You think there were no negative aspects of the Flyers' domination of the Detroit Red Wings this fine Saturday morning? Tell that to all of the fans who tossed a hat on the ice to celebrate Brayden Schenn's hat trick that wasn't!
Reversed hat trick aside, it's tough for Flyers fans to complain about much this afternoon. Not only did Philadelphia take apart the Red Wings, they did so led by some of their most-criticized players. The struggling Schenn scored two goals and for a brief minute, thought he would be credited for three. Sean Couturier was dominant throughout. Nicklas Grossmann scored a goal. Zac Rinaldo potted his first of the year. Matt Read even scored, set up by who else but Andrew MacDonald.
With the playoffs out of sight, it's most important to see positive signs from struggling players going into next season. At this point, it's obvious that players like Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Steve Mason and Wayne Simmonds can play at a high level.
But signs of life from players like Schenn & Read over the next ten games would give hope that next year could be a step up for them. Also, strong finishes by guys like Grossmann, MacDonald and Lecavalier could make them a bit easier to move in the offseason. A pipedream, sure, but you never know what scout could be watching.
Sure, the reward of an extended playoff run may not be there anymore. But that truth certainly doesn't make blowout victories tough to watch. Regardless of their standings position, this was a fun one.
A few more observations on the game:
- Since Braydon Coburn was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning and vacated the role of "main scapegoat" for Flyers fans, it's been obvious which productive player has replaced him in the hearts of the faithful - Sean Couturier. Ripped recently for an inability to bury scoring chances, Couturier had his best game in weeks this afternoon, standing out in all three zones. His pass to spring Nicklas Grossmann in the first period for a goal was one of his best offensive plays of the season.
- When the only criticism of a goalie throughout the game is that his rebound control on one or two shots could have been better, it's obvious we've reached the point where stellar games from Steve Mason are commonplace. Aside from a breakaway goal and a tough deflection late, Mason was pretty much perfect, continuing his rise up the NHL save percentage ranks and winning over any remaining doubters.
- Nicklas Grossmann gets a lot of criticism here at BSH, and rightfully so, but he had quite a few nice plays in this one. His goal was the most flashy (and it truly was a great rush and shot), but he also wasn't handling the puck like it was a hand grenade today. His defensive zone passes were leading to clean, controlled exits, and often were kickstarting rushes that quickly ended up in the Detroit zone. His coverage leading up to the Abdelkader goal was poor, but asking for a perfect game from Grossmann is a bit greedy.
- Still no even strength goals at home for Claude Giroux, though he did add two power play assists. Going to need a lot more than that for you to be a true captain, Claude.
- Carlo Colaiacovo was handed two straight games against former teams, and he really stood out today against the Red Wings. His possession statistics were stellar, the result of smart pinches and solid defensive zone coverage. Has he played well enough to stay in the lineup even after Michael Del Zotto returns? Probably, but will it be enough? That seems less likely.
- They conceded a power play goal late, but it's clear that the Flyers' special teams are back to being a major strength of the team. The power play never really struggled, but the PK certainly was a mess at the start of the year. Now, they're back to being a pressuring unit that clears lots of pucks and aggressively pursues the puck carrier in the neutral zone. A great sign for next season, especially with almost all of the current personnel expected back.
- No real followup on the Giroux leadership non-story in the locker room. The media was not given access to Giroux, and Wayne Simmonds did not bring it up after his harsh words for the story earlier this week. In the end, hopefully this story dies quickly, as the article really was not worthy of serious attention.