PHILADELPHIA – To see Andrej Meszaros jump up from center ice into a play, take a pass, fire a shot and score a goal with three seconds left in a period, and then celebrate with a thrusting fist pump was like climbing into a time machine.
It was so 2011.
Meszaros was the Flyers recipient of the Barry Ashbee award in 2010-11 as the team’s Most Outstanding defenseman. He was active offensively that season, jumping into the play, creating offensive chances and scoring goals.
Since then, he’s been riddled with injuries, lost some confidence, become a bit over-cautious physically, and has been yanked from the lineup.
Healthy all season, Meszaros has now played in only 28 games, sitting the other 20 as a healthy scratch. And yet, his offense is coming around. After scoring a goal in the 4-3 shootout loss to Nashville Thursday and assisting on another, Meszaros now has two goals and 10 assists for 12 points and looks a lot better than earlier in the season.
“He’s confident,” coach Craig Berube said. “He’s confident with the puck, he’s doing good things at the blue line with it, jumping up on the play like he did on that goal. He’s got confidence.”
That, and he’s tired of sitting out.
When Erik Gustafsson went down with a knee injury in December, Meszaros knew he would be seeing significantly more time than he had when he was alternating with Gus.
It’s almost as if that was the turnaround he needed in his game mentally.
“It’s what I want,” said Meszaros who has a goal and six assists for seven points in his last five games. “I want to stay in the line up all the time obviously, that’s the key and you play more games obviously you feel more comfortable.”
And it shows. He still makes some mistakes in the defensive end because his physical game isn’t there or he turns the puck over under pressure, but he’s not as toxic with the puck as he was in the beginning of the season.
As a matter of fact, his pairing with Luke Schenn, a target of ridicule by social media hockey experts aplenty, has quietly been pretty good for the Flyers in the past couple weeks.
“Yeah, he’s playing good,” said Claude Giroux. “He’s really good offensively. You can see that he can score goals and move the puck. He’s got a great shot and he’s playing very well right now.”
Frankly, it’s what the Flyers need on the blue line more than anything, because if they can get Meszaros back to form on a game-in, game-out basis, the concerns about the defense will definitely dissipate some.
NOTES: The Flyers played their 22nd one-goal game out of 48 this season. They are 12-5-5 in such games… Wayne Simmonds had a goal and two assists, giving him his second consecutive multi-point game and his seventh of the season. He now has 11 goals and nine assists for 20 points in his last 15 games. He has scored at least one goal in eight of those 15 games… The Flyers fell to 3-4 in shootouts this season… The Flyers have scored at least one power play goal in four straight games and six of seven… Up next is a home-and-home series with the New York Islanders.