Last night, for the first time in a week, it happened: the Philadelphia Flyers came to play hockey.
It was a full sixty minute effort, and it was as strong as the Flyers have looked throughout the entire course of this season. The Orange and Black looked like a completely different team than what had been showcased on the ice the past few weeks, and it goes without saying that they seemed to have a bit more jump in their step as well. There was playoff intensity from this team, and it was something so promising that it’s hard to imagine everyone not asking the same question: “Where the hell has that been?!”
In all seriousness, the Flyers played a great game last night. They began the onslaught off a Matt Carle wrister and Carle, who had missed the last couple games with a bone bruise in his foot, made his presence felt immediately. The Devils immediately were placed back on their heels, and the Flyers kept coming. Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur never looked comfortable for New Jersey in between the pipes, and he was eventually beaten by Ville Leino off a scramble in front as the Flyers took a 2-0 lead not even ten minutes into the first frame. However, as well as the Flyers were playing, it was hard to be sold at that point. For one, the Flyers had shown a similar first period performance against Minnesota a mere four days earlier, only to come unglued in the second and third period. Another cause for concern was the man between the pipes: Brian Boucher hasn’t looked solid at all since he’s taken the Flyers’ starting job and there was reason to worry given the fact that he was facing the likes of Kovalchuk, Parise, and Elias last night.
All those fears began to be put to rest by the best second period from the Flyers of the entire season. Yes, they were outshot in the period 14-7, but the play on the ice was completely in their favor. Brian Boucher made some great stops on Devils opportunities and the Flyers used incredibly opportunistic timing to put the game away before the third period even began. Kimmo Timonen scored a power play marker in the first minute of the second to make it 3-0 Flyers, and Boosh held down the fort the rest of the way, before Lukas Krajicek picked up his first goal as a Flyer on a wrist shot that had eyes and got past Brodeur with 29 seconds left in the second frame.
With the score at 4-0, Brodeur was favored from the game and Yann Danis entered the action. Although his period would end in a mere 1-1 tie (Kovalchuk for NJD, Gagne for the Flyers), it was too little, too late for the Devils. When the final horn sounded, the scoreboard showed a 5-1 victory margin for the locals, and allowed the Flyers to pronounce extreme supremacy over their Atlantic Division counter-parts for this season. The Flyers went 5-1-0 against New Jersey this season, which has the potential to be tied for their best record against a divisional opponent this year depending on what the Orange and Black do Thursday night against the New York Islanders (5-0-0 on the season).
Regardless, this victory was huge, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Yes, the Devils may have sleptwalk through this game, but that’s irrelevant to the Flyers. The Orange and Black finally came to play in a meaningful game down the stretch, and got the two points at hand in the process. Because of a cluster of issues concerning games played, and wins, the victory vaulted the Flyers all the way from 8th to 6th in the Eastern Conference with their 82 point total. They’ll play two incredibly important games at the end of this week: the New York Islanders on Thursday, and the Montreal Canadiens, a team that’s right there with the Flyers for the 6th seed right now, on Friday. The Flyers have three days off from action now, and it’ll be a great time for them to relax, re-focus, and re-energize, because when they hit the ice Thursday in Long Island, they have to be ready to get down to business, and up for the task of getting another victory.
Once again, the Flyers’ playoff fate rests squarely in their hands. If they continue their play from last night, they’ll be in. Let’s not think about any other scenario. Stay tuned this week for all the latest concerning the Flyers this week and their march towards the playoffs.