittsburgh Tribune)

–David Booth, who is a trained pilot, had a scary experience last summer. After getting an invite to Ducks training camp at the last minute, he decided to fly to Anaheim on his own. Booth had some tense moments in the air after his engine failed. Thankfully, the story has a happy ending. (Sportsnet)

–Youngster Anthony Beauvillier has faced some adversity already this season. After a couple of mediocre performances, Beauvillier was made a healthy scratch. Now, he’s out to prove he belongs in the lineup every night. “You can always find positive things out of that but you never want to sit for a game,” Beauvillier said. “It’s kind of hard. You’ve just got to keep working hard when it does happen. You just have to go out there and make sure it doesn’t happen again.” (thesportsdaily.com)

–The Edmonton Oilers swapped Jordan Eberle to the Isles for Ryan Strome. Unfortunately for them, the deal hasn’t worked out so far, but there’s still plenty of time for Strome to figure things out. (Oilersnation.com)

–The Golden Knights have had some tough luck when it comes to keeping goalies healthy. Marc-Andre Fleury and Malcolm Subban are both out of the lineup right now. Don’t expect them to make a trade for a goalie because this season isn’t about wins and losses. It looks like Oscar Dansk will be their guy. (sinbin.vegas)

Niklas Kronwall, who played in his 800th game on Saturday night, has had plenty of issues with his left knee. In an attempt to get healthy, Kronwall admitted to trying stem cell therapy. “When you get to this point, you’re basically trying everything. That’s definitely something that’s out there and I think it’s becoming more and more, I don’t know if popular is the word.” (Detroit Free Press)

Max Pacioretty and the Montreal Canadiens are off to an awful start. As the losses continue to pile up, so does trade speculation. But Habs Eyes on the Prize believes that trading Pacioretty away would be a huge mistake. (Habs Eyes on the Prize)

–Speaking of the Habs, Andrew Shaw was accused of using a homophobic slur in Anaheim on Friday night, but the NHL looked into the matter and decided he didn’t do what he was accused of doing. As you may remember, Shaw was suspended one game for using a homophobic slur a couple of years ago. (TSN.ca)

Jack Hughes, 2019 NHL top prospect, scores brilliant solo goal (Video)

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USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program side is off to a great start in the United States Hockey League this season. They’ve won their first four games, are the highest scoring team in the league (27) and may have already locked up goal of the season.

Jack Hughes, a 2019 NHL draft prospect, made the Green Bay Gamblers defense look mighty silly during a 6-4 win on Sunday afternoon.

At first watch, if you’re strictly paying attention to Hughes, you might think Team USA is on a power play. But then you realize there are five skaters in black despite what seems like a lot of space for the 16-year-old to work with.

Hughes, who’s tied for second in league scoring with seven points, finished with three points on the afternoon and is already being dubbed the “Next One.” We’ll be hearing a lot of his name over the next year and a half as June 2019 approaches.

“He’s a special player,” said Barrie Colts head coach Dale Hawerchuk to the Toronto Sun’s Mike Traikos last spring. Hawerchuk had planned on taking Hughes No. 1 overall in last year’s OHL draft before he decided to go the NTDP route. “He’s so fast and a such a great skater. But he’s also got great instincts. He thinks the game on another level.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

The Buzzer: Canucks continue Red Wings’ slide

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Player of the Night: Sven Baertschi

Last season, Baertschi was a bright spot for a dismal Vancouver Canucks team, generating new career-highs in goals (18) and points (35) in 68 regular-season games.

The 25-year-old carried over some of that momentum early on, generating three points in seven games, but they were all assists. Sunday marked his best moment of 2017-18, as Baertschi scored his first two goals of the campaign (giving him five points in eight contests).

Bo Horvat is the honorable mention in the Canucks’ 4-1 win against the Detroit Red Wings, collecting his first two assists of the season. Jake Virtanen also found the net for his first goal of the season.

(As an aside, Derek Dorsett somehow has five goals already in 2017-18. Dorsett’s career-high is 12 goals, but he’s already in range of tying his second-best mark of seven.)

Highlight of the Night: Why not go with Baertschi’s two goals?

Factoid of the Night: This marks the fourth straight loss for the Red Wings, dropping them to 4-4-1 after a promising 4-1-0 start. But the hits could keep coming.

