You have to make them count, and the Flyers did just that.
In their last game before the holiday break, the Flyers outlasted the visiting Minnesota Wild, overcoming the Wild’s puck control early on to land a victory in front of the Philadelphia home crowd by a score of 4-1. Things didn’t come easy for the Flyers in the first, with the Wild playing a steady game of keep away, but of the minute 5 shots the Flyers had, they left the ice with a 2-1. This one had shades of the last time the two clubs faced off, with both teams playing not to lose instead of playing to win, but that perspective changed throughout the course of the game.
Last night’s contest was a full 60 minute affair for Philly, with the pressure being applied in the later stages after the Flyers had taken a lead. Normally when the club outshoots their opponent later in the game, it’s because the team is trying to play catch up.
Luke Schenn got Philly on the board and quick a couple of minutes into the game by moving in during a scoring chance, and burying a puck Scott Hartnell was trying to get Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom. They increased their lead halfway through the first when the suddenly hot Wayne Simmonds snuck one by Backstrom with the help of Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek, two of the hottest players in the game right now. It seems like anyone placed on that line looks amazing these days, and it’s nothing short of fantastic to see these two gentlemen finally living up to their billing. The club goes as they do, and right now, things look pretty bright.
The Wild got their only goal of the game no thanks to a quality embellishment by Jason Pominville on a stick tap by Brayden Schenn that led to a power play for the Wild. A more legitimate penalty by Simmonds moments later gave the Wild a much easier 5 on 3 opportunity, and they indeed cashed in on it, with a really slick goal by the Wild’s young star Mikael Granlund, coming off a smooth cross ice pass from Pominville.
After the first period, it was basically all Flyers from there, especially after Giroux scored again to push the lead to 3-1. Philly controlled the puck and as a result the shots on goal increased mightily. The Wild wound up on their heels and couldn’t counter the offensive rush. They wound up being outshot 26-16 along the way, and in the end Wayne Simmonds helped himself to another goal, this one an empty netter to seal the deal.
This was the Flyers ninth home win in a row. This after the club couldn’t buy a win on home ice earlier in the season. Let that one sink in, and enjoy.
The Flyers will now relax during the holiday swing, getting five days off before embarking on another arduous six game road trip. They will visit the Pacific Northwest, and the prospects of a winning record on this trek appear pretty decent. Their only true challenges should be the Canucks, Coyotes, and Avalanche, with the Oilers, Flames and Devils remaining. I can really see a 4-2 stretch, and as long as the club comes out refreshed and focus, I hope I don’t come out looking foolish in my prediction…this time.