Another night, another hero for the Flyers.
In the act of extending a ten game in regulation winning streak at the Wells Fargo Center, the Philadelphia Flyers witnessed another player rediscovering his game. Andrej Meszaros, a defenseman who has displayed a decent offensive skill set but whose career had been derailed the past two seasons due to a myriad of lingering injuries, contributed in full force last night against the visiting Montreal Canadiens by a score of 3-1. It was good to see a familiar face on the Habs bench in former Flyer star Daniel Briere, and he saw some quality minutes despite presently being in Canadiens coach Michel Therrien’s doghouse.
Tonight belonged to Mezzer though, and the proof was in the fact that he had a hand in each of those Flyers goals. He was jumping up on the play, a current trend in the Flyers offense these days with the defensemen being a part of a full transition game, and took key shots from the point during them to influence quality rebound chances. The first goal was indicative of that, with Andrej slapping one from the high left point towards Habs backup goaltender Peter Budaj, and even though Vincent Lecavalier wasn’t able to cash in, Sean Couturier was. There was a little drama involving that goal for some felt Couts interfered with Budaj before gaining the puck himself, but the score stood nonetheless.
The fireworks for the Flyers wasn’t quite over yet in the first period, and in a complete reversal from the prior evening’s affair against the Devils, the Flyers were actually up 2-0 by the intermission thanks to a surprising goal by 4th line bruiser Zac Rinaldo. I say this is a surprise because it’s been nearly a year since his last goal scored, 54 games in between the two in all.
It was also nice to see rookie forward Michael Raffl’s return to the lineup as well, and he contributed as well in the second period to help the Flyers post a commanding 3 goal lead. By this time, there really was no resistance from the faded Canadiens, and it was shocking to see current Norris winner P.K. Subban being benched and looking flustered when he did hit the ice. The shots on goals were in Philly’s favor, they were moving forward, and then…the Flyers allowed a short handed goal.
In what has become the bane of the Flyer power play’s existence this season, they allowed a 7th SH goal to Tomas Plekanec, a thorn in Philly’s side, with just a couple minutes left in the second. Plekanec has been a dangerous opponent for the Flyers, with 4 points in his last 6 contests against them. Those numbers might not be awe inspiring, but having watching him play against Philly numerous times, he is always buzzing around the net, and what those numbers don’t provide is the pressure and distraction he doles out for his linemates.
The Canadiens would need five Plekanecs however to overcome the deficit they dug for themselves, and it was a cruise of sorts to the finish line for the Flyers. Having gone 6-1 now in their last 7, with the 10 game home streak intact, the Flyers might just be one of the most dangerous clubs in the NHL right now, much less the Eastern Conference. They have things working so well in fact that one has to wonder how they’ll plug Matt Read back into the lineup given the way the depth is performing at the moment. I’ll assume that Philly is in no rush to bring Read back before his concussion is fully healed, and Paul Holmgren has to view this as a welcome luxury.
Play resumes for the Flyers on Saturday, when they’ll take on the Tampa Bay Lightning at home for a matinee affair. Could we possibly see 11 in a row?
*Photo courtesy of NHL.com