Anyway, enjoy the Q&A. Evan asked these questions, so if you hate them blame him.
1) The biggest question on the mind of Rangers fans is the Flyers goaltending situation. Can Philadelphia realistically win this series if Ray Emery has to play in every game?
We actually talked about this last night on Broad Street Hockey radio, and the general consensus was that we're not entirely worried. Despite what people seem to think and say, Emery is only slightly worse than Mason at even strength play. The bottom line here is that if the Flyers end up doing poorly in this series, it's not going to be solely because of Emery -- i.e. having Mason in net instead probably wouldn't be the difference maker, anyway.
2) The Flyers generally do a pretty good job at unnerving teams and toeing that line between agitator and taking trips to the penalty box. We saw it at the end of the last game between these two teams with Wayne Simmonds and Ryan McDonagh. How do you think the Flyers will approach the physical aspect to this series, and do you think it will play to their advantage?
I think a lot of that depends -- there are guys on the team who are effective at physical play and get involved in appropriate scrums (e.g. Wayne Simmonds) and then there are guys like Zac Rinaldo. If by physical play you mean Rinaldo elbowing a dude in the head (which he is not afraid of doing), I don't see how that helps out. Of course, there is going to be a hell of a lot of roughness in this series given the teams, but to be honest, it's tough to tell whether or not it'll be a good thing for the Flyers. My rule of thumb is playing disciplined is way better than playing rough and hoping for something good to happen. The Flyers rarely heed that advice.
3) A lot's been made of the Flyers lack of defensive depth. How do you think Philadelphia's bottom two pairings will fare against the Rangers not named Rick Nash and Martin St. Louis?
We actually just had an article go up about the recent emergence of the Streit-Grossmann pairing. They've definitely gotten a lot better since the Olympic break (particularly Streit), and have given the Flyers a somewhat legitimate top four. Regardless, talent level kind of drops off after that -- Luke Schenn is thoroughly underwhelming, and Andrew MacDonald is .... strange. I certainly think defensive depth is a problem, and even though the top four looks good now, anyone not named Timonen or Coburn is prone to making boneheaded moves. If anything ends up killing this team in the series, it's probably going to be defense.
4) Is there a player or a certain part of the Flyers game that really needs to perform well for Philadelphia to win this series above everything else?
We've said multiple times that the Flyers live and die by their special teams. The power play has been pretty darn good lately, and the penalty kill has been given plenty of opportunities to shine. Wayne Simmonds is absolutely key to the power play success -- he's a absolute beast down low in extra man situations. He'll need to keep up his play from the regular season for the Flyers to capitalize on what are sure to be rare opportunities to score.
As for the penalty kill, we've got quite a few guys who are decent at doing that, so I don't think there's a particular player to single out there. However, given this team's proclivity for visiting the penalty box, the entire PK corps is going to have to be sharp.
5) Just like you ended on with us, who do you have winning this series and advancing to the next round? Also, who do you have coming out of the East?
I'm a homer so I'm going with Flyers in 6 -- you'll notice I'm not in good company over at BSH. To be completely honest, the Rangers are probably the superior team here, but I can't help but feel that the Flyers pull off a win. That doesn't mean I think they'll go far. The Bruins look like a team that is destined to at least make it to the finals again, and I imagine they'll do just that.