Going into tonight, I was unsure of how the Flyers would perform -- they faced a statistically superior team that lacked a few key players. In the end, the Flyers proved they could take advantage of the opportunity and give us all something nice to think about on Christmas.
The Flyers got their first present of the evening just hours before the game, when the Wild announced that Zach Parise would be out with a lower body injury. Parise is a pretty damn good player, so his absence was quite welcome.
The first period was one of those times when a team that is outplayed just takes advantage of every opportunity.
Luke Schenn (!) got the scoring going just two minutes into the period after all three Flyers forwards crashed the living hell out of the net. All the Wild players were too busy focusing on that, allowing Schenn the elder to sneak one in off a juicy rebound.
A little bit later, Wayne Simmonds potted a beauty on the power play. Seriously, it was probably one of the best passing plays I've seen all year -- Claude Giroux passed it down to Voracek, who tossed it across the crease onto Simmonds stick. It looked like a hot knife passing through butter, and it was just awesome.
Mikael Granlund finally got the Wild on the board after penalties to Braydon Coburn and Brayden Schenn gave the visiting team a five on three for almost two full minutes. The penalty kill looked good, until, well, the Wild scored. Sigh.
At the end of the period, the Flyers had the lead despite Minnesota largely controlling the play and getting more shot attempts. When the Flyers did control the puck, they cycled it well and didn't take stupid shots, but they just didn't get many quality chances. Regardless, by the end of the first 20 minutes, the Flyers were leading where it mattered, and it started to look like they came out on Santa's "nice" list.
The second period started somewhat similarly, although the Flyers definitely controlled play a bit better than they did in the first. Yet again, they took advantage of opportunities when available, with Claude Giroux scoring off a deflection to get the first (and only) goal of the stanza.
The Flyers really got humming in the second half of the period, nearly erasing the shot attempt differential. I don't have good access to stats right now due to limited internet access, but my eyes told me that they looked markedly better by the end of the second, and were looking like the better team of the night.
The third period was relatively ho-hum -- no team really stood out as dominant, with each getting a few quality chances. The Flyers, however, kept Minnesota off the board, and Wayne Simmonds eventually got the empty netter to give his team a four to one victory.
*Hartnell got his 500th career point on the Luke Schenn goal. Love him or hate him, Hartnell is a fan favorite and a pretty cool dude, so seeing him hit a milestone was nice.
*Claude Giroux was perhaps the best player on the Flyers tonight. He continued his point streak (one goal, one assist), and was a positive contributor to his team's play when he was on the ice. Looks like the captain has returned to elite status as of late.
*At no point tonight did the Flyers have a cumulative lead in shot attempts, which is weird. It's nice that they came out with a win, but if they look to win consistently in the future, they'll have to do a better job of controlling play.
*Steve Mason was pretty freaking great tonight, stopping 26 of 27 shots and making a few truly amazing saves. Mason has been slipping a bit lately, so it was sick to see him put in a solid effort and get the win.
*Niklas Backstom is terrible. Really terrible. By the time the Flyers were up three to one in the second period, he had let in three goals on only 13 shots (that’s a .769 save percentage, for the mathematically challenged). Its amazing how important Josh Harding is for the Wild, and how vulnerable they are without him.
Next game is Saturday in Edmonton at 10. Go Flyers.
Comment of the Night
Jay Rosehill went to college? Are there a lot of strip joints in Minnesota?