Though only three games were played, the Flyers have gained a lot since last Wednesday. It was only a week ago when the Flyers were seemingly a few losses away from the start of a shortened push towards a lottery pick, but luck is finally beginning to change for the Orange and Black on their home ice. In addition to getting the bounces, they are finally getting some wins. Even better for the Flyers, those wins have been earned for a variety of reasons.
The Flyers kicked off their week with a tough loss to the Capitals that looked to spell disaster. The loss of Wayne Simmonds was and still is huge, as he was playing stellar hockey and is still tied in third on the team for points. The offense could have further fallen apart, but instead it came together in spades. The team tacked on five goals in a winning effort against the Hurricanes. More importantly, they did it in a variety of ways: four Flyers scored their first goals with two of them coming from defensemen (Claude Giroux being the fifth) while they also went a perfect 3-for-3 on the power play.
After two days of rest, the Flyers were back at it in Philadelphia against Tampa Bay last night. While the offense wasn’t as explosive, the defense rose to the occasion. Holding the league-best Lightning offense to a season low in shots (22), Tampa Bay stayed off the board until midway through the third. Furthermore, the Flyers penalty kill stifled their number two power play on four chances. Combine these factors with a Tom Sestito two-some and even more stellar play from Ilya Bryzgalov, and you’ve got a team that finds itself right back in the thick of things.
So what are they doing different? First and foremost, they are getting offense from a variety of places. If I were to tell you that eight Flyers were responsible for the last nine goals they have scored, would you guess the only repeat offender was Tom Sestito? Of those eight Flyers, three of them are defensemen. This is the type of offense the Flyers need while guys like Simmonds and Scott Hartnell are stuck in the press box.
It can be said that Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn have thus far failed to step up, but their lack of impact can be minimized if the Flyers can continue to get scoring from all over the lineup. The addition of Danny Briere has been a huge boost to the offensive dynamic, and Couturier is beginning to turn it around in his own right. Tye McGinn has even risen to the occasion, making the inevitable lineup changes very much in flux. For now, this is a good problem to have: the competition is showing up on the score sheet in positive ways.
It was nice to see Jake Voracek on the primary end of Tom Sestito’s first goal against the Lightning. If he can find a way to step his game up, he could find himself on the receiving end of Scott Hartnell’s playing time. He has the puck on a string, but he needs to make more of his possession time. He also needs to start hitting the net on the point from the power play: shooting high and wide from his angle almost always results in the puck at the neutral zone, and a loss of power play time in the process.
(It is here where I must comment on an error I made last week. I somehow looked ahead two weeks towards the Flyers current crop of upcoming opponents, omitting their most recent matchups with those three Southeastern foes. I guess I was getting my hopes up, because not much has changed — these teams still aren’t very good)
Once again, the Flyers have a chance to make up some ground. They look to continue their winning ways on this home stand against the Panthers and Hurricanes before traveling to Canada for a clash with the Maple Leafs and then the Jets. Toronto might prove to be the toughest challenge of the bunch, and there could be an interesting buzz around this game given their summer dealings.
If the Flyers can continue to put the wins on the board, they could make up some ground while their Atlantic division rivals New Jersey and Pittsburgh beat each other up for the early season throne. In order to do this, they will need to continue to receive contributions from every member of the lineup – the root of their current success.
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