Picture Courtesy of NHL.com
The Flyers, just coming off a huge overtime win against Montreal on Tuesday, continue their playoff climb on Thursday night. The Philadelphia Flyers (32-19-10) faced off against the Columbus Blue Jackets (30-26-5) in a Metropolitan Division show down. This was the 3rd of 4 meetings between the two teams and their second game against each other in a little over a week. The game on February 16th, being the 2-1 OT win for the Flyers. Tonight’s game saw Sergei Bobrovsky starting in goal for the Blue Jackets. The Flyers had Petr Mrazek start in his first game for the team since being traded on Monday. Unfortunately, the injury bug once again hit the Flyers. This time it was right before game time as Travis Konecny was on the ice for the pregame warmups but, in the end wasn’t able to compete. In his place, the Flyers had Taylor Leier ready to step up.
The Flyers have been making a case for themselves as being one of the hottest teams in the NHL since late December. They came into this game 7-1-2 in their last 10 games and were looking to continue that hot streak. In the 1st period it was another aggressive start for the Flyers as they brought the shots to former teammate, Bobrovsky. Though, the shots started heavy there was a lack of goals from both teams but, a few penalties from both. It was a battle of the worst power play in the NHL, from the Blue Jackets, against the 28th ranked penalty kill in the NHL, being the Flyers. On the flip side, we also saw the 6th best power play (Flyers) against the 27th ranked penalty kill (Blue Jackets). However, neither team was able to capitalize on their opportunities. The biggest part of the 1st period was how Petr Mrazek would do in his first start for the Flyers. After making a great save for his 1st save as a Flyer, it was probably one of the easiest 1st periods on a new team I’ve ever seen. The shot total was 7-2 in favor of the Flyers. Mrazek only saw two shots in the first period. I don’t know what more you could ask for, for an opening period.
The second period, this year, has been the period for the Flyers. As a team, the Flyers have 74 2nd period goals which is tied for third in the NHL. But, it wouldn’t start out the way the Flyers would have hoped. After an unsuccessful powerplay attempt for the Flyers, Artemi Panarin who was serving the Blue Jackets minor, came out of the box and intercepted an attempted pass to Andrew MacDonald. Panarin skated down the ice and at 12:51 in the second period, put it passed Mrazek to give the Blue Jackets the 1-0. This goal was Panarin’s 17th of the year, as well as, his 200th career NHL point. It was also unassisted. The 2nd period was pretty sloppy for the Flyers, as Panarin caught the entire team sleeping. The period ended with a shot total of 14-6 in favor of the Blue Jackets.
Going into the 3rd period the numbers, for the most part, were against the Flyers. The Blue Jackets were 11-9-3 vs the Metropolitan Division, as well as, 18-2-2 when leading after two periods this season. However, the Flyers were 12-6-10 when playing in one-goal games so, hope wasn’t lost. Plus, it was a 1-0 game and the Flyers are the comeback kids anyway, right? Just like that, 2:34 into the 3rd period, Claude Giroux capitalized on a broken play and brought the puck into the slot to score his 21st goal of the season. Sean Couturier (32) and Shayne Gostisbehere (38), both had the helpers on his goal. Then, on a power play that had been struggling all night, Giroux won his 13th consecutive faceoff and passed back to Gostisbehere, who then sent it toward the net. Bobrovsky made the save but, let up a rebound and Nolan Patrick was in front to put it home and take the 2-1 lead. Gostisbehere (39) and Giroux (51) both had the helpers on Patrick’s 8th goal of the season and 2nd powerplay goal in 2 consecutive games. The Flyers’ 2 goals came on 3 shots. After Giroux’s goal the team was reenergized as they were able to take the lead. Then, with 1:28 left the Blue Jackets called a time out, they pulled Bobrovsky as the next faceoff was in the Flyers’ zone. The Flyers had multiple chances to put the puck in the empty net but, every chance was met with too many passes or just missed shots. It didn’t matter though, as the Flyers were able to win the game 2-1 with a shot total of 20-20.
Unfortunately, the NHL only has 3-stars of the game but, this game really had 5. You have to give one to Panarin for scoring the Blue Jackets’ only goal but, in my opinion you had 4 Flyers’ players win the game for them. Really in a game they could’ve easily lost if it wasn’t for the late game play. The Flyers’ players were, in no particular order, Petr Mrazek, Claude Giroux, Shayne Gostisbehere and Nolan Patrick. Mrazek had a stunning performance for his 1st game giving up only on goal on 19 shots. Giroux was able to reenergize the team with his goal and with the 2-point night that he had (1G, 1A), he took sole possession of 2nd overall in points in the NHL this year with 72. Gostisbehere had a 2-point night of his own (2A) but, he has been putting together a great season. He has scored points in 4 of the last 5 games and he now has 49 total points this season, which is a career high. On top of that, he has been playing great defensive hockey this year. Last, but not least, Nolan Patrick scored the game winner on the powerplay. He has been on the top PP-unit for the Flyers since Wayne Simmonds went down with an injury and like I said before Patrick now has 2 PP-goals in 2 consecutive games.
The Flyers were, once again, able to get help from fellow teams in the NHL. Tonight, that help came from the Florida Panthers and Minnesota Wild. The Panthers beat the Washington Capitals 3-2 and the Wild beat the New Jersey Devils 4-2. Both games won in regulation. The Devils losing helped the Flyers create space between them and the number 1 Wild Card spot held by the Devils. The Capitals losing helped the Flyers gain ground on the number 1 overall spot in the Metropolitan Division. The Flyers now have 74 points which is tied with the 2nd place Pittsburgh Penguins however, the Penguins hold the tie breaker. The next game against the Penguins is March 7th so, it’s a huge opportunity for the Flyers to gain points on them. With the Flyers win and Capitals loss, the Flyers are only 1-point out of 1st place with the Capitals having 75 points. The Flyers have one more game against the Capitals on March 18th so, there is time before the next game.
The Flyers next game is on Saturday against the Ottawa Senators (21-29-10) in Ottawa. This will be the 3rd and final meeting between the two teams. The Flyers look to get their first win against the Senators this year. The first game back in October was a 5-4 loss and the second game back on February 3rd was a 4-3 overtime loss. As they continue their push for 1st place they look to take down a team that has had their number this season. Will the momentum of the Flyers being 8-0-2 in their last 10 keep them moving forward? Tune in Saturday to find out!
Lead NHL and Philadelphia Flyers Content Contributor