One thing that you probably noticed a lot in the Flyers' two losses earlier this week was a notably weak effort in the first period of both games. Lazy play, spending too much time in their own end, etc. Even if they weren't getting beaten up on the scoreboard, both of those bad first periods helped set the tone for two disappointing losses.
Today, at home, with most of the first period taking place before 12:00 p.m. Eastern time, we got the opposite of that. And the difference was evident, and it led the Flyers back to the win column.
A strong first shift and a goal in the opening minute paved the way for a really, really good first two periods from the Flyers, who were able to break their mini-losing streak today in what was apparently the earliest game they've played in 21 years. Good efforts up and down the roster, relatively sound defense, strong play from the team's first and third lines, and quality goaltending paved the way to a win -- one that the Flyers are really going to need, as they'll now head out to play six straight road games against mostly Western Conference teams.
For at least today, we got the Flyers of mid-November rather than the Flyers of October. Would be nice if we saw more of that in the near future.
Some specific thoughts:
* Sean Couturier was the guy who got the lion's share of the praise coming out of this game, and with good reason. He put in the game-winning goal off a short-handed breakaway in the second period, just missed on another one in the first period, and he and his line had multiple really great shifts where they kept the pressure on in the Winnipeg end of the ice. He and Matt Read were clearly the difference-makers among the forwards today, and their ice time reflects that -- they were the leading forwards in ice time among Flyers, both getting five minutes of ice time more (!) than any other forward.
* It didn't show up on the scoresheet, but after a great opening shift, Steve Downie made a nice play around the net that led to Scott Hartnell having a near-open net on a rebound goal in the game's first minute. Hard to describe how great an acquisition he's been for the Flyers.
* As a whole, the 5-on-5 play today was a good step up from the two losses earlier in the week. The third line was the best once again, but Claude Giroux's line looked pretty good throughout, and Vincent Lecavalier's group did an OK job after a bad shift or two in the first period. Good bounce-back effort from the forwards, pushing possession in a game that the team led the entire way.
* On defense, Andrej Meszaros was back in the lineup in place of Erik Gustafsson, and he had a bit of a rough outing, committing two penalties and looking slow at times. Wonder how long his return to the lineup will last. Otherwise, thought most guys looked good; I thought the Braydon Coburn-Kimmo Timonen pairing turned in another strong effort.
* Predictably, the penalty kill did a good job today, shutting down all six opportunities Winnipeg had with the man advantage. With both Read and Michael Raffl in the lineup, the Flyers actually cycled as many as six forwards in and out at times on the PK (Read, Couturier, Raffl, Giroux, Zac Rinaldo, and Adam Hall). Couturier and Read got the most ice time a man down, as you'd expect, but being able to rotate that many guys in and out lets them keep guys more fresh than they'd be otherwise for evens and the power play. That seemed to work out well today. Wonder if we'll see more of that long-term.
* Meanwhile, on the other side, the power play saw its consecutive games with a goal streak come to an end today, and boy did it look bad for most of the game. A 5-on-3 at the beginning of the second period, where the Flyers were up 1-0 and had a chance to really take control, was particularly awful. May have some more thoughts on the power play during this upcoming week.
* Steve Mason bounced back from an iffy start on Monday with another really solid game tonight. Several nice saves on the rush and in traffic -- mostly in the later part of the game once the Jets turned up the pressure a bit --and only got beaten on a really nice shot by Michael Frolik with the Flyers' fourth line on the ice. Guessing we'll see Ray Emery tomorrow, but another good game from Mason went a long way today.
Questions to Answer:
1. If Matt Read is out, does Craig Berube change how he uses that third line at all? If Read's in, how does he look? Read was indeed in, and he and his line were outstanding as they've been a lot lately. Did an excellent job against that really good Winnipeg top line.
2. Following what was (by the high standards he's set this year) a bit of an off-start on Monday, how does Steve Mason look in net? Quality. Can't complain about one goal in 26 shots, with multiple nice saves throughout the latter part of the game after not having to do a ton in the early part of it.
3. Five-on-five play has been pretty weak the last two games. Better today? Yessir. Won the possession battle in a game they led throughout, which is always a good sign.
4. Can the Flyers slow down Dustin Byfuglien this time? Please? Yes, thank God. No points and did a great job against him on possession.
5. Power play goals in eight straight games for the Flyers. Make it nine? Nope. Streak over. And boy was the PP stinky today.
Comment of the
Sean Couturier will ruin your day. Won't he, mr. Ladd?
Nashville tomorrow evening. Go Flyers.