Flyers for Four
Last Monday night, the Philadelphia Flyers had dropped a 2-1 decision to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Their play was worse than uninspired, and it was quite clear that the team wasn’t playing anywhere near their potential. Many Flyers fans including myself were frustrated with the lethargic play. Many wondered what would happen if the team played up to their potential, and did it with consistency. A week later, the Flyers have provided an answer.
The Flyers win streak was extended to four games after the team defeated the Carolina Hurricanes Monday night. The 3-2 victory was especially sweet because of the circumstances that surrounded the team leading into the game. Danny Briere began his three game suspension after his check to the head of Frans Nielsen on Saturday night. Briere has been one of the Flyers most consistent and productive scoring threats. Without him, there was a need for someone else to step up. Scott Hartnell was that someone else. Hartnell scored twice and the line that Briere left behind moved on without missing a beat. Jeff Carter replaced Briere on the line and Ville Leino continued to create numerous chances for his line mates. With Briere missing the next two games, it’s important that the line restores its reputation as the team’s most dangerous combination. With the way Carter played Saturday night and Monday night, as well as the way Leino and Hartnell have played all year, that shouldn’t be a problem.
Another problem the Flyers faced after Saturday’s game was the re-emergence of the injury bug. Andreas Nodl suffered an upper-body injury against the Islanders and Andrej Meszaros was sidelined with a slight concussion. Enter Oskars Bartulius and Eric Wellwood. Wellwood was called up from Adirondack after Nodl’s injury. He certainly held his own and then some. Wellwood played on a line with Mike Richards and James van Riemsdyk, and at times he looked like the most impressive player on the line. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nodl held out for a bit longer than originally planned given Wellwood’s effectiveness. Bartulius had his share of playing time with the Flyers last year, and he seemed to be much more comfortable and mature than he was last season. Although he didn’t make an extraordinary plays, he definitely didn’t stick out like a sore thumb like he did most of last year.
After Briere’s suspension and Nodl’s injury, the team needed two forwards to play on Monday. Obviously, Wellwood stepped in and played well. The other forward that was inserted into the lineup was the enigmatic Nik Zherdev. After being a healthy scratch the last two games against Pittsburgh and the Islanders, I worried that Zherdev would do the predictable thing and simply play as invisible as possible when given another opportunity. With his reputation being what it is, there was little to no doubt in my mind that he would disappear. Much to my pleasure, he did the opposite. He played like a player that was upset about being benched. He played an energetic and effective game Monday, and if being benched lit a fire under him, then that’s a great sign for the Flyers moving forward.
Some other positive developments came from Monday’s game. First and foremost, Claude Giroux had a couple of jaw dropping plays and tallied the Flyers’ second goal. He has emerged into the player the Flyers and their fans have waited for him to be. He now has twelve points in as many games, and looks to be one of the best, if not the best Flyer on offense. Also, Sergei Bobrovsky posted another impressive game and it seems like he’ll be the number one goalie moving forward. He has gotten better with every game and it’s becoming quite obvious that the team has a great amount of confidence when he’s in the net.
Coming into Monday’s game, the Flyers faced the challenge of filling three roster spots for Monday’s game. All three players that stepped in played extremely well. After last Monday’s game, the Flyers faced the challenge of playing to their potential. They’ve won four straight in impressive fashion since then. The Flyers may frustrate their fans at some point again this season. But, that’s only because they’ve seen how good this team can be.
As I gear myself up for the first matchup of the year against the Rangers Thursday night, feel free to email me at email@example.com or follow me at www.twitter.com/mtrible . Also, listen to my weekly online radio show at www.blogtalkradio.com/flyerscorner .