The final Rangers game is a chance to make Flyers nervous


Later today at about 3:15 PM in the City of Brotherly Love on NBC, the Rangers play their final game of the season against the Flyers. Game 82 means a lot more to the hated rival who with just a point can make the playoffs which would eliminate the Panthers.

It was eight years ago that these teams played a final game in the same arena that would determine who made the playoffs. The Flyers won in a shootout and went on a miraculous run all the way to the Stanley Cup Final before falling to the Blackhawks. The Rangers went home for the first time in the Henrik Lundqvist Era. At least it had meaning.

This time, the rebuilding Blueshirts who have recalled Matt Beleskey and Steven Fogarty, can make the Flyers sweat it out if they can beat the Flyers in regulation. Something Lundqvist wouldn’t mind. It wouldn’t quite be revenge because it’s not the same circumstance. But it would at least give Florida a chance. They have to get a Flyers loss in regulation and win the last two games against the Sabres tonight at home and find a way to go into Boston tomorrow night and get two points.

There’s nothing to play for except pride. Is it realistic to think the Hartford Wolf Pack can play well enough to stun a desperate ad much better Flyers team in enemy territory? Probably not. But this is sports. The game must be played. Whether they can muster the energy and motivation won’t be known until a few hours from now.

Who knows? Maybe this is the game Pavel Buchnevich remembers to shoot the puck and score instead of being stuck on a ugly 14 goals in 73 games. But I thought he was a god. It’s a suggestion that the second-year Russian should practice taking 100 shots a day in the offseason. He’s not close to a “first liner” the foolish NYR bloggers would have a few of our brainwashed fans believe.

I’m more hopeful that first round picks Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil do something. That is if Alain Vigneault would stop being so stubborn and use Chytil on the power play and give Andersson ideal linemates instead of putting him in Siberia on the fourth line. Pa-th-etic!

At least this should be the end of bubble gum chew behind the bench. He’s not cut out to coach a younger roster that’s the antithesis of what he’s used to. Jeff Gorton better get on the phone with Sheldon Keefe.

I’d love to see Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider have one last big game and torment Flyer fans. The same for Kevin Hayes, who’s up to a career best 25 goals. I’m real excited about his improvement and believe he’s primed for bigger things next season. Ditto Kreider and Zibanejad who are a dynamic duo that are capable of making a quantum leap.

To win, Brady Skjei must continue to improve at shutting down the opposition. That means seeing plenty of Hart candidate Claude Giroux, who enters play with 99 points. He will be a handful with linemates Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny.

Neal Pionk will continue to learn on the job with Marc Staal, who’s been instrumental in his development. Look for them to see plenty of Jake Voracek, rookie Nolan Patrick and Wayne Simmonds.

How will this team deal with the dangerous offense from super Flyers defensemen Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov? Avoid the penalty box.

I know they can potentially move up to 23rd if the Oilers and Blackhawks win. But what’s the big difference in the weighted NHL lottery which will favor the bottom three teams? Honestly, I don’t expect to get anywhere near a top 3 pick because in franchise history, the Rangers have never picked first overall. Let’s not delude ourselves.

I would rather win over the Flyers without them getting the stinking brownie point and make them and their fans nervous. Sure. There’s no guarantee the Panthers can pull it off. I wouldn’t even put it past them to lose to the Sabres, who are scoring goals and already secured the worst record. They’ll have to beat Buffalo and find a way to beat Boston tomorrow night for a second time this week.

So, let Lundqvist start and shutdown the Flyers. Let’s go out the right way.

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About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included two stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil games. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has scored Berkeley Carroll basketball games since 2006 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. From players, coaches to administrators, it's a first class program. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree.
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