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Blue Christmas

by Brian Smith | / Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers have two more games before a well-deserved Christmas break, which begins following a practice on Tuesday and runs until the team leaves for California on December 26.

They’re taking on two teams they’ve seen in the last two weeks with differing results – a Columbus team that controlled play throughout a 4-1 win at the Wells Fargo Center, and St. Louis, where the Flyers played one of the best games of their season in a 4-2 victory.

In the Dec. 5 game against the Blue Jackets, the Flyers were on a four-game winning streak but were in the second half of a back-to-back, and looked tired in the loss. Columbus’s success was in part because they quieted the Flyers’ power play, which had been 2-for-3 the night before and had generated a total of 18 shots on goals in its last three games. The Blue Jackets aggressively pressured Claude Giroux against the wall and didn’t allow the Flyers time or space to get set up on the two power plays they had in the game.

“Teams play differently, but I think the main focus is ourselves,” Giroux said Friday. “We obviously look at the pre-scout on them and also what we did last game, but the main focus is on what we have to do.”

Not much has gone right for the Blue Jackets this season, but the penalty kill hasn’t really been among their worries. It’s 81.7 percent overall, which is 12th in the NHL, but is fourth-best in the league on home ice at 88.1 percent. Columbus has allowed just five power play goals at Nationwide Arena all season.

The Blue Jackets went 10-6 in their first 16 games under John Tortorella, who was hired October 21, and that included a stretch of six wins in eight games.

But they’ve won just twice in their last 10, recording a 2-5-3 mark in that time. Columbus is, however, coming off a win in Arizona on Thursday night in which the team scored seven goals.

A good part of the Flyers’ success lately has come from a newfound confidence in their game.

Gone are the days when the team struggled to hold a third-period lead or had trouble keeping it together after a goal-against that was quick, bad or both.

The Flyers now appear to be more capable of performing in those situations.

“It’s more mental than physical, I think,” Giroux said. “You can see some guys are strong, fast, but when it comes to the game, mentally they can’t react as well. It’s important that you actually work your mental side of it, and it’s a big factor for sure.”

The notion of success and confidence going hand-in-hand has some validity too.

“Anytime you can have consistency roll into your game, guys start feeling a little bit better about themselves,” said goaltender Steve Mason. “When you have confidence from playing well, things tend to go your way a little bit easier. We just have to keep with it, keep working hard and maintain that level of focus to carry into the games here.

"We have two more before the break and we have to make sure once that break’s over that we just pick up and keep going. You can’t have those one-step-forward, two-steps backwards type moments. We have to keep moving forward and keep maintaining a positive attitude and mindset. Anytime you start going into the negative areas, that’s when things get sabotaged.”

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