Two weeks ago the Philadelphia Flyers went in to the Bell Centre in Montreal and were completely embarrassed. The effort in that game and the eventual outcome led the leadership of the Flyers to call out the teams play. The most important message sent from the visitor’s locker room after the 4-1 loss to the Canadiens was delivered from captain Claude Giroux, who made it very clear that what his team was bringing to the ice was not enough and would no longer be tolerated.
With a 2-1 win at home in a Saturday matinee at the Wells Fargo Center against the Ottawa Senators, the Flyers are now at .500 for the first time this season and have won five of their last seven games since the debacle in Montreal. The Flyers have now won back-to-back games four times this season and have a chance at a season high three game win streak on Tuesday against the Rangers.
The game started with Ottawa coming out with a lot of energy. In what seems to be almost ritual, Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov was tested early and made a few tough saves as his teammates got their legs going.
The scoreless first period was back and forth when Flyers forward Harry Zolnierczyk put a huge hit on Ottawa defenseman Mike Lundin. Zolniercyk appeared to leave his feet, albeit at the last possible second, and launched himself into Lundin, who had passed the puck off just before the hit. Harry Z was given a five minute major for charging and a game misconduct. This past week the NHL had rescinded, correctly, a five minute major given to Zolniercyk for a hit on the Washinton Captials Mathieu Perreault at the end of Wednesday’s game. The expectation with this hit is that the penalty will certainly stick and Zolniercyk will receive a suspension from the league following his hearing with Brendan Shanahan. Lundin did not return to the game as he suffered what is thought to be a concussion on the hit.
The Senators were unable to capitalize on the major penalty, in part because of the Flyers penalty kill and also due to a too many men penalty called on the Ottawa just over a minute into the five minute power play.
The second period was a lot of back and forth over the first few minutes, similar to the play in the first period. Flyers forward Jakub Voracek broke the scoreless tie at 7:24 of the second period when he took a Luke Schenn pass at the blue line and rushed into the Ottawa Zone, cutting back and beating Senators goalie Ben Bishop through the five hole. Four minutes later, Wayne Simmonds took a pass from Brayden Schenn and had a one-on-one opportunity against Bishop, easily beating him on the backhand, giving the Flyers a 2-0 lead.
The Senators were able to cut the lead in half at 14:11 of the second period when Colin Greening, who had just left the penalty box, got a breakaway opportunity against Bryzgalov, which was denied as the Flyers goalie got a piece of the shot and it deflected over the net. Greening got the puck back behind the net and passed to Marc Methot at the point and he was able to beat Bryz. Methot’s goal was fairly soft, beating Bryzgalov over his glove hand with a clear look at the puck and no deflection.
The Flyers were able to hold the 2-1 lead going into the third, with the team having a 9-0-1 record when leading after two periods. The third period saw Ottawa bringing a lot of pressure early and Bryz keeping his team ahead with some quality saves. Both teams saw some power play opportunities slip away, including a 5-3 advantage for the Flyers following a Daniel Alfredsson five minute major for cross checking Zac Rinaldo in retaliation and an Erik Condra minor for high-sticking.
The win puts the Flyers alone in the eight spot in the Eastern Conference but with games in hand on every other team. The schedule will even out for the Flyers in March, as they play just 13 games in 31 days. That makes the Flyers March games that much more important as every game and the possible points that come with it magnified.
Ilya Bryzgalov got his 200th career win with a huge game on Saturday, stopping 33 of 34 shot attempts by the Senators. Bryz was sharp the whole way through the game and his team needed that effort as Ottawa goalie Ben Bishop was just as effective.
Flyers Forward Jakub Voracek continued to be white hot, recording points in seven of his last eight games and showing superstar potential in this short season. Voracek is currently tied for fifth in the NHL in total points. Playing on the top line with Giroux and a now healthy Scott Hartnell is paying dividends for the young winger.
Wayne Simmonds continues to be a force on the second line as well, as he got his ninth goal of the season, tying him with Voracek for the team lead and putting both players in a tie for sixth in the NHL. Simmonds, like Voracek, constantly seems to be making plays when he is on the ice.
The Flyers have two days off before travelling to New York on Tuesday to take on the Rangers. The next week is filled with tough matchups and a few rivalry games. This team is playing much better in all aspect of the game, with both the power play and penalty kill units now ranked in the top ten in league. With good special teams play, discipline and quality goaltending from Bryz and his new Star Wars helmet, March could be a very big month for this team.Tags: Claude Giroux, Ilya Bryzgalov, Jakub Voracek, NHL, Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Flyers, Wayne Simmonds, win