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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.

Shocking: Tortorella emphasizes ‘mental toughness’

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 15:  Team USA head coach John Tortorella answers questions during Media day at the World Cup of Hockey 2016 at Air Canada Centre on September 15, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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Without any clues, if you had to pick one word to describe what John Tortorella might be looking for, what would it be?

There’s a strong chance many would pick “toughness” (or, OK, maybe a variation such as “grit”) and you’d be right.

After a World Cup of Hockey in which Team USA’s pursuit of toughness bordered, at times, on the comical, Tortorella kept the same themes going with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

“I think that’s the fine line of winning and losing,” Tortorella told the Columbus Dispatch. “How do you handle yourself in those little situations where it’s, ‘Man, what do (I) give? Or, do (I) give in?’

“I’ve said it from day one, our mental toughness needs to be changed and this is part of the process.”

Specifically, Tortorella was talking about the Blue Jackets going through what the Columbus Dispatch describes as an especially “grueling” practice early on in training camp. But, honestly, it feels like it can be Torts’ request for just about anything hockey-related.

(It would be a refreshing bit of trolling if Tortorella decided to talk about finesse for an entire press conference.)

To some extent, talk of toughness can probably be chalked up to “coach-speak.”

Still, it’s tough not to wonder if the 2016-17 season might serve as a litmus test for Torts’ way of thinking and how it may influence the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Even when it’s not Torts making the decisions or at least dishing out the soundbytes, the Blue Jackets seem fixated on intangibles. Consider how GM Jarmo Kekalainen spoke about character while elaborating on the divisive decision to select Pierre-Luc Dubois over, say, Jesse Puljujärvi.

For all the blue collar talk, the Blue Jackets aren’t exactly a cheap team, with the 2016-17 version coming in at a cap hit of about $69 million.

In a multitude of ways, Columbus is paying a premium for intangibles and toughness, with Torts carrying that focus to an extreme. It should be fascinating to see how this all shakes out … even if Sergei Bobrovsky‘s play could ultimately be the real make-or-break factor for the Blue Jackets.

Predators give Laviolette a two-year extension

NASHVILLE, TN - MAY 09:  Head coach Peter Laviolette speaks to referee Kelly Sutherland #11 during the third period of Game Six of the Western Conference Second Round against the San Jose Sharks during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena on May 9, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
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The Nashville Predators have been on a roll lately, and keeping Peter Laviolette around seems like it keeps things going in a positive direction.

The team announced a two-year contract extension for Laviolette during Saturday’s State of the Union event.

During his first two seasons behind the bench in Nashville, the Predators have managed two playoff berths, beating the Anaheim Ducks in the first round during this last postseason trip. The Predators have managed to stay competitive in the Central Division, which is no small task.

With P.K. Subban added to the mix, it makes great sense to retain Laviolette’s services. You never know how a situation will work until it plays out, yet on paper, his system seems like a seamless fit for the star defender.

Nashville’s shown some promise already under Laviolette’s watch, particularly in quietly putting up some promising possession stats. At this moment in time, the future looks even brighter.

It can’t hurt that the guy has a Stanley Cup on his resume, either.

Goalie mask tour: Seinfeld references, tributes and more

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 23:  Actor Patrick Warburton attends The Apartment VIP Party on June 23, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Hulu)
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As difficult as it is to believe, it’s October already. You know what that means*; hockey season is rapidly approaching.

Along with stories about guys who might still be a little injured claiming they’re “100 percent” and teams carrying in optimism that will eventually look foolish, we also get fun stuff like new goalie masks.

We’d already seen Petr Mrazek pay tribute to Joe Louis Arena a month ago, but with the preseason in high gear, we’re seeing more masks.

While there will likely be some other fun entries before the games start to count in 2016-17, PHT is kindly saving your delicate fingers a few extra clicks by collecting a few choice masks in one post.

To start things off, Michal Neuvirth paid tribute to late Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider:

Michal Neuvirth knew what he wanted on his new Philadelphia Flyers mask. He wanted it transformed into an epic tribute to the one and only, Mr Flyers himself, Ed Snider🙏🏻. Michal and I we brainstormed together and a plan emerged how to create the painting. I just love to create Storyteller masks📕. I wanted this to be truly special❤️. Put a lot of thoughts into every detail. We wanted it to be subtle and clean design that live and breath Flyers in the core. It was an honor to create this piece. On the side is also the wonderful logo of Ed Snider created by fellow artist David E. Wilkinson. In the design you will also just as always find a painting of the castle from Michal's hometown. Thank you Michal, we have worked together for so many years and it always a joy to create your mask paintings😊🎨 Thank you! #neuvirth @philadelphiaflyers #nhl #DaveArt @nhl #DaveArtCreativity #aflyerforever

A photo posted by David Gunnarsson (@davidofdaveart) on

This Miami Herald video shares Roberto Luongo‘s very-cool concept: the old Panthers cat on one side, the new one on the other. Here’s a shot from George Richards:

(Anyone else get a little John Vanbiesbrouck nostalgia from that lid?)

Thankfully, no birds were harmed in the making of Louis Domingue‘s mask, which features Arizona sports figures from Randy Johnson to more obvious Coyotes choices:

Nitpick: Steve Nash’s hair could have been floppier. Just saying.

Finally, hockey and Seinfeld once again mix better than a black-and-white cookie in Scott Wedgewood’s mask, which features a Puddy reference:

If you want more goalie masks, DaveArt.com’s list should keep you entertained for some time.

* – Barring all-too-frequent lockouts.

Malkin is ‘not happy’ with the way he’s been playing lately

CALGARY, AB - NOVEMBER 7: Evgeni Malkin #71 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on November 7, 2015 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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Evgeni Malkin is back in Penguins training camp after a stint with Team Russia at the World Cup.

Malkin and his team reached the tournament’s semifinal before being knocked out by the eventual champions, Team Canada.

The Pens forward collected three points in four games, but he wasn’t satisfied by his overall performance.

“I need to start now,” Malkin said on Saturday, per the Tribune. “I’m not playing great. I’m not happy with my game at the World Cup. I will play better here and now.”

When he’s at his best, Malkin is fully capable of taking over games. That’s easier said than done in a best-on-best tournament, but those are the standards he’s set for himself.

So, what does he have to do to get back to that elite level?

“Play more with the puck. That’s my game always, if I have the puck and I spend more time with the puck. The last four, five games in the World Cup, I tried to use my partners, but my confidence when I play with the puck.”

The 30-year-old dealt with some injuries last year, but still managed to produce 58 points in 57 games during the regular season and 18 points in 23 games during Pittsburgh’s Stanley Cup playoff run.