Two out of Three Ain’t Bad

With 6 points in 7 games, they’re only 2 points off of the pace in the Metropolitan Division. Yay parity!

Results this week: Flyers 6, Stars 5 (OT); Blackhawks 4, Flyers 0; Flyers 5, Penguins 3

Current record: 2-3-2, 6 points

Record at this point last year: 1-6-0, 2 points

Upcoming schedule: Oct 25 vs Red Wings, Oct 28 vs Kings, Oct 30 at Lightning

It was important for the orange and black to get what they could out of the Dallas and Pittsburgh game because we were pretty sure they weren’t going to get anything out of Chicago, a favorite for the Cup. In between that 4-0 pasting by the Blackhawks, the Flyers put in two worthwhile efforts, getting four out of the six points possible from this road trip and gaining some momentum and confidence going into their two game homestand this week.

Dallas:
Mason started, and the Flyers went behind on a power play goal in the first period by Trevor Daley 41 seconds into the first Dallas advantage, but came back to score two of their own from Couturier and Brayden Schenn to grab a 2-1 lead after one. The second period was an absolute mess. Erik Cole scored a couple minutes in to knot the game at 2 apiece, then a lot of hockey happened; there were no penalties until the end of the period, so a lot of flow, and it felt like if the Flyers could just grab the next goal, they’d be alright. As it turned out, the orange and black took a second too many men on the ice penalty (and this one was dubious, as the man coming off the ice was completely off before anything happened that would have warranted a penalty. Just like last time, Dallas converted on the ensuing power play, and it was Daley again just 16 seconds into the man advantage. With less than two minutes left, the Flyers couldn’t afford to give up another goal but they did, this time allowing the killer “goal within the last minute” by Jamie Benn. That put Dallas up 4-2 and ended Mason’s night.

The third period was as good for the Flyers as the second was bad; Andrew MacDonald put one home on the power play to bring them within one, then Voracek potted one six minutes later. Just 40 seconds after Jake’s goal though, Jason Spezza put Dallas back up and again, with less than six minutes left in the game, it felt like the Flyers were done. But Michael Raffl evened the game again a minute later and there was hope. With four seconds left in the third period and the score tied, Jamie Benn committed a mental mistake and closed his hand on the puck during a faceoff, which earned the Flyers a 4-on-3 in the overtime period. They couldn’t convert that, but Trevor Daley sullied his two goal effort by taking a hooking penalty in overtime and Claude Giroux made them pay by putting a shot past Lehtonen to give the Flyers a wild 6-5 overtime win.

This game had more ups and downs than a roller coaster, and it felt like the Flyers were toast multiple times. They kept pushing though and didn’t give up, and they ended up with the two points.

Mason didn’t play badly in this game. I felt (as I have most games this season) the defense just played poorly in front of him, blew a couple coverages on the power play goals and left him in bad spots. He was pulled more as a message to his team to wake up, and they responded.

Chicago:
Oh boy. The Flyers hung in there through the first ten minutes or so and looked pretty good I thought. Then there was a scramble play around the goal and it appeared Mason had his pad on top of the puck when Brandon Saad USED HIS STICK TO LIFT MASON’S PAD, dug the puck out, and fired it home from close range. Unreal. It should have been blown dead; Mason was on top of it, it was covered, the end. After that goal, things fell apart in a hurry much like they did against Montreal; Raffl took a dumb penalty for kneeing, Kane scores fifteen seconds later on the power play to make it 2-0. The Madhouse on Madison was rocking. A minute and a half later, Brian Bickell snipes Mason and it’s 3-0 (on a goal I thought Mason should have had the save on). It was basically lights out from there. Kane added another power play tally in the third and the Blackhawks won 4-0. Mason wasn’t bad, making 39 saves on 43 shots, but Antti Raanta was perfect, saving 32 of 32 for the home shutout.

This game was as I expected; a team that’s in another class taking the game to the Flyers and beating them soundly. It won’t be the last time we see it this year.

Before the Pittsburgh game, there were attacks by a gunman in normally serene Ottawa which killed Nathan Cirillo, an army reservist who was standing guard at Canada’s National War Memorial. The Memorial “has come to symbolize the sacrifice of all Canadians who have served Canada in time of war in the cause of peace and freedom” (per Canada’s Veterans Affairs website) and carries the importance of our Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the US. Such an attack is unheard of especially in Canada and caught many by surprise; to listen to Canadians on Twitter yesterday, it felt like it shattered their perception of things of that nature happening elsewhere, not in Canada.

The NHL correctly postponed the Senators game versus the Leafs that night in Ottawa (and there were reports that Leafs players heard gunshots, their hotel was so close to the events of the day) although they were a bit slow with the decision. The Penguins organization, hosting the nationally-televised Rivalry Night against the Flyers, showed class by having the Canadian anthem sung before the game; O Canada is normally only sung if one team originates from Canada. The day went deeper than where teams are based, though; many players in the NHL are Canadian and so these events had to hit home especially hard for them. It was only right to sing the anthem of the country of their origin on this day. Kudos to the Pens for doing so.

The game itself? What a game. Emery got the start on the back half of a back-to-back and he played well. The Pens went up 1-0 early on a goal by Nick Spaling, but the Flyers came roaring back with two of their own from Mark Streit and P-E Bellemare to make it 2-1 at the end of the first period. RJ Umberger introduced himself to the season by getting into a fight with Simon Despres after Sean Couturier took a questionable hit from Despres that left him slow to get up. In the second, Pascal Dupuis drew the Pens even at 2 with the only goal. Near the end of the period, Flyers defenseman Nick Schultz hooked Chris Kunitz and would have sent the Pens on a power play to start the third but uh.. well.. let’s go to Zoo With Roy to see what really happened.
That’s a 9.0 from the British judge!

The third period opened even in goals and manpower, and a little under seven minutes in, RJ Umberger scored his first goal of the year. Exactly two minutes later, he would get the secondary assist on Matt Read’s beautiful top shelf backhander over a sprawled Fleury to put the score at 4-2 and complete his Gordie Howe hat trick (goal, assist, fight). A couple minutes from the game’s end, Marcel Goc narrowed the score to 4-3, but Sean Couturier (who already had two assists and a 55% faceoff win percentage to this point) put a ridiculous backhander in from the red line while the Pens had their goalie pulled to seal the game, 5-3.

Other Observations:

-That’s a great mouthpiece by Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. Love the French flag colors!

-I’m wondering why the defense seems to play a bit better with Emery in net than Mason. Could it just be one of those things, like how the Phillies don’t score any runs every time Cole Hamels pitches, but when Kyle Kendrick pitches, they turn into an offensive juggernaut? Could it be something like Emery organizes the defense better around him? Who knows?

-Scott Laughton’s got four goals in three games in Lehigh Valley so far. It’ll be interesting to see how things go and what they do with him, if they decide to bring him up or let him get some experience in the AHL. It’ll be hard to find space for him unless they put him or someone else on a wing, or another center gets hurt.

-If the Flyers can just keep stealing points in this tough early stretch, they’ll be in good shape to make a move during the softer part of their schedule. Three points out of the next three games would be nice.

-The orange and black are now 10-1-1 in Consol Energy Center in the regular season.

-Please, no more Raffl with the first line. I beg of you. Almost anyone but Raffl. I like his game, but he’s more of a grinder, a lower line option, not a guy you want wasting high quality passes from Giroux.

-Props to that crowd in Pittsburgh who belted out both anthems, but boo to those in the crowd who left early and caused even NBC to wonder on-air why they were leaving.

-It was good to feel like we could beat anyone for at least one night.

You can follow Jay on Twitter @loqiel

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