There’s a lot to be excited about with the Flyers 4-3 win over the Penguins on Sunday.
For the second straight game the Flyers dominated the best specialty teams franchise in the NHL on both ends of the special teams spectrum.
First, the Flyers power play scored twice on the now No. 2 ranked Pittsburgh penalty kill, getting a pair of power play goals from Wayne Simmonds in the first period.
Secondly, the Flyers held the Penguins top-ranked power play without a tally on all four of their opportunities. They shut out the Pens power play for the weekend, killing off nine Pittsburgh power play chances.
And in the process, they scored a pair of shorthanded goals – both by Matt Read. Both with Sean Couturier on the ice.
It’s going to sound like a broken record from yesterday, but aside from the inspired play of captain Claude Giroux who is leading the charge offensively (he moved into the Top five in the NHL in scoring with two more assists Sunday) the pairing of Couturier and Read have been carrying a large load for the Flyers.
They shut down the opposition 5-on-5, are the top pair on the penalty kill, and chip in with timely offense.
Yes, the Penguins were shorthanded, missing some key contributors in all aspects of special teams, but let’s not forget, both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were in fact playing in these games, and both were shutout points-wise this weekend. That doesn’t happen all that often.
The other thing that was impressive this weekend was the limited amount of scoring chances the Penguins got. Credit for that goes to the often-criticized-rarely-praised Flyers defensive corps.
They’ve been good with positioning, breakouts, limiting turnovers, blocking shots – everything defensive players are supposed to do.
Luke Schenn has looked especially good when he’s out there with Andrew MacDonald, who has quietly had an immediate impact since joining the Flyers 12 days ago.
And yet, while everything is going hunky-dory now – the Flyers moved back into second place in the Metropolitan Division at the end of the game – there was a bit of a concern over the final 30 minutes.
The Flyers seemed back on their heels a little bit possession-wise. They still did a fine job in limiting chances and keeping the Penguins out of the scoring areas, and when they gave up too much space, Steve Mason made the important saves when he had to, especially stopping Malkin twice in the second period and Crosby coming down the wing in the third period.
However, their gaps got a little too large, which allowed Pittsburgh to drive possession a bit too much. The Flyers got away with that, but can’t make a living doing that in this stretch run, especially with so many good teams still on the docket.
It was a great beginning to the 12-game trek through the treacherous forest of the best teams in the NHL, but coach Craig Berube needs to tighten things up a tad to make sure his team doesn’t lose all this momentum moving forward.
NOTES: Simmonds recorded two goals and an assist for his seventh career game of three points or more, and his third of the season… Giroux posted two assists for the second consecutive game. Giroux has not gone consecutive games without a point since Dec. 31 & Jan. 2; in 26 games since then, Giroux has 12 goals and 20 assists for 32 points. He has 12 points (4G, 8 A) in seven games in the month of March…The last time the Flyers beat the Penguins in consecutive regular season games, with no other game in between, was Jan. 21-23, 2006 when they won both games of a home-and-home series, 2-1 at Mellon Arena on Jan. 21 and 4-2 in Philadelphia on Jan. 23. The last time the Flyers won three consecutive games over the Penguins in the same season was in 2007-08, when they won the first four of eight games between the clubs that year… Adam Hall and Michael Raffl were both perfect on faceoffs, with Raffl going 5-for-5 and Hall going 4-for-4… Giroux appeared in his 400th NHL game, while Andrew MacDonald appeared in his 300th.
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