PHILADELPHIA -- The New York Rangers have the chance to close out their first-round playoff series against the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night in Game 6 at Wells Fargo Center. That hasn’t exactly been the Rangers' strength lately. They have dropped 11 consecutive playoff games while leading in a series, a troubling statistic of which the team is keenly aware.
The opportunity to avoid a Game 7, however, is more than enough to keep players focused on the task ahead.
“We don’t need that stat as motivation,” defenseman Marc Staal said.
Meanwhile, it’s do-or-die for a Flyers squad that has battled from behind all season and thrived with its back against the wall.
Flyers winger Jakub Voracek expressed confidence in what he believes to be a resilient bunch: "When we’re under pressure, we play our best hockey. It doesn’t get better than this."
Change on D: After veteran defenseman Hal Gill’s cringe-worthy gaffe that resulted in a Rangers goal Sunday, Flyers coach Craig Berube is subbing in Erik Gustafsson for Game 6. The 25-year-old Gustafsson, who will be making his series debut, adds a speed element to the Flyers' back end that the 39-year-old Gill is lacking. The Flyers were forced to turn to their depth defensemen when Nicklas Grossmann left Game 4 with a lower-body injury. He is not expected to return this series.
Power outage: The Rangers spent extended time working on special teams during Tuesday’s pregame skate, a unit that has been struggling. The Rangers have failed to score with the man advantage in 15 straight attempts, though their penalty-killing efforts in recent games have been superb.
Puck possession: What promised to be a bitter, emotional battle between division rivals has turned out to be somewhat tame, with the Rangers declining to engage in the Flyers’ physical, sometimes nasty brand of hockey. Instead, the Rangers have built a series lead with their speed, sound defensive structure and strong territorial advantage. According to ExtraSkater.com, the Rangers rank fifth among playoff teams with a 52.6 percent Fenwick rating, a proxy for possession that measures shot attempts.
King in net: One of the other X factors of the series has been the sturdy play of former Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist, who has allowed two goals or fewer in four of the five games this series. Lundqvist has posted a 1.81 goals-against average and .926 save percentage. His even-strength save percentage is .943.