Flyers Win, Extend Winning Streak to Four
A week ago, the upcoming schedule didn’t look too great for the Philadelphia Flyers. After blowing a three goal lead in the third period to the San Jose Sharks, some sensed impending doom.
The team had to play the next night in Toronto. Then, they’d play in Boston to a team that humiliated them, 3-0 in their only matchup of the season. After the Boston game, the Flyers would host the red-hot Penguins and go to the ever-so-hostile Bell Centre the next night. Four points out of eight would have been respectable. Six points would have been great. But earning eight points?
That seemed a bit far-fetched.
However, after a 5-3 win in Montreal, that’s exactly what the Flyers have done. In a furiously paced game, the team managed to hold off the home standing Habs. The first period was back and forth, with some sloppy play and no scoring until Jeff Carter struck first. He took a P.K Subban turnover in on goalie Carey Price and scored a pretty back handed goal.
Early in the second period, a James van Riemsdyk centering pass on a rush deflected off a skate and past Price to give the Flyers the 2-0 lead. However, the Canadiens refused to back down. Feeding off their always energetic crowd, the Habs tied the game with a little less than two minutes remaining in the second period. Mike Richards failed to clear the defensive zone while shorthanded and not long afterwards, Subban made up for his previous misdeed. The young defenseman blasted a point shot past Bobrovsky for his second goal of the season.
Suffice to say, the Bell Centre crowd was roaring and Montreal clearly had the momentum heading into the third period. However, five and a half minutes into the third, Nikolay Zherdev skated coast to coast and attempted a wrap around shot on Price. Price mishandled the puck for the game’s fourth goal. With another two goal lead, the Flyers looked to be in good shape.
But once again, the Habs would roar back.
Less than five minutes after Zherdev’s goal, Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta each notched their tenth goals of the season and tied the game at three. Bobrovsky was spectacular for the first two periods, but his third period was less than impressive. Brian Boucher had taken the start in all three of the Flyers’ previous wins, but Peter Laviolette went with the rookie in a hostile environment. He performed admirably, but there’s no doubt he let in a soft goal on the game-tying tally to Gionta.
With ten minutes left in the raucous arena, the Flyers entered ‘crunch time’. After a hotly-contested victory against Pittsburgh Tuesday night, it seemed plausible that the Flyers would tire out against a team that had started to dictate the pace in a few short minutes. However, the Flyers were not to be denied on Wednesday night.
Before Tuesday’s game with Pittsburgh, the Flyers power play had been about as bad as any in the league. However, Scott Hartnell found the back of the net on a power play opportunity in what turned out to be the game-winning, albeit fluky goal. After Plekanec slashed van Riemsdyk on a scoring chance, and the much maligned power play got a chance to step up for the second time in two nights.
They didn’t disappoint.
Laviolette kept the line of Zherdev, Carter, and van Riemsdyk together on the power play unit and the move paid dividends. Carter drove the net and provided a pass to Zherdev in front of Price. Although Zherdev couldn't score, the traffic around the net allowed van Riemsdyk to move in unmarked and clean up the rebound to give the Flyers a 4-3 lead. One minute later, Subban passed the puck directly to his nemesis Richards in Montreal’s defensive zone. Richards fired the puck to Claude Giroux, who deked Price and easily scored the team’s fifth goal.
That’s where the score would stand.
There were plenty of positives to take from Wednesday’s victory, but the victory brought about some negatives as well. Chris Pronger left the game with a ‘lower body injury’ before the third period and would not return. If Pronger misses some time, expect Oskars Bartulis to jump in on the third defensive pairing with Sean O’Donnell. The Flyers haven’t changed their defensive pairings all season, so it will be interesting to see how the team can respond to the possible loss of Pronger.
Bobrovsky looked great for two periods, but the third period definitely left something to be desired. Although, it’s hard to argue with 38 saves on 41 shots against a hungry and talented team. Also, it’s clear that some of his saves early on in the game gave the Flyers a chance to find their legs. With the strong play of Boucher lately and the recent activation of Michael Leighton, it will be interesting to see what Laviolette decides with the goalie position.
The biggest positive of the night was the combination of Zherdev, Carter, and van Riemsdyk. Carter finished with three points and a plus three rating Wednesday night. Zherdev and van Riemsdyk were plus two and plus three respectively, both notched two points on the night. All three players have been moved around a good bit this season, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see that line maintained moving forward.
Regardless of the minor storylines in Wednesday night’s game, the major storyline is much more important. The Flyers have won four straight games, three of which against some of the toughest teams the Eastern Conference has to offer. While it’s still early in the season, the team leads the NHL in points and more importantly, they’re finding some great consistency on the ice.
Four games ago, four straight wins didn’t seem probable for the Flyers.
Improbable no more.