Flyers Winning Streak Snapped by Caps
When the Flyers skated into Washington, D.C Sunday evening, possession of the top spot in the Eastern Conference was on the line. In a game that was played at a furious pace, the Flyers took one penalty too many as their win streak ended at six games in overtime. The 3-2 loss is difficult to swallow, but 13 points in the last 7 games could be an important building block for this team’s success. After the team’s recent stretch, it’s become quite evident that the Philadelphia Flyers should be in the hunt for Lord Stanley’s Cup again this year. There is nowhere left for this team to hide, few excuses that will carry any weight with the fan base. It’s clear that when the Flyers play to their capabilities, the result will be positive more times than not.
One highlight of the team’s loss to the Caps was the play of Nikolay Zherdev. The talented Ukrainian has been tabbed an enigma since the start of his career, and the team made a bold move in bringing him in during the offseason. His play has been up and down after a stellar preseason, and the inconsistent nature of his play led to Peter Laviolette scratching him for a pair of games last week. The benching seems to have worked. Zherdev has been all over the ice, especially in Sunday’s loss. He tallied the first Flyers goal and had a few other excellent chances as well. He even saw some time on the power play unit, which was something that General Manager Paul Holmgren and Laviolette had hoped he would earn at the beginning of the season. Although he looked to be a disappointment before his benching, his play afterwards may signal the addition of yet another weapon to the Flyers forward depth. Given James van Riemsdyk’s recent struggles, Zherdev’s consistent effort would be a welcome sight to Laviolette and Flyers fans everywhere.
Although Zherdev played well, the biggest story with the Flyers continues to be another Eastern European native. Sergei Bobrovsky played another solid game on Sunday. Despite giving up three goals, he looked comfortable against Washington’s high-flying attack. With forwards the likes of Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom and Mike Green (oops), it was nice to see ‘Bob’ hold his own and then some. He stopped 36 shots and two of the three goals he let up were on the power play. The team took a couple of penalties that were of the ‘terrible timing’ variety. Not that there’s ever a great time to take a penalty, but a four minute high-sticking penalty by the team’s best defenseman with a little less than four minutes left in a tie game is not ideal. Also, Sean O’Donnell took a trip to the box for boarding Tomas Fleischmann with a little less than twenty seconds left in regulation. Both penalties ended up taking their toll as Mike Knuble screened Bobrovsky on Mike Green’s game-winning point shot. The Flyers also committed two high-sticking penalties in the second period, and a part of that is just bad luck. Obviously, the team has to have better control of their sticks, but it’s hard to moan and groan about unfortunate penalties such as those.
Washington was much more active than the Flyers on Sunday; there is little doubt about that. I’m sure part of that had to do with the Flyers’ short amount of turnaround time in their back-to-back road schedule, but that’s no excuse. Every team has points in their schedule that are tough and this was one of the Flyers’. The Capitals outshot the Flyers 39 to 25 and it was pretty obvious that the Flyers were prodding along at times while the Caps were whizzing all over the ice. Still, there’s little to complain about for the Orange and Black.
Over the last seven games, the Flyers have seen Bobrovsky step up and stake a significant claim to the number one goalie spot for the rest of the season. Players like Andreas Nodl and Eric Wellwood have contributed in more ways than one, and in doing so have shown that they are viable options when fresh legs are needed this season. Zherdev was benched, and then inserted into the team’s lineup and oddly enough, he’s actually playing harder. The team has found a confidence that they will need to build off in order to maintain the level of play that they’re capable of demonstrating.
In today’s NHL, it’s very difficult to maintain a long winning streak and that’s exactly what the Philadelphia Flyers have just done. Gaining three points on a back-to-back road game weekend is something that shouldn’t be understated. Although the Flyers couldn’t skate out of Washington with two points, they should be extremely confident moving forward. The team can enjoy a few days off before taking Carolina’s ice Thursday night. If the Flyers hope to end up being the team many believe they can be, this recent stretch of games may be a chapter worth bookmarking.
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