CALGARY, Alberta – Remember when the Flyers couldn’t score at least three goals per game?
Remember when the Flyers couldn’t string together any semblance of a winning streak?
Remember when the Flyers were at the bottom of the standings and were being booed lustily by the fans who were vocally calling for everyone’s head?
That’s so 2013.
Now that it’s the New Year, this is a new team, playing with new confidence and surging further and further up the standings.
That run was continued Tuesday with yet another victory – 4-1 over the Flames – marking the first four-game winning streak of the season, improving to 6-1-1 in the last eight games, all of which they scored at least three goals.
The biggest part of that surge was attributed to the top line piling on the points as Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek and Michael Raffl found instant chemistry and carried the offense.
But, on this night, those three provided nary a point. And while Wayne Simmonds had been recently playing full steam ahead before having his point streak end in Vancouver, and Scott Hartnell started finding a renewed purpose playing down in the lineup, the third guy on their line – Brayden Schenn – was wallowing through a 16-game stretch with no goals and just six assists. Coach Craig Berube felt he was pressing and over-thinking.
Then, Schenn was Johnny-on-the-spot against the Canucks, scoring the tying goal in the final minute and there was a sense of relief.
Fast forward to Tuesday, when Schenn, playing in front of his parents Jeff and Rita and his sisters Madison and Macy as well as another 10 friends and family, had a breakout game.
He scored one goal, should have had a second were it not for a questionable call by the referee, and added two
|It was a quiet night for Michael Raffl and the rest of the Flyers top line, but it didn't matter as Brayden Schenn, Scott Hartnell and the defense led the way to a 4-1 win. |
assists for a three-point game to pace the offense in the win.
It was only his third multi-point game of the season, and first since Nov. 13. It was the third three-point game of his career and first since last Feb. 23.
“We’ve been playing pretty solid as a line for about five or six games,” said Hartnell, who also scored a goal (set up by both Brayden and Luke Schenn) and was a plus-3. “It’s nice to contribute to a big win. It can’t be [Giroux] every night. It can’t be Vinny [Lecavalier] every night. You have to spread the wealth around and we did that tonight.”
By defeating the Flames, the Flyers swept all three games in Western Canada for just the second time since Edmonton and Calgary entered the league in 1979. The only other time was in 1996-97.
But more importantly, the Flyers , who are now officially at .500 as far as winning percentage (20-16-4, 44 points) are not only holding onto that third and final guaranteed playoff position in the Metropolitan Division, but are getting into the conversation with some other teams ahead of them.
A cursory glance at the standings shows they are just one point behind Washington for second place in the Metro and just a point behind both Detroit and Toronto in the Wild Card hunt, and they’ll have two games in hand on both of them after they battle in the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day.
“We’re a good hockey team,” coach Craig Berube said. “We’ve gotten some solid goaltending and that’s the key.”
It was Ray Emery’s turn in Calgary and he snapped a personal four-game losing skid with a fine performance making 23 saves in the win.
He is 7-1 in his last eight starts against the Flames (two with the Flyers) with an 1.37 goals against average and a .948 save percentage.
“After the way we started the season, to be where we’re at, starting the New Year, I think we’ll take it,” Emery said. “I had four losses [in a row], so you better be sharp after a stretch like that. It’s part of the game. When you get in there, I’m just happy to get in there… [It felt good]. Not bad. It’s different, not playing too often, so you kind of keep it simple.”
The Flyers also continued to get offensive production from the blue line as the other two goals were scored by Mark Streit and Braydon Coburn. The Flyers defense has scored 11 goals in the last 12 games and Streit has started to break out with four goals and three assists for seven points in this eight game stretch.
Hartnell said the team responded to a meeting held by Berube prior to the road trip that changed the way the team approached playing in hostile territory. Berube doesn’t want to get into those details, but thinks the team has responded to the message.
“I think our team’s real confident right now,” Berube said. “I think they believe they can win games whether they have their best stuff or not. They’re finding ways to win because they’re a confident team right now.”
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