#16: Flyers @ Rangers in NHL 12

For the second consecutive week, the voice of the voters here at STAT BOX STORIES has resulted in a showdown between teams from the cities of Philadelphia and New York.  Last week was an overtime thriller between the Eagles and Giants in Madden NFL 12; this week, a match-up between the Flyers and Rangers in NHL 12 was set up when that candidate surpassed the Chicago Blackhawks versus San Joses Sharks and Tampa Bay Lightning versus Toronto Maple Leafs.

After two loses in a row in NHL 12, I entered this match-up feeling significant pressure to finally get back into the win column for the sport I played the most in my youth.  Even though the two teams are actually fairly evenly matched in the game, I opted to play as the Flyers who have a very slight ratings deficit compared to New York; it was also another opportunity to play as the road team and enter into a hostile environment.

Although the Flyers are not part of the “elite” “Original 6” teams of the National Hockey League like the Rangers are, Philadelphia does hold the distinction of being one of the first expansion franchises awarded in the NHL for the beginning of the 1967 season; the Flyers were also the first “expansion” team to take home the Stanley Cup, establishing that hockey talent could exist beyond the original franchises which were in place for the league’s debut.  The first-ever meeting between Philadelphia and New York occurred on November 16th, 1967, with the Flyers taking home a 3-2 victory.  Since then, the two franchises have met 261 times, with the Flyers holding the advantage in the rivalry series with a record of 114 wins, 110 losses, with 37 games ending in tie results.

After getting thoroughly worked over by the Red Wings in last week’s NHL 12 feature, posting a 3-0 shutout victory was a major accomplishment this time around.  The game started off quite evenly matched, with both the Flyers and the Rangers  taking 7 shots on goal in the first period.  The shots were nearly even as well in the second period, but 7:29 into the game’s middle section I was able to put the first goal on the board when defenseman Braydon Coburn stepped up from the point and deked through to the net for an even-strength goal.  While it wasn’t the prettiest goal I’ve ever scored in a game of NHL 12, I do find it to be a good example of how choosing to step up from the point if there is free ice available can be preferrable to just deciding to launch slapshots from the point and hope for deflections to send the puck into the net.  Instead of risking a turnover from a blocked shot, bringing the puck closer to the net allowed me to put a goal on the board.

With a one-goal lead in hand going into the third period, I opted not to be complacent with that slight advantage and managed to once again outshoot the Rangers in the game’s final frame.   Just over five minutes in, James van Riemsdyk potted a snapshot from the left side of the offensive zone to put up a two-goal advantage.  The snapshot is such an effective tool in NHL 12 if you know how to use it; by moving the right analog stick to the shooter’s “good” side and then flicking the stick up, the shooter will forego the drawn-out motion of slapshot and try to catch the opposing goaltender unaware of the impending shot attempt.  With practice, snapshots like the goal seen below can become a deadly part of your offensive arsenal.

Facing a two-goal deficit and feeling desperate at the game’s conclusion, the Rangers pulled their goalie with a minute remaining and provided me with the opportunity to score one final goal into the empty net to finish the scoring and seal a 3-0 road victory in a rough-and-tumble Eastern Conference rivalry.

Despite a physical match-up between these two teams, however, neither squad escalated play to the point of penalties being called; definitely a surprise given the final margin of victory.  That said, there was certainly no shortage of hard checks, like the one being made by defenseman Chris Pronger in the screenshot here.

Even though my Flyers held a slight advantage with regard to shots on goal, the Rangers actually spent more time on the attack and had a significantly better passing percentage, which should have allowed them to keep themselves in the game to a greater degree than they did.  However, Philadelphia goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov had a stellar game between the pipes, making many athletic saves moving laterally in the crease to keep the score even through the first period and allow the Flyers to build their lead over the course of the final two periods.  New York also held the advantage in faceoffs won–a statistical category I need to continue to try and improve on based on my game results so far for STAT BOX STORIES–but their ability to control the puck on resumptions of play obviously did not lead directly to legitimate or frequent goal-scoring opportunities.

At the game’s conclusion, there was little drama surrounding the 3 Stars of the Game.  Coburn and van Riemsdyk were obvious decisions as the two goal-scorers who actually had to score while New York’s goalie was attempting to make saves, and Coburn got the nod as 1st Star primarily for scoring on his one shot in the game and having the game-winning goal on the stat sheet.  Bryzgalov took the 3rd and final Star position with 18 saves on the night and a shutout; my first shutout in the STAT BOX STORIES entries using NHL 12 thus far.

This brings a close to the Week 4 entries here at STAT BOX STORIES; after two straight weeks of splitting results against the computer 2-2, I finally was able to return to a perfect 4-0 record this week with wins in the games played for FIFA 12, NCAA Football 12, Madden NFL 12, and NHL 12.  I guess that’s something to be thankful for as people in the U.S. celebrate Thanksgiving today.

Check back tomorrow as I detail the upcoming games for Week 5 of STAT BOX STORIES and give the voting choices for next Thursday’s entry in FIFA 12!

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