Flyers Win Big Then Fall Flat On Back-To-Back Nights

Philadelphia Flyers Nicklas Grossmann scores against the Pittsburgh Penguins.The last few days have been tumultuous for the Philadelphia Flyers. They saw their season long six game road trip come to an end. They saw a much needed five game home stand begin with a favorable match-up. There was both good and bad news on the injury front. We saw the high flying, high scoring team of last year’s playoff run and the hard-luck, can’t catch a break, undisciplined team that has been on the ice most of this season. All of this packed into two days.

Wednesday night brought us, what was, quite possibly, the most entertaining regular season hockey game played in years. The Flyers ended their six game road swing against their most hated rival. These two teams had played once already this season, a 3-1 Penguins victory over the Flyers in the season opener. That game did not have anywhere near the action or excitement that Wednesday’s game had, as in the season opener both teams were try to get acclimated to playing hockey after a long layoff.

In the most recent game, the Pens jumped out to a quick two goal lead on goals by Matt Niskanen and Evgeni Malkin. After falling behind, the Flyers were able to slow the pace of play and get themselves back into the game. The lead was cut to 2-1 when Nicklas Grossmann scored on a four player pile-up in front of the net, with Penguins defenseman Kris Letang actually in the back of the net by the time the goal was scored. Exactly one minute later, Wayne Simmonds took a Danny Briere pass and tied the game at 2-2.

The second period had a lower tempo and considerably less action then the periods that preceded and followed. The Flyers were able to pick up a huge goal with nine seconds left when Jakub Voracek  picked up a rebound and buried it to give the Flyers a 3-2 lead at the second intermission.

The third period was roller coaster ride that depleted alcohol supplies and test blood pressure medications all across the greater Philly area.

Voracek started the third as he ended the second, with a quick goal, giving the Flyers a 4-2 just 18 seconds into the period. Tyler Kennedy struck back for the Pens just over five minutes later, cutting the lead to 4-3. The Flyers answered right back when Wayne Simmonds had a pass deflected by Niskanen, increasing the lead back to a comfortable two goals.

After a Mike Knuble double minor and Ruslan Fedotenko penalty, both for high sticking, the Pens were able to capitalize on a James Neal goal that cut the Flyers lead to one. The game appeared to be tied a few minutes later by Chris Kunitz who, after looking at replay, blatantly kicked the puck into the net and had the goal overturned. The Pens were able to tie the game right around the two minute mark when Brandon Sutter came from behind the net and beat Ilya Bryzgalov on a wrap around. Just when it looked like the game was headed to overtime, Voracek got the hat trick with a bad angle goal on the train wreck that was Tomas Vokoun. The Flyers held the lead and ended up winning the game 6-5 and finishing the road trip at 3-3.

The Flyers showed a lot of heart and emotion in the Penguins game. Voracek had a hat trick off of a four assist game on Monday, Simmonds had a Gordie Howe hat trick and there were a lot of positives after a gritty victory to end a tough ten day road stretch.

Then we got the trap game.

The Flyers returned home last night to play the Florida Panthers and things didn’t go well from the start. A few turnovers in the first lead to the Florida jumping out to a 3-0 lead after one period. The Flyers, while undisciplined in moments, didn’t play awfully. They were generating scoring chances, especially early, and just couldn’t get anything to go their way. Bryz was pulled in the second and the Flyers lost a winnable home game 5-2. It has always been said that there is difficulty for players to come off of a road trip and that first game back home can be tricky. It also didn’t help that game the night before was physical and emotional and probably took its toll on a team that already has taxing schedule. It was a bad time to not get at least a point and the team now finds itself in a situation where they are back up against the wall.

On the schedule, February has been a challenging month. The Flyers have played the most games out of any other team in the league, hitting the 19 game mark last night. The Flyers have 15 games in 28 days and four back-to-back scenarios in February.  This is going to take its toll on any team, especially one with an aging blue line and major injuries. We could see some of this in the Florida game, the energy just wasn’t there.

On the injury front there was good and bad news. It looks like Scott Hartnell is getting closer to returning, possibly in the next week to ten days. On the bad side, Matt Read has been lost for six weeks due to torn rib cage cartilage. Read has been having a great season and this is a huge blow to the team. Six weeks put Read’s return into April, with maybe eight or so games left on the schedule. This will be another challenge the team will have to overcome. There is a bright spot with the play the team has gotten from Voracek, Simmonds and Brayden Schenn.  The Read injury creates even more opportunities for these young players to step up.

The Flyers have a home game on Friday against Winnipeg and need two points. They find themselves a point out of playoff contention but as mentioned earlier, have games in hand on everybody. This home stand needs to be successful or the Flyers may be in a March hole that could find them out the outside of the top eight teams in the conference.

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Joshua Herb

Josh was born, raised and still resides in Central PA. He is a die hard Philly sports fan. He can be followed on Twitter @joshua_herb.