Better With Popcorn

Regardless of Injuries Flyers continue to push Forward

Nothing about Thursday night was unfamiliar to the Philadelphia Flyers.

For a team that has missed a combined total of 132 man-games due to injury/illness this season, taking the ice without a key player in their lineup has become commonplace.

On this night, the Flyers were forced to challenge the Central Division leading Chicago Blackhawks without the aide of their third-highest scorer, Jaromir Jagr.

This too was nothing new.

Earlier this season, Jagr had missed four games due to a groin pull. While there is still some confusion as to what exactly is ailing the aging superstar this time, the fact remained the same that he was going to be out of commission against the Blackhawks.

No Matter.

The Flyers have dressed a total of 15 players this season 25 years of age or younger. For this team, an injury isn’t so much a burden as much as it is an opportunity.

With that opportunity, players like Matt Read, Harry Zolnierczyk and Zac Rinaldo have all found regular spots in the starting lineup of a team who has the third most points in the Eastern Conference.

Despite several bumps on the way to their dramatic 5-4 victory over the Blackhawks on Thursday, the Flyers continued to prove that their team is never out of any game.

Their troubles began three minutes in, when Rinaldo committed a turnover in the defensive zone that resulted in the first Blackhawks goal. While it was questionable as to whether the puck cleared the zone, what wasn’t in question was the frustration Rinaldo felt following the play.

For Rinaldo, a player who never shys away from the physical components of the game, it was clear what he had to do.

On the ensuing faceoff, Rinaldo immediately engaged Andrew Shaw in what looked more like a therapy session for the scrappy Flyer than an actual fight. He beat the Blackhawk to a pulp. 

From that moment on Philadelphia increased their physical play and imposed it heavily upon Chicago. The result was increased pressure by the Flyers in the offensive zone, which resulted in several scoring chances.

With the exception of Jakub Voracek’s goal in the final minute of the first, the Flyers failed to capitalize on any of their chances.

That changed in the second.

After Shaw exacted some revenge by restoring the Blackhawks lead, the Flyers erupted in a barrage of scoring that left their opponent’s heads spinning.

In a matter of 4:20, Scott Hartnell, Zolnierczyk and James van Riemsdyk all contributed goals to give the Flyers a two-goal lead going into the third.

Concerns have been raised over the Flyers lack of production from lines other then their star powered first group led by Jagr and Claude Giroux.

On Thursday, all four of the Flyers lines contributed goals.

“If you look at our whole lineup today, we had four lines and I think every one, every line got a goal,” Hartnell said. “When you get a win and everyone is contributing to everyone, everyone has a smile on their face, it's great to see."

In addition, van Riemsdyk, a player who has been largely invisible for large portions of the season, scored the team’s last two goals including the game-winner.

“It's exciting to contribute,” he said. “Some bounces haven't necessarily gone my way most of the year, but it feels good to contribute and help the team win.”

It’s difficult to say that the Flyers can realistically make a deep run in the post season if these injuries continue. However, it is encouraging to see that players continually step up when given the chance.


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