PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Flyers and Rangers rivalry is historic and intense. The teams will meet for the 11th time in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but the first time since 1986, as the series opens at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night.
“Well, I mean it’s certainly up there,” said Berube of the Flyers-Rangers rivalry. “I mean I think, it’s always been there. The Rangers have always been there and Pittsburgh is obviously there. I think that with these new divisional lineups and how many times you play these guys — Washington got up there this year because they’re in our division now. You’re going to see a lot of that and I think, playing the Rangers, whoever we would have matched up against, for me again it’s about controlling your emotions and playing discipline hockey, but playing hard and playing fast and being competitive out there.”
Madison Square Garden has not been kind to the Flyers, who have lost eight straight games there. The two teams split their four-game season series, with each team winning both of their respective home games.
“We really have to play sixty minutes against this team,” Berube said. “They’re a very good hockey team, they got a very goalie, they’re tough to beat in their building. So, it’s going to be a good challenge for us, but we can do it if we play as a team and we play for sixty minutes up there.”
Craig Berube replaced Peter Laviolette as the head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers after the Flyers lost their first three games of the season. After falling to 1-7 through their first eight games, the Flyers began to embrace Berube’s new system and eventually finish the season 41-23-10 over the remainder of the season, good for third place in the Metropolitan Division and a first-round playoff matchup against the New York Rangers.
“I’m happy that we made the playoffs for sure, but I think we got a lot more left,” Berube told Angelo Cataldi and the WIP Morning Show on Wednesday morning. “I told the guys, awhile ago, we’re here to try to win and that’s what we’re here for. We took one good step to get in the playoffs, to give ourselves a chance to win, and now we got to go and amp up our game. Playoffs roll around, everything — intensity level is up. You got to play a lot better hockey. Everybody is gonna amp their game up so we got to do the same.”
Flyers goalie Steve Mason, who has been very good this season (33-18-7), sustained what the Flyers are calling an “upper-body injury” on Saturday. He spent 15 minutes on the ice during Tuesday’s practice and his status for game 1 on Thursday remains uncertain.
“Again, I’ll tell you what I said yesterday, he came out, he practiced for 15 minutes,” Berube reiterated. “He looked pretty good. It was a timed thing by us. We wanted to time how much we wanted to give him and he did good. He did good yesterday. I really don’t know, today he’s not here yet, we’re not on the ice yet, but I am hoping that is better today.”
Al Morganti asked if Mason is unable to start, will he be available as a backup.
“I don’t think so, I don’t think so Al [Morganti],” Berube answered. “The main priority as a coach for me as a coach is the health of my player and to look after my player, that’s the number one priority. There’s nothing more important than that and I’m not going to put anybody in a bad situation and we’ll see today how he is doing and we’ll go from there.”
23 year old right-winder, Jason Akeson, made his season debut with the Flyers on Sunday in the final regular season game of the season. Berube said he liked what he said from Akeson, who has a coin-flip chance to make the playoff roster.
“I like his skill and we’re playing a Ranger team that has a lot of skill,” Berube explained. “They’re a skating team, so we need skilled guys. We need guys that can make plays and handle the puck. So, I like his skill set. I thought he did a good job the other night. He looked good on that line, so as of right now, it’s a 50/50 opportunity for him to get in there.”