When you've lost six straight games, and won exactly one game in the previous 28 days, and have won two road games all season ... sometimes things aren't going your way. And sometimes, it's also a sign that you're not playing particularly good hockey. And when you inevitably manage to pull a win out of your butts, hopefully sparking you to a run in the right direction, it can come in a lot of different ways.
The Flyers' win today -- their first since November 22 -- wasn't always pretty. At a high level, I'd say it started out pretty well, got iffier as it went on, and by the time we were creeping towards the end in the third period, we could all tell that this team was simply hanging on for dear life against a Kings squad that was by and large bringing it to them. Help came from a lot of different sources -- namely, one Steve Mason in net -- but this wasn't exactly a win that the Flyers eased into. Which is to be expected; remember, we're playing the defending champions here.
But man, doesn't a win feel nice? There's a lot to take from this game, and we'll get to that in a second, but it feels good to get at least one out of this three-game swing out west. I'd say that this style isn't one the Flyers want to get in a habit of playing, but with the way this team is playing, you've gotta hope that any win can get them going.
Hey, it worked last year (in an eerily similar game to this one), right? We can dream.
* All bets were off in that third period (seriously, yikes), but I really did feel like through the first two periods, the Flyers were doing a really good job skating through the neutral zone with control of the puck and doing a pretty good job moving it between zones. Against a team that's known for being successful at slowing teams down and grinding them to a halt in the neutral zone, that's no small feat. Hard not to think that having Michael Del Zotto back in the lineup for the first time in a week helped there.
* Another key to this game for the Flyers was the number of L.A. shot attempts that they were able to get between. They had 22 blocked shots in this one, and as the Kings kept the pressure up, the Flyers kept making a point of getting in the shooting lanes. Obviously, it would be preferable if the Flyers didn't have to spend all that time blocking those shots, but hey, do what you gotta do. On a potentially related note ...
* ... the penalty kill turned up its third straight strong performance, as the Kings were blanked on five power plays today (including two straight that briefly overlapped late in the game). Berube is still rolling six forwards (Couturier, Read, Umberger, Raffl, Laughton, and Giroux), but the results are slowly coming back. In particular, Michael Raffl had a really strong game defensively, and it's clear that this unit is happy to have him back and healthy. It's hard to overstate how much it would help this team if it was able to get a fully-functioning penalty kill working again.
* How slick was that give-and-go between Claude Giroux and Mark Streit on the first goal of the game? Looked like they'd been practicing that one. And around Drew Doughty, even!
* Wayne Simmonds scored the game-winning goal on the power play (and was, for my money, one of the more impressive Flyers out there today -- think he likes playing against his old team?), but Sean Couturier made that happen. After getting a breakout pass from Andrew MacDonald, Couturier made a wonderful move at the blue line to get around Brayden McNabb and dished it over to Simmonds in stride, who put it past Quick (more on that in a sec). It's Couturier's third straight game with a power play point, and he's now got four on the season (which actually ties a career-high for him). The team's been talking about using the power play to get him going offensively for a while now; it would be great if we're actually starting to see that happen.
* Speaking of that goal: look, I know that Jonathan Quick has helped his team win two Cups and makes a bunch of great-looking saves all the time and all that, but did Simmonds' goal bounce off of Quick's chest and go through his five-hole and into the net without any rebound? That takes skill, man.
* Steve Mason wasn't forced to make a ton of outstanding saves or anything, but when you face 38 shots in a regulation-time game, you've got to be on top of your game, and that's exactly what he was. He was tracking the puck and moving pretty well, and he's probably the guy the Flyers have to thank most for this win.
* R.J. Umberger has had an atrocious start to his season, and I'm still waiting for him to get his turn on the press box carousel, but I have to say, his past week in California was probably the best hockey we've got out of him this season. He, Couturier and Read had a number of decent shifts today, and for once it didn't seem like he was totally anchoring them down. Three games is obviously not a ton of time, so things could go south again pretty quickly and none of us would be surprised, but if Umberger can manage to play the rest of the year like he's played for the past week, it'd be appreciated.
* Know how when a guy on your team loses his stick in the defensive you start to get reeeeeal worried? That happened to the Flyers probably about ten times today. I'd never seen anything like it. I know that "holding onto your sticks too tight" is supposed to be a bad thing, but, uh, maybe try it?
* I hate myself for this, but: Jeff Carter is a guy that I still like a lot, a guy who was a really, really, really, really good player here, and so many of the jokes made about him ("he missed the net all the time!!11!!1") were pretty stupid, but, uh ... Jeff Carter missed wide open nets, what, four different times today? Sometimes things just work out.
* Fun fact: this was the first Flyers win this year in which Jakub Voracek didn't get any points. Secondary scoring! Nice!
* Another first: This is the seventh game I've recapped this season. This is also the first Flyers win that I've recapped this season. I'll make sure to wear this same outfit every game moving forward.
COMMENT OF THE LATE AFTERNOON/EARLY EVENING:
So many former Philly sports icons in this game
Richards, Carter, Doughty, Williams, McNabb...man this is crazy
And now we head from Los Angeles to Columbus. Seem like pretty similar places, right? Game on Tuesday. Go Flyers.