Philadelphia Flyers 2015-16 season:
Games – 7/Wins – 4/Losses – 2/OT Losses – 1/Points – 9
The Flyers finished up Week 3 of the regular season on a strong note. They went 2-1, defeating the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers with their lone loss coming against the red hot Dallas Stars. The Flyers have found a level of consistency in their play that was absent last year. Even in the loss against Dallas, the Flyers played a decent game and outplayed the 6-1 Stars for stretches during the game. So without further adieu, here is a look back at Week 3 of the Flyers season.
This Flyers team definitely has a different feel to it than last year’s team. They play with a lot more purpose, a lot more passion and are therefore are a much more fun team to watch. They showed a lot of character in their win against the Bruins. Down 4-2 in the third period, the Flyers stormed all the way back to tie the game at 4 and won the game in overtime on a one-time blast by team captain Claude Giroux. The tide of the game changed on a miraculous save by goaltender Steve Mason on a shot by David Pastrňák. The play was set up by a fake shot/pass by David Miller who passed it diagonally across the ice to Pastrňák. Pastrňák seemed to have a wide open net to shoot the puck in to but, Mason somehow got far enough across his crease get a pad on the shot by Pastrňák to keep the game 4-2 Boston. If Pastrňák had scored it would have been 5-2 Bruins and the game would have been all but over. Shortly after the save by Mason, Claude Giroux scored to cut the Boston lead to 4-3. Wayne Simmonds then tied the game at 4 with an almost perfect shot to the top corner of the net to beat Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask. Giroux then won the game in overtime with a PP goal on a one time blast that Rask had no shot at saving.
The Flyers followed up the win against the Bruins with another solid, sixty minute effort against their long time nemesis, the New York Rangers. The game had a playoff type of intensity to it pretty much from the drop of the puck. Regulation ended with the two teams tied at 2 but the score wasn’t indicative of the type of game that it was. Both teams skated extremely hard and generated a ton of scoring chances. Both goaltenders were outstanding with Henrik Lundqvist saving 46 of 48 Flyer shots and Steve Mason saving 37 of 39 Rangers shots. If not for the goaltenders, the game could have easily been a 6-5 affair. The Flyers seemed to have the game won in overtime. Sam Gagner broke in on Lundqvist all alone. He made a great backhand to forehand move that had Lundqvist down and out but he fanned on his shot on net. In the shootout, Gagner made up for his missed oppurtunity in OT by scoring on a great move that once again got Lundqvist down and out but this time Gagner buried a back hand shot in the top corner of the net. After a goal by Derek Stepan, Lundqvist cut the Flyers shootout lead to 2-1, Claude Giroux scored on a razzle dazzle goal to put the Flyers up 3-1 in the shootout. Steve Mason then made the save on Dominic Moore to seal the victory for the Flyers.
The Flyers now sit at 4-2-1 and own the first wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference. It’s a little early to talk playoffs just yet but, the Flyers chances of getting in have improved with the dreadful start of the Columbus Blue Jackets, a team many in the hockey world (including myself) had making the playoffs this year. With one of the teams that figured to be one of the Flyers main competitors for a playoff spot now buried in the standings, the Flyers playoff chances have improved exponentially.
Non-hockey people always like to disparage hockey by saying, “everyone makes the playoffs and 82 games is such a long season. These games in October don’t really mean that much”. This is no longer the case. With their being so much parity in the NHL in this day and age, a bad start can bury a team. We have seen this first hand with the Flyers burying themselves in the standings early in the year and then not being able to dig themselves out of it. The bad starts were the main reason the Flyers have missed the playoffs two out of the last three years. Going 4-2-1 in their first seven games by no means guarantees the Flyers a playoff spot but, it greatly improves their chances.
In a week when the Flyers played well in all three games they played, it’s hard to find a lot of negatives (even for me) in the Flyers play. The Flyers did get off to a sluggish start against the Stars. Considering the fact that they were coming off a five day layoff, that is somewhat understandable. They also committed back to back cardinal sins when they gave up a goal in the last minute of the first period and another one in the first minute of the second period against the Stars.
My good friend Nick also brought up a good point when he pointed out to me that the Flyers don’t have a lot of skilled forwards. The only three forwards on the Flyers who you can say are skilled players are Giroux, Gagner and Jake Voráček. As good as Wayne Simmonds is, he’s not someone you would consider a skilled forward. He’s more of a power forward who gets a lot of ugly goals by standing in front of the net. Against a team like the Dallas Stars who have a lot of skilled forwards like Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Jason Spezza and Patrick Sharp, who like to play a run and gun style, the Flyers might struggle to beat teams of this ilk. The Flyers have also been hit with a little bit of an injury bug. Both center Sean Couturier and back up goaltender Michal Neuvirth are currently sidelined with injuries with no timetable set for their return.
What’s on Deck:
The Flyers will get their first look at Rookie sensation Jack Eichel when they host the revamped Buffalo Sabers. They then host another surprise team this year, the New Jersey Devils at home on Thursday and then travel to Buffalo for a rematch with the Sabers on Friday night which will be the beginning of the Flyers first extended road trip of the year. The trip will start in Buffalo and then go through Western Canada before returning to South Philly.