Photo is by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images
After a disappointing performance against the Ducks, the Philadelphia Flyers rebound strong Thursday night to pounce the Buffalo Sabres, 5-1. After a rocky first period that resulted in several penalties, the Flyers were opportunistic enough to capitalize on some quality scoring chances. As the season trudges along, the games will get tighter and tighter so it’s imperative that the Flyers battle the teams that are above in the standings and definitively beat the teams below them. They did that last night.
The Flyers received goals from RJ Umberger (1st), Brayden Schenn (15th), Wayne Simmonds (20th), Michael Raffl (7th) and Nick Cousins (1st) in the blowout win. This contest saw a set of firsts as RJ Umberger scored his first goal of the season, while Nick Cousins scored his first goal of his NHL career.
For Umberger, a massive weight was lifted off his shoulders as it was close to a full calendar year since the Pittsburgh native last potted a goal. Umberger is no longer the all-situations player that he once was but is often referred by coaches and teammates as a player that shows up to the rink and continues to work hard. The jubilation on the Flyers’ bench after he scored illustrates that everyone recognizes his hard work and attitude as a professional, even when his situation is less than desirable.
Nick Cousins, on the other hand, created his own good fortune on his first NHL tally; the game was also Cousins’ first multi-point game of his career as well. Cousins is not a natural scorer so he will need to continue to have that extra gear to outwork opponents to get in prime scoring positions. Even with that said, the 23 year-old forward has scored at every level he has played so maybe there is some untapped, scoring potential. We will have to wait and see how he fares over the next few weeks to see if he does.
Winning goaltender Steve Mason was brilliant in goal as he turned away 41 of 42 shots fired his way. To their credit, the Flyers did a nice job of getting in passing lanes and blocking shots in front of Mason, but when called upon, the Flyers starting goaltender was a wall. Given the clubs circumstances on the over last few weeks and how overly reliant the team has been on their goaltender, he still manages to give the team a chance to win every night.
Here are some game notes:
Despite keeping them off the scoresheet, the Flyers continue to put themselves behind the eight ball as they killed off six man advantages in the win. Many of the penalties the team took were of the careless variety; high-sticking, tripping and interference minors can typically stem from players not keeping their feet moving or generally losing their assignments on the ice. The Flyers Penalty Kill (specifically, Pierre Eduard Bellemare and Chris VandeVelde were fantastic) has tightened up lately but at no point do the Flyers want to kill off that many penalties.
Ultimately, it disturbs the ebb and flow of the game and doesn’t allow players who are not regulars in the PK rotation to get comfortable in the game. The Flyers need to get smarter if they are to make a final playoff push.
Late in the third period, Philadelphia’s defensemen Radko Gudas laid what was, at best, a questionable hit on Sabres rookie Daniel Catenacci. Catenacci, while tied up with Chris VandeVelde, tried to skate a puck through the neutral zone; at that time, the rookie was off –balance and made the mistake of putting his head down on the play. Before he could right himself, Gudas stepped up and leveled him. The Flyers defensemen spent the reminder of the period in the dressing room after that.
As of this writing, multiple beat writers are reporting that Gudas is not expected to receive any supplemental discipline from the NHL for the hit but he probably should. Catenacci was in a vulnerable position and to throw that malicious of a hit in a 5-1 hockey game is not good judgment on Gudas’s part.
Let it be known, that I love the fact that the Flyers have a player in their lineup that can raise the temperature of a hockey game as a little physicality won’t hurt anybody. However, Gudas needs to learn how to pick his spots better; in addition to that, all physical players, at some point, learn that the fear of throwing a big hit is sometimes more effective than actually throwing it.