Flyers-Rangers: Postgame Review
With a dominant 5-0 win over the New York Rangers, the Flyers are going to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Once again, it was an effort that was led by their captain, who has continued to be on top of his game and right in the middle of some of the biggest moments of the Flyers season.
Let's jump right in with our Postgame Review.
- M-V-P - Claude Giroux entered the game at 99 points, needing just one for 100. He got it with a power-play goal midway through the second period to make it 2-0 and provide some insurance.
Then he scored another. And then another. At game's end, Giroux had his first career regular-season hat trick and capped off a career season with 34 goals and 102 points. All this from a player who was thought to be regressing. All this from a player who turned 30 in January.
Giroux carried the Flyers into the playoffs, not just with his play, but with his leadership. There is no more questioning Giroux's place in Flyers history. He established it this season with a career year that was almost generational. The last time the Flyers had a 100-point scorer was in 1995-96 when Eric Lindros reached the century mark. Lindros' number was lifted to the rafters earlier this season. It's been a while since we've seen anything like this.
So not only is it on to the playoffs for the Flyers, it's on to the playoffs for Giroux, who has a chance to take this memorable season to a national scale again. It should also put him in the running for the Hart Trophy.
- Raffl Rises to the Occasion - If you were scratching your head when Dave Hakstol moved Michael Raffl to the top line and dropped Travis Konecny to the third line, you probably weren't alone. Konecny was certainly a play driver and Raffl's production was MIA.
But since being placed on a line with Giroux and Sean Couturier, Raffl has scored in back-to-back games, the two biggest of the Flyers season, and also added an assist in Saturday's win.
Raffl may not last on that line, as Hakstol is known to shuffle things up on occasion, but he's been a different player since the change was made.
- Elliott Blanking - Brian Elliott was back in net for just his second game since mid-February in his return from injury. In all honesty, he didn't have to do a whole lot to earn this one, but he did stop all 17 shots he faced for his first shutout as a Flyer in the final game of the regular season.
That's significant because Elliott was tabbed by Hakstol as the team's No. 1 goalie after Thursday's game. Hakstol was adamant that Elliott was the Flyers go-to in goal. The team certainly seems to play a different brand of hockey when he's in net, as if there is a different comfort level with Elliott in goal.
When the playoff start up next week, Elliott will surely be the guy the Flyers turn to in net, and he'll be coming off a solid effort and a shutout.
- A Playoff Effort - What made Elliott's day so easy was an effort that embodies a playoff team.
For one, the Flyers kept their foot on the gas all game. They won races, won puck battles, played with confidence. It was exactly the type of game that they are capable of playing but so often allow mistakes to mar.
Defensively, it may have been the Flyers best game of the season. The Rangers really never established any offensive presence. The Flyers were a strong back-checking team, everyone was marked well and the Rangers never got inside positioning. From start to finish, this was a defensive effort that wins in the playoffs.
Of course, there is also the offensive side of things. The Flyers top line was tremendous. The second line didn't have any points, but came close on multiple occasions as they continued to show great chemistry. Even the third and fourth lines strung together good shifts that made a difference.
Ultimately, this is the effort that needs to be replicated on a nightly basis from here on out. The playoffs require this kind of precision and energy. If the Flyers can match that as they did in this game, they can be a contender in a playoff series.
- The Quest Begins - So the Flyers are in, but there isn't too much known about the next stop of this season's journey from there.
Currently, the Flyers hold the third spot in the Metropolitan Division standings. Both New Jersey and Columbus play later on Saturday night. If either team wins in regulation or overtime, they would move ahead of the Flyers. If either team loses in any situation -- regulation, overtime or shootout -- the Flyers would finish ahead of them by virtue of the first tiebreaker, regulation and overtime wins.
So it's as simple as wins or losses for New Jersey and Columbus to determine where the Flyers finish and who they play.
If the Flyers finish third in the Metropolitan Division, they would face the Pittsburgh Penguins. If the Flyers finish in the first wildcard spot, they face the Washington Capitals. If the Flyers finish in the second wildcard spot, they face the Atlantic Division winner, either Boston or Tampa Bay.
Once there is some clarity on how the standings play out, the Flyers will find out the schedule for the first round and everything will begin by the middle of next week.
Kevin Durso is Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.