“I don’t know if they are the world’s skinniest.” he protested. “There probably are some animals with skinnier legs.
“I honest don’t know. I play with determination and try not to get knocked down.”
Must be all in the ankles. Or, in the fortitude, because the man has no calves. Those aren’t legs, but rods interrupted by knees, thighs seeming to be optional in a hockey player, or at least this hockey player. Simmonds is thinner than even a fan’s patience for the home team’s power play, yet in front of the net and along the boards he doesn’t budge.
“At 185 pounds, I don’t know where he gets it from,” said Craig Berube. “Wiry, natural, strength, I guess.
“And mentally he is strong. Wayne has a clear determination for what he wants to do and he battles, really battles.”
That’s half the battle -- being all in for the battle. In fact, right wings who bang -- and provide 20-30 goal bang for the bucks -- have been a proud Flyers standard from Gary Dornhoefer to Paul Holmgren to Rick Tocchet. And the concept of Simmonds as The Next continues to grow legs.
“Like those guys, he has a little bit of everything,” said Berube. “Toughness, grit, ability to put the puck in the net.
“And like I said the other night, he is turning into a better player on the rush.”
On Saturday the Blues, tied 1-1 in the second period, were starting a rush when Simmonds, on the backcheck, started a Flyer rush instead. He knocked down Chris Porter’s pass at center, turned on a dime, and burst outside Barret Jackman to take Brayden Schenn’s give-and-go pass. Schenn put in Simmonds’ rebound and the game was turned.
“It kind of started as a broken play,” said Simmonds.
It was a broken play because he broke it up. And it became a goal because of his acceleration, which is as surprising as was his release off the rush that beat Tim Thomas for a critical insurance goal in Thursday’ night’s win over Dallas.
The bigger they are – the Blues lead the Western Conference in points – the harder they fall these days at Wells Fargo Center as the Flyers knock off the top teams one-by-one by never altering their course.
“We try to play the same way no matter what the score,” said Simmonds, and they are doing it better and better all the time, Simmonds lately leading the way almost as much as is Claude Giroux.
Simmonds’ fifth goal in three contests and some remarkable Steve Mason goaltending and penalty killing got them past the Blues. Next are the Kings, the team that drafted Simmonds, whom he torched for a goal in a February win in Los Angeles.
“Oh sure,” he said, asked if he gets up for the team that won a Stanley Cup after trading him. Simmonds doesn’t seem upset to have missed out because he believes he is going to win one here.
“We are really confident,” he said. “Every night we come to the rink expecting to win; it doesn’t matter who we’re playing.”
Berube says that much like the team, it seems to matter less and less to Simmonds’ what post he just hit or what penalty just went uncalled.
“I think he has challenged his frustration and his game towards the ice more than he used to,” said the coach. “Now everything is directed to the play.
“He has become a good leader. I would say he is our emotional leader. He talks a lot and challenges people the right way, then goes out and does it.”
Simmonds does it on the backcheck, on the forecheck, on the power play where his right-handed shot is stationed at the left post primarily for backdoor passing purposes. Nevertheless, the spindly man has spun for many of the 13 power-play goals of his 24 overall on the season.
“My first year here I did get the 28 goals, but there was one time I went like 17 games without a goal,” he said. “I try to play a more complete game more consistently.
“It’s my sixth year in the league and as you get older the game starts to slow down a little bit. I don’t want to say it gets easier, but I guess it does get a little bit easier.”
At some point, so will the Flyers’ schedule. Not yet, though, with the Kings, Rangers, Leafs and Bruins the next great gale force winds that won’t blow over the lean, mean Wayne Simmonds.