Beginning with Tuesday’s game against the Sabres in Buffalo, Detroit will play three straight road games and seven of their next eight away from home. The bright side is that they’ll enjoy a ton of contests at their expensive new pad starting in mid-November, but the next few weeks could really dim whatever optimism the Red Wings built up early on.

(For pro-tanking Red Wings fans, this might not be such a bad thing.)

Sunday’s lone score: Canucks 4, Red Wings 1

Can Golden Knights keep winning as they keep losing goalies?

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The Vegas Golden Knights confirmed today’s fearful report: Malcolm Subban is expected to miss about a month thanks to a lower-body injury suffered during another Golden Knights upset (3-2 in OT vs. the Blues) on Saturday night.

It makes for a dizzying run of turnover in the Cinderella expansion team’s net; Calvin Pickard went to the Toronto Maple Leafs as the odd man out, Subban is headed to IR, and Marc-Andre Fleury is sidelined with another concussion.

The spotlight, then, turns to Oscar Dansk, the 23-year-old goalie who stopped 10 of 11 shots against St. Louis when Subban went down with that injury.

Golden Knights GM George McPhee said the predictable, right things regarding Dansk and the situation:

“Injuries provide opportunities for others and that is the situation we have here,” McPhee said. “Our top two goaltenders are currently sidelined so we will now give our AHL goalies the chance to play in their absence. We felt Oscar Dansk performed well in relief on Saturday in his NHL debut.”

In a way, Dansk feels like a lower-level version of Subban. While Subban is/was a struggling former first-rounder, Dansk was the second-round version; the Columbus Blue Jackets made him the 31st pick of the 2012 NHL Draft.

(Hey, the 31st pick is now a first-rounder thanks to the Golden Knights, so there’s that.)

Dansk hasn’t been setting the hockey world on fire at other levels, but maybe that makes him an interesting fit for this weird situation, as the Golden Knights continue to defy odds and puck-gravity during a 6-1-0 start.

What to expect

While the Chicago Blackhawks boast the sort of firepower that could make for an unpleasant introduction for Dansk, at least the Golden Knights still have a few games remaining on their first-ever homestand:

Tue, Oct 24 vs Chicago
Fri, Oct 27 vs Colorado
Mon, Oct 30 @ NY Islanders
Tue, Oct 31 @ NY Rangers

That back-to-back to end the month could be Halloween-scary, but at least Vegas has some time to prepare. The losses are likely to come starting on Oct. 30, as they face a six-game road trip and eight of nine games away from home. That’s challenging, no expansion disclaimers needed.

How they’ve been playing

Some wonder if the Golden Knights should loosen their defensive logjam by trading for a netminder.

Rather than wading too deep into that discussion, this seems like a reasonable time to look at the Golden Knights seven games (and six wins) in.

  • One thing that stands out is Vegas’ penalty kill. They’ve been almost perfect if you exclude a rough showing in their overtime win against the Sabres (Buffalo went 3-for-5 in that game). Aside from that, they’ve only allowed one power-play goal. They’ve also only hit the penalty box three or four times most nights, with one night with just one trip and the five opportunities for the Sabres standing as the outliers.

The Golden Knights should expect more struggles in both regards, at least at times, this season. Maybe this long run of home-ice advantage and their expansion status helped avoid most whistles? Perhaps Gerard Gallant has them playing extra-smart?

  • So far, the shot counts have been pretty reasonable in five of seven games. They’ve only been heavily outshot twice so far: their first game (46 shots on goal for Dallas, 30 for them) and this past one vs. the Blues (49 for St. Louis, 22 for Vegas). That’s surprisingly competent stuff.
  • With any team enjoying success, close games can be a red flag, especially if there are OT wins. Vegas has three wins in overtime and one other one-goal win. Their 3-1 win against Boston included an empty-netter.

This isn’t to dismiss those wins, but sometimes close games are more like “coin flips,” and some of those will start going against the Golden Knights eventually.

  • The Golden Knights are a top-10 team in two luck-leaning categories: PDO and shooting percentage. That said, they’re not the top team in either spot, so it’s not outrageous to give them some credit.

***

Through some intriguing combination of competence and beginner’s luck, the Golden Knights are off to a shockingly good start.

It’s one thing to lose one goalie, but seeing both go down is brutal for any squad, let alone an expansion team. The Golden Knights have every excuse to start to fade, and were likely to see slippage even at full strength.

Even so, credit this team for being far better than anyone expected, and this hungry bunch will at least be able to point to doubtful bits like these if they need some “us against the world” motivation.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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