Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR1) Gm 48: PHI 5, MTL 2 - Nolfidence
I think they've got their swagger back.
For the fourth time in five games (for the second time this year), the Philadelphia Flyers WIN, 5-2, over Lé Montréal Canadiens (that's all the French I know). The Flyers have now scored 4 or more goals in 3 straight games for the first time all year, yet were carried by their young stud Starter Hart in goal, guiding the team through another rough start to snap a 4-game winning streak for the Habs.
While the Flyers early struggles weren't reflected on the scoreboard, an improvement from the 2-0 deficits they faced in the 1st period of their last 2 games, a quick glance at the shot counter could show all you need to know about the 1st period. The Flyers came out sluggish, turned the puck over, and although they did generate a few decent chances, proved unable to put the puck on net. Philadelphia had a season low ONE shot on goal in the first period ( they gave up 12), and possession wise they still weren't good, but they came out of the first scoreless thanks to several great saves by Hart.
Things evened out a bit more once the 2nd period got underway (though Montreal started that frame on fire as well), but the Habs just seemed like the better team. They were winning every puck battle, every race, still getting a ton of chances. The only question was if the dam would burst, or if the Flyers could steal another game they were dominated in, just like on Wednesday.
And then all of a sudden, the tide turned. Not just on the scoresheet, but in how the game was played. Around the halfway mark of regulation, the Flyers started to win all the same battles the Habs been doing earlier. Granted, this happens a lot to a team on the second half of a back-to-back like the Habs, but still. This change was reflected on the scoreboard, as the Flyers scored two goals in 1:33 on a rebound tally by TK and a beautiful delayed penalty tip-in by the red-hot JVR, flipping the game on its head.
Most Flyers games like this usually involve the Flyers starting to collapse in on themselves at this point in the game. So even with fatigue for the Habs factored in, it was a pleasant surprise to see Philadelphia come out guns blazing in the 3rd. After a few good chances, both at even-strength and on the power-play, the Flyers took the lead off a 2-on-1 feed from Simmer to the rosy cheeked sniper Nolan Patrick, giving the Flyers a 3-0 and a legitimate chance to get Carter Hart his first shutout.
30 seconds later, yeah we already knows what happens. Max Domi gets wide open in the slot, post-and-in with a perfect shot. One of the many Bergevin acquistions that have actually worked out this year cuts the Flyers lead to 2, spoiling Hart's shutout bid.
But it turns out that rosy cheeked fella can do more than just snipe. To put the game out of reach, Nolan Patrick came off the bench, put on a smooth deke to fool Brendan Gallagher, and went iron-and-in for one of the most beau-t-iful goals for the Flyers this season, the 9th of the year for the suddenly red hot Patrick, giving the Flyers a 4-1 lead.
Montreal didn't give up, and with 4 minutes to go Brendan Kulak scored on a rebound off a Hagg blocked shot, cutting the lead back to 2. The Habs never got any closer, and with the clocking winding down the Austrain Rocket triumphately bagged the ENG (that's Michael Raffl, in case you weren't aware), sealing a 5-2 win for the Flyers, who win 3 straight games for the first time all season, just in the nick of time before their bye week.
While I still feel like it would be best long-term for the Flyers to bottom out and guarantee a top 5 pick regardless of the lottery, the team hitting their stride (if this isn't another mirrage) isn't the worst thing. In addition to being loads more fun to watch, games like this are critical for the development of young core players like Gostisbehere, Patrick, and Hart. The latter two especially looked outright dominant tonight, showcasing the potential we know they have as a reminder that sometime in the near future, whether it's now or next fall, things are gonna be alright. That I truly believe.
JVR is officially hitting his stride as well. His 6th goal in the last 5 games now has van Riemsdyk back on a 30-goal pace over a full 82 game season.
Nolan Patrick is hitting a similar stretch with 4 goals in his last 3 games. You can really see the confidence in his game growing, as he's been hungrier than ever over the last week. He even tried another through-the-legs pass in this one, and earned the POG helmet for his efforts, getting the handoff from Coots (Wednesday's recepient, who had received it from Nolan himself).
That between-the-legs pass came on the power play, which despite not scoring tonight still looked pretty solid. The second unit had their best game since being formed in my opinion - much better puck movement and spacing.
TK (pictured in the background above) recorded his 100th career point on his rebound goal.
With the bright lights of Hockey Night in Canada shining on this game, no Flyer was bigger (or more consistent) than Carter Hart. Another stellar perfomance from the 20-year old netminder has him up to a .918 SV% in 12 starts. Even with the returns of Brian Elliott and Anthony Stolarz looming in the background, it seems impossible to say that Carter Hart is not the present in net for the Flyers.
Tonight was also Hart's first road win in the NHL, something that is not easy to do against any team, but especially one like Montreal.
Joining Claude Giroux at the All Star Game next weekend will be everyone's favorite star Gritty, who is competiting in a series of Mascot Challenges. Hopefully for his sake they include halfcourt shooting and Twitter roasts.
On a related note, this is the Flyers final game for 9 days, as their bye week directly precedes the ASG. Look for some content in the interim, including a mid-season prospect pyramid re-ranking and an evaluation of how the biggest day in the last decade for the Flyers is still making ripple marks on the NHL today.
1st - N. Patrick (PHI) - 2 G
2nd - T. Konecny (PHI) - 1 G, 1 A
3rd - C. Hart (PHI) - .943 SV% (33 Saves/35 Shots)
PHI - 1/28 vs. WPG (31-15-2)
MTL - 1/23 vs. ARI (21-22-4)