The importance of physical play for the Flyers
It’s difficult to take positives away from a disappointing loss.
Following the Philadelphia Flyers 5-2 loss to the New York Rangers on Sunday afternoon, the negatives have certainly outweighed the positives.
The Flyers officially dropped the season series to their bitter rivals and their goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov allowed two soft goals that ultimately lead to the team’s defeat.
However, that doesn’t negate the fact there were some bright spots.
Most notably, the consistent presence of the physical component of the game.
For any one who watched HBO’s final episode of 24/7, you know that the Rangers have a basic game plan when preparing for the Flyers.
Hit early, hit often and knock over everything that moves.
The basic premise was that head coach John Tortorella wanted his team to finish checks, drive bodies to the boards and take players out of plays by forcing them to the outside.
That same game plan was in effect when the two teams met again on Sunday.
The Rangers did a fantastic job of taking away the center portion of the ice. For a large majority of the game, the Flyers were forced to attempt long-range shots along the perimeter rather than force their way inside for chances in tight.
They managed to do that by mercilessly hitting the Flyers and driving bodies into the boards.
It allowed the Rangers to throw bodies in front of shots (25 to be exact) and for their master goaltender Henrik Lundqvist to have plenty of time to prepare to make saves.
However, the Flyers didn’t take the physical treatment lightly. In fact they dished out quite a bit of punishment themselves.
Players like Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, Zac Rinaldo and Tom Sestito all made their presence felt in the physical game.
In several instances, the Rangers pinned members of the Flyers down in the corners. Rather than lay off, the team went full steam into the scrums and battled for loose pucks.
Ultimately, a huge component to playing the Rangers is the physical dynamic of the game. If the Flyers are going to find any success against the team in future meetings, it is going to have to come from physical play.
While the Flyers ultimately fell to the Rangers for the fourth time this year, it wasn’t due to a lack of hitting.
And it certainly wasn’t due to a lack of fighting.
Sestito alone had three fights (one for each period), in addition to Simmonds dropping the gloves.
No matter who the opponent, the Flyers always look best when they are throwing the body.
It keeps them engaged in the game and keeps their feet moving, which helps generate offense.
“We talked about how in order to hit, you have to skate,” Peter Laviolette said after Thursday night’s game against the Nashville Predators. “When you're skating and you hit, you're usually near the puck. That creates turnovers and ultimately offense.”
The loss to the Rangers may be hard to swallow, but the silver lining is the fact that they didn’t go down without a fight.
Dedication to the hitting game will be a huge factor in any future success.
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