Despite receiving a most unappealing injury, Brayden Schenn was not to be denied.
In the final game of yet another six game road stretch for the Flyers, they were met with heaps of adversity by their host, the New Jersey Devils. Boasting a 4-1 record for the final draw, this felt much better than the 2-3-1 tally from the last west coaster.
The Devils had other things in mind however, and almost immediately made their intention to score a victory by decisive means known when Adam Henrique scored on back up Flyers goalie Ray Emery thanks in large part to the ageless wonder and one time Flyer himself, Jaromir Jagr. The play was typical of Jagr’s ability to find the open man on the opposite side of the net, slip a crisp pass right through the crease, and net an assist for his efforts. It’s also a skill he has tried to pass on to pretty much every player blessed to share time with him on a line, and Claude Giroux would be among the first to tell you the amount of insight he received and has since benefited from by spending time with Jagr. The two share a solid bond even now, and was displayed when Jagr came over to publicly console Giroux on the ice during practices after hearing Claude was not selected for the Canadian Olympic team.
During this game however, there was simply no time to be friends.
The Devils posted that instant goal and then spent most of the first period outpacing the Flyers, and the evidence was prominent, especially when comparing shots on goal. The Devils put up a commanding 14 SOG’s to the Flyers 6. The first period left a bitter taste in Flyers fans mouths, and really gave the impression that the Olympic snub may have had a deeper effect than given credit for.
The second began with a little of the first period’s, with the Devils pressing once again and the Flyers giving very little response. Emery was forced to make ridiculous saves, and he did his best Mason impression, diving and flopping about to keep the team in it.
Things stayed at that pace early on until the cut.
Early in the second during a shift, Brayden Schenn landed a hit on Devils forward Darius Zubrus along the benches. Zubrus flew backwards, and in an attempt to stay standing, put his hands on the bench and his feet went forward, planting a skate firmly in the midsection of Schenn, who then proceeded to fall to the ice on his knees, doubled over in obvious pain. Because Schenn wasn’t wearing any sort of protection in that region, he suffered a laceration that appeared to be a foot in length, and the trainers went to work with antibiotic ointments and pressure to get the wound to stop bleeding and seal up for at least the rest of the contest so that Schenn could resume playing.
It was at this point the Flyers began to respond to ongoing assault by the Devils and started to apply a little pressure to all time great Devils goaltender Marty Brodeur. Playing mistake free and turning the SOG ratio toward their favor slowly, the Flyers kept moving forward until finally the ice broke early in the third when a Flyers power play resulted in Giroux zipping a wrister high and glove side past the future HoFer Brodeur to even things up.
The Flyers then did what they and their fan base have been accustomed to seeing happen on this current road trip by taking the lead thanks in part to a surging second line goal halfway through the period. The play was led by Schenn who carried the puck in, and then he smoothly passed it down to Scott Hartnell who played a game of chicken with Brodeur to see who would blink first. Hartnell won that contest, thanks to Wayne Simmonds hard charging to the other side of the net, which forced Brodeur into committing to only one side of the net and guessing who would beat him. It’s a worst case scenario for any goalie to be in that position, and more often than not? It indeed leads to a goal just as in this case. Hartnell deftly wristed it middle height between Marty’s legpad and his raised blocker to help the Flyers stake another comeback lead.
It is worth noting the amazing full game play the Flyers now possess, considering it was their Achilles heel in the beginning of the season. The usual outcome was something to the effect of Flyers get a lead/Flyers lose lead late/Flyers lose game because they no longer were playing aggressively enough. It’s a pleasant role reversal nowadays, and even if they’re down two, it’s very hard to feel tense about it while watching simply because the Flyers seem to play an aggressive hard charging style late in the game that most teams can’t seem to match.
The Devils last night, because they managed to tie the affair at 2 even with a mere half of a minute left on a Michael Ryder goal that happened quite the same way the Devils first goal did. The clubs would proceed into overtime, and this at least guaranteed the Flyers a point in a very very tight Metro Division race.
The last couple of overtimes for the Flyers have led to the shootout, but things took a different turn when Brayden Schenn took it upon himself to end this one early, and easily.
Just two minutes into the five minute OT, the Flyers pushed the puck up the ice and with big defender Niklas Grossmann at the left point, I truly felt he would do what he normally does, and that’s slap it toward the goalie for a rebound opportunity.
Apparently Brodeur felt the same way and lined up in position to make a better stop and cut down on the rebound chance. That’s when Grossmann did the unthinkable thing, and faked the slapper into a pass down by the right faceoff circle to a streaking Schenn, this with Brodeur severely out of position after biting on the slapper setup. Schenn buried the puck by a diving Brodeur, who never really stood a chance, and concluded the road trip with a sterling 5-1 record.
When all was said and done, thanks to the 60 minute commitment by the Flyers, they had less penalties than the Devils did(Flyers 3, Devils 5), outhit them by a near 2 to 1 margin, and led in faceoff wins and percentage handily. They did not outshoot the Devils no thanks to that 14-6 first period, but did either beat the Devils in the second on SOG, or matched them in the third.
Schenn carried this club, and this was after the injury. I know and have seen a lot of people discuss whether Schenn is a tough kid, or plays soft, but it’s safe to believe we can bury that outlook, and simply let the kid play.
*Photo courtesy of NHL.com