NBC’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Friday’s NHL Thanksgiving Showdown between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers at 1 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.
Last year, the Rangers openly admitted that they were going to be rebuilding. So when the team started the season 3-7-1, no one was particularly surprised with the poor results. Heck, they didn’t collect their first regulation win until Oct. 23 against Florida (ninth game of the year). They looked like they were dead in the water. But what’s transpired over the last little while has been remarkable.
Since they dropped a decision on the road in Los Angeles on Oct. 28 to fall to 3-7-1, the Rangers have gone 9-1-1. Their only losses came against a red-hot Detroit team and the Islanders (they ended up beating the Isles 5-0 less than a week later). That’s it. The rest are all victories.
“We were 3-7-1 at one point, and I don’t think the feeling in this room was that (bad),” said forward Kevin Hayes. “We felt we had a chance to win a lot of those games. We stuck with it. We’re a hard-working team. Our coach preaches hard work, and I feel like we do that all year and now we’re stringing together some wins.”
Chris Kreider has been rolling, as he’s picked up 11 points in his last eight contests. Mika Zibanejad has accumulated 17 points in his last 16 outings and Neal Pionk has eight points in his last nine games. The contributions have come from all over. They even got a shutout from Alexandar Georgiev on Wednesday night, but Henrik Lundqvist will be between the pipes against Philly.
Let’s just say things haven’t been as rosy for the Flyers, who enter this afternoon’s game on a four-game losing skid (0-3-1). The month of November got off to a great start, as they had a six-game point streak dating back to the final game in October. But things have fallen apart in a hurry.
Goaltending has continued to be an issue for Philadelphia. Alex Lyon, who started their last game against Buffalo, was pulled after giving up eight goals on just 12 shots in the first period.
“We didn’t give our goaltender a chance to get into this hockey game,” head coach Dave Hakstol said after the loss to the Sabres. “And on the flip side, he didn’t give us a save early on either. The two go hand in hand.”
With Michal Neuvirth and Brian Elliott on the shelf, the Flyers will have to continue rolling with Lyon or Calvin Pickard. Neither one is a fantastic option, but they’ll have to find a way to stop the bleeding.
“We’ll roll with the best that’s out there, whether it’s what we have or something else,” GM Ron Hextall said. “Same as always. We’re always looking to upgrade our team if we can. We picked Calvin up because we believe in him and we also believe that Alex is pretty close. They’re gonna have a chance here and we’ll see how it goes.”
One way the Flyers could help their goalies is by executing on the man-advantage. Philadelphia’s 25th ranked power play has gone six-for-49 over their last 17 games, and three of those goals came in a 6-5 overtime loss to Tampa last weekend. They’ve got to get it done on special teams.
Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick, Eddie Olczyk, and ‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst Pierre McGuire will have the call from Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa.