Philly Phaithful
Better With Popcorn

Flyers Sneak Out of Nassau with a 2-1 Win

Last Saturday night, the Philadelphia Flyers played sixty minutes of great hockey and beat the New York Islanders. A week later, they played twenty minutes and the result was identical. There’s not too much to complain about in Philadelphia these days.

The Flyers were slower than Zenyatta coming out of the gate against the Islanders, but Sergei Bobrovsky held tight in net. Mike Richards deflected a Chris Pronger point shot in the waning minutes of the first period and the Flyers took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission. They looked lethargic in the first (there’s that word again), and although the team held a 10-9 shot advantage, they had only three legitimate scoring chances.

Quite simply, the Islanders outplayed the Flyers in the first period, and the second was more of the same. New York outshot the boys in orange and black 14-5 in the second, and they tied the game on a sweet short-side wrister from Matt Moulson. The Flyers took four penalties in the period, although one was a cross-check on Pronger that occurred as time expired. All in all, the first two periods were of the ‘going through the motions’ variety. It was obvious that the scrappy Islanders were hungrier than the Flyers.

After playing two lackluster periods, the third was the embodiment of Flyers hockey the way that Peter Laviolette wants it. The forecheck turned the Isles over numerous times. The team’s puck possession was unbelievable. It seemed as if the Islanders were in a permanent penalty kill. The Flyers had chance after chance, and eventually, they cashed in when Eric Wellwood shot high on Dwayne Roloson, and Andreas Nodl slapped home the rebound for the game-winning goal. Although Wellwood missed wide on an empty net and Bobrovsky was called for delay of game in the last ninety seconds, the Flyers held on for a 2-1 win.

Once again, the story of the game was Sergei Bobrovsky. The Flyers are accustomed to only playing the third period in a hockey game. The difference between those previous games and Saturday’s win was the young Russian in net. He was spectacular the entire game, and continues to impress everyone that watches him play. It’s no coincidence that the Flyers have won six games in a row and that Bobrovsky has started all six. The kid has made a name for himself, and he’s working on making a reputation to follow the name.

Offensively, the third period was beautiful. The rest of the game wasn’t. It’s worth noting that James van Riemsdyk was a healthy scratch and Danny Briere served the last game of his three game suspension. Briere has been spectacular thus far and JVR has been completely irrelevant. Insert, Eric Wellwood and Andreas Nodl. Nodl seems to have finally figured out how to put the puck in the net, and Wellwood continues to impress in his stint with the big club. In order to be one of the best teams in the NHL, a team has to be able to weather storms and get key contributions from role players. Right now, Nodl and Wellwood are role players. And right now, the two of them are fulfilling the role of playing great hockey. Without their contributions Saturday, it’s possible that the team wouldn’t have extended their win streak to six games.

Philadelphia will turn around and travel to Washington, where they have a Sunday match-up with the offensive firepower of the Capitals. It will be interesting to see whether or not Laviolette plays Bobrovsky, as he’s shown he’s not afraid to play the youngster in back-to-back games. If Bobrovsky plays, his efforts against the Caps will be worth watching. There may be no better measuring stick than the Capitals for a young goalie. The Flyers and the Caps lead the Eastern Conference in points thus far, so it should be an incredible match-up.

At this point, the Flyers are simply finding a way to win hockey games. There's a quiet confidence that they know they’ll find a way to win. They’ll need a better performance Sunday against the Capitals than the one they had Saturday night in Nassau Coliseum. But, the way things have been going for the Philadelphia hockey club, I wouldn’t bet against it.

As I regroup in time for the Capitals game, feel free to email me at mtrible@thecheckingline.com or follow me at www.twitter.com/mtrible