Keep It Going

The Flyers extended their winning streak at home to five, but obvious flaws in their play remain.

Results this week: Flyers 4, Avalanche 3

Current record: 7-5-2, 16 points

Record at this point last year: 4-9-1, 9 points

Upcoming schedule: Nov 14 vs Blue Jackets, Nov 15 at Canadiens, Nov 19 at Rangers, Nov 20 vs Wild

There was just one game on the docket the last seven days, a tilt versus the young and fast but struggling Avalanche.  Steve Mason got the start and Braydon Coburn returned after missing significant time in a game that saw one Danny Briere be a healthy scratch for the Avalanche for the sixth straight game.  The Avs started strong, creating pressure and chances in the Flyers zone and hitting the crossbar at one point.  As the period progressed, it saw the Flyers start to carry portions of play.  Brayden Schenn drew a penalty near the net and the Flyers had a power play eight minutes in, but despite tremendous pressure and passing, they couldn’t finish it off with a goal.  The Avalanche followed with six minutes left in the period with a strong power play of their own, penning the Flyers in, but they too were unable to convert.  Play went back and forth until young star Nate MacKinnon hit Luke Schenn in the back with a crosscheck while Schenn was skating towards the end boards to retrieve a puck, causing Luke to go into the boards nearly head-first.  (Schenn would not return to the game and the Flyers later said he would be out about two weeks with a shoulder injury).  A five minute major was assessed to MacKinnon for boarding (much to Patrick Roy’s dismay) and the Flyers cashed in with three seconds left when Giroux sniped Avs goalie Reto Berra top shelf through a Simmonds screen to end the period 1-0.

In the second period, the major penalty continued.  Wayne Simmonds took a pass at the side of the net, skated in front of the net and took a shot that found the twine to make it 2-0.  Steve Mason made some big saves as the period wore on with the Avalanche continuing to maintain pressure and feed off of their forecheck.  A little over halfway through the period, Brayden Schenn cashed in on a Matt Read pass near the net following Read getting stopped by Berra to make it 3-0.  A couple minutes later, baby Schenn took a fight with Jerome Iginla (which he predictably lost) and was seen in the penalty box flexing his hand, although nothing came of that.  Things got progressively more chippy after that; Berube sent out Rinaldo and on the next change, Roy sent out tough guy Cody McLeod who tried to goad Rinaldo into fighting and roughed him up.  The arm went up against McLeod as Rinaldo laughed and smiled and skated away, giving the Flyers a power play.

25 seconds into that power play, Nate Guenin hit Vinny Lecavalier in the face with his stick, causing a 5-on-3 power play which the Flyers cashed in on; Vinny fed Giroux at the side of the net for a slam dunk after faking a shot and drawing everyone over to make the score 4-0.  But problems remained for the Flyers; Steve Mason was making big saves but he was also giving up long rebounds, and the Flyers were having all sorts of trouble clearing their zone.  The second would end 4-0, but not before Simmonds took an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in a scrum at the end of the period.

The third would start on an Avs power play which saw them create tremendous pressure but yet again fail to convert.  Soon after though, Nick Grossmann coughed up a puck inside his own zone which landed on the stick of one Maxime Talbot, who beat Mason to make it 4-1.  Four minutes after that, a 2v1 developed that saw Alex Tanguay beat Mason under his glove arm kind of between his arm and body, causing Steve to look up to the rafters in disbelief after a goal he’d probably like to have back.  Two minutes later, the Flyers would put the surging Avalanche back on the power play, but Zac Rinaldo had the best scoring chance on a clean breakaway that saw Berra stone him (and good thing that he had or Twitter may have melted down instantly).

With eight minutes left, Zach Redmond took a feed from Max Talbot after Talbot beat RJ Umberger for a 50/50 puck along the side boards and made it 4-3.  The orange and black seemed destined to cough this game up, but some timely saves by Mason, a gritty 6-on-4 penalty kill at the end of the game (Roy pulled his goalie for the whole power play) and a couple clutch clears saw the Flyers walk away with two points and the 4-3 victory.

Other observations:

-Shayne Gostisbehere blew out his ACL in the AHL and is out indefinitely.  Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!  Get well soon!

– It was good to see Coburn back, although he took a couple penalties that could have been avoided I felt.  Still, he’s a net addition and a welcome sight after losing MacDonald for a while and Timonen for the year likely.

– I was wrong about Nick Schultz.  He’s been very steady.  I don’t mind him at all.  He’s not flashy but he gets it done, a Grossmann-type.

– The Flyers cannot seem to play a complete game.  Even against terrible teams like Florida and Colorado, they just can’t put together a dominant sixty minutes.  This probably speaks partly to the fact that it’s the NHL and even the worst teams are made of the best hockey players in the world, and partly to the fact that the Flyers are who we thought they are: a fringe playoff team who is inconsistent and looking down the road instead of at right now.

– Turnovers in their own zone continue to plague the orange and black.  Opportunistic teams, good teams, will continue to punish this.

– I love me some Wayne Simmonds on that top line with Giroux and Voracek.  They showed how he’s learning to play the off wing and set up breakout plays with the defenseman during the game; I think he could be on that top line as long as Raffl is out and maybe even longer.  There’s something to be said about scoring depth, but there’s also something to be said about trotting out the “eff you” line with your best players and letting them go to town, ala what the Pens do occasionally with Crosby and Malkin.

– Jake Voracek, three points in this game.  Claude Giroux, two goals.  After all the rubber G has made a conscious effort to put on net this year, it’s good to see some go in for him.

– Mason made 36 saves on 39 shots for the win.  He’s looked good in net and his defense has been helping him much more.  The Tanguay goal was one of the few this year which I thought he should have stopped and didn’t.

– Bellemare watch: generally being awesome.

– If you’re at the game tonight, give Scott Hartnell a cheer.  He’s having a great year for a wretched club.  It wasn’t his fault he was moved, even though it was exactly what he needed.  He put in a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into the Flyers.  I have so many favorite Hartnell moments: the glove toss during a breakaway (which lead to a charity mitten drive), the Hulk impression in Pittsburgh, his beating down Craig Adams, the All-Star game when he was perfect in the skills competition for shooting accuracy and then dropped the “suck it, Phaneuf!” during the game…the list goes on and on.  I think I speak for a lot of us when I say we’re glad you’re doing well, Scott, and you’ll always have a spot in our hearts.

No “Best of Twitter” this week due to just one game.  It will be back next week!

Let’s Go Flyers!

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