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STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS

Eastern Conference Finals

May 16, 1997|HELENE ELLIOTT

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS VS. NEW YORK RANGERS

* Seedings, records: No. 3 Philadelphia (45-24-13). No. 5 New York (38-34-10).

* Season series: Rangers, 3-2-1.

* Top scorers: Philadelphia--John LeClair 50-47--97. New York--Wayne Gretzky 25-72--97.

* Team goals-against: Philadelphia 2.61 (eighth). New York 2.79 (10th).

* Power play: Philadelphia 14.6% (18th). New York 22.0% (first).

* Penalty killing: Philadelphia 85.7% (sixth). New York 79.9% (25th).

* How they advanced: Philadelphia defeated Pittsburgh in five games and Buffalo in five. New York defeated Florida in five and New Jersey in five.

* Top playoff scorers: Philadelphia--Eric Lindros 6-8--14. New York--Gretzky 6-5--11.

* Playoff goals-against average: Philadelphia 2.57. New York 1.40.

* Playoff power play: Philadelphia 14.8%. New York 11.9%.

* Playoff penalty killing: Philadelphia 79.6%. New York 83%.

* Keys: The Rangers, who couldn't kill a penalty or score a goal late in the season, have been reborn. Playing superb defense, they allowed the top-seeded Devils only two even-strength goals in their second-round upset. Ranger goalie Mike Richter was brilliant against New Jersey, compiling an 0.77 goals-against average in the series. He was supported by goals by Esa Tikkanen, who had five in the series, and Wayne Gretzky, who had two. Even Adam Graves, scoreless in the Rangers' first-round victory over Florida, had two goals; and defenseman Jeff Beukeboom made up for a terrible regular season with sound defense and hard hitting. The Rangers must match that effort against the brawny Flyers, who have three scoring lines and a mobile but erratic defense. Veteran center Dale Hawerchuk and defenseman Paul Coffey played well against Buffalo and will again be offensive catalysts, more so if the Rangers can goad Eric Lindros into penalties. Goaltending is the Flyers' big question. Coach Terry Murray switched from Garth Snow to Ron Hextall for the clincher against Buffalo, angering Snow and leaving doubts about Hextall after a so-so performance. Do the Rangers' old guys have another Cup in them, or has Lindros' time arrived? Here's a vote for Richter, Gretzky, Mark Messier and company. Rangers in six.

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