Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Inside the Flyers-Rangers series

Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)
Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)
Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer) Gallery: Flyers 5, Rangers 2

Simmonds cashes in from up close

   Right winger Wayne Simmonds has become the Flyers' modern-day version of Gary Dornhoefer, a guy who made his living taking punishment in front of the opponent's net and scoring goals from around the crease.

   Simmonds scored two such goals in the first 211/2 minutes in Game 6 Tuesday night against the Rangers, giving the Flyers a 2-0 lead. That prevented any tension from mounting - as it would have if the Flyers were behind or tied in an elimination game.

   The slender-but-physical right winger completed a hat trick late in the second period, tipping in Jake Voracek's drive while the Flyers were on a power play. It was the Flyers' first playoff hat trick since Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux did it in the same game - in Pittsburgh on April 13, 2012.

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       The Flyers did exactly what needed to be done: They scored early and put the already-electric crowd at the Wells Fargo Center into overdrive.

       Simmonds scored on his own rebound 7 minutes, 8 seconds into the game, marking just the second time the Flyers had tallied the opening goal in the series.

    Getting away with giveaways

       The early goal should have had a calming effect on the Flyers, but they seemed allergic to handling the puck in the entire first period.

       In the opening 20 minutes, the Flyers had nine giveaways - seven more than the Rangers - and only Steve Mason's sensational goaltending enabled them to carry a 1-0 lead into the first intermission. Uncharacteristically, Couturier had two early turnovers, and one of them led to a point-blank shot by Rick Nash, which Mason turned aside.

    Raffl joins the top line

       Give coach Craig Berube credit for boldly switching the lineup at such a critical part in the series.

       Berube moved Michael Raffl to the top line, dropped Scott Hartnell to the second line, and put Vinny Lecavalier back down to the fourth unit.

       The moves gave the Flyers more balance, and they created a lot more scoring chances than they had in the series.

       Berube also went with speedy-but-inexperienced Erik Gustafsson over veteran Hal Gill as his sixth defenseman. Gustafsson, paired with Luke Schenn, played solidly on defense and, as a bonus, scored on a breakaway to give the Flyers a 3-0 lead.

    Who's the better goalie?

       Mason has been better than the great Henrik Lundqvist in the series, playing spectacularly in both of his wins.

       For the Flyers, the scary part is this: Lundqvist hasn't stolen a game in this series. He's due.

    Rangers are powerless

       Special teams are the reason the Flyers have a chance to get to the next round.

       Heading into Tuesday's third period, the Flyers had killed 18 straight Ranger power plays. At that point, New York was 3 for 26 (11.5 percent) on the power play in the series, while the Flyers were 6 for 18 (33.3 percent).

    Breakaways

       Defenseman Nick Grossmann had surgery Tuesday to repair tendon damage in his right ankle and will miss the rest of the season, general manager Paul Holmgren said. . . . Ron Hextall, the Flyers' assistant GM, has been mentioned as a candidate for the Washington GM spot. Hextall did not return messages seeking comment on the matter. . . . Simmonds notched just the 11th Flyers playoff hat trick since 1985-86; he has one regular-season hat trick in his career.

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