There is nothing that brings a fanbase together more than complaining about reffing in spite of a win. It happens rarely, but when it does, it's a gift.
I missed the first ten minutes of the game, and while that usually ensures a very boring time, I happened to miss the Flyers opening up the game relatively well. While they gave up some good chances in their own end with loose play, they also managed to open up the Canadiens defense and capitalize on power play opportunities. You can't have everything, but having a lead makes most mistakes forgivable.
When Nathan Beaulieu went off for holding, the Flyers were able to jump on the board early. Jakub Voracek and Brayden Schenn set up a really nice tic-tac-toe play, with Wayne Simmonds putting the puck in the net. It was a very satisfying goal, which is I guess kind of obvious. There is something special, though, about a very well executed power play goal. Gotta love them.
The Flyers managed to take a 2-0 lead when I finally got to sink into my couch. It was another power play goal, with Brayden Schenn deflecting it past Condon off of a Voracek pass. It was really cool, considering I like when the Flyers are winning by more than one. Often, a multiple goal lead puts me at ease. By now, it shouldn't. I'm a simple woman, though. I never learn.
With four minutes left, the Flyers went to their first penalty kill of the game. Apparently the referee was jealous of Chris Vandevelde's beauty, and he called him for tripping. A giant conspiracy, I tell you. Anyhow, the Habs didn't even really have that great of a power play, but they managed to score because life is unfair and distinctly uncool. The Flyers weren't able to clear the zone like one time, and of course it leads to a goal.
Petry evened up the game early in the second, and you could practically hear the entire fanbase sigh. Why can't they keep a lead? That's like asking why kids have to be told not to drink chemicals. They don't know any other way. They see the chemicals, they want to drink them. The Flyers have a lead, they want to lose it. The Canadiens kept bodies in front of the net, and when Mason wasn't able to track the puck, it went in easily. Felt like it was bound to happen.
And I know the easy narrative is that the Flyers do well in the first and then shitty in the second, but that was not the case in tonight's game. The Flyers were just kind of all over the place for a while, getting a majority of the shots and a bunch of chances, but also scrambling in the defensive zone and missing assignments.
The Flyers went into the third looking to take a lead, but just one minute into the period, PK Subban decked Wayne Simmonds and woah, man, that was not good. Simmonds went to the ice for a couple seconds, and it looked like there would be a Flyers power play. Voracek went to Simmonds aid quickly though, getting up in Subban's grill and starting up a scrum. Somehow the Flyers ended up on the penalty kill? No one knows how or why? It was a whole big mess. Jakub Voracek was not a happy camper, kicking the penalty box door for good measure. I would have done a lot worse, I think.
Regardless, the Flyers were able to kill the penalty, which is always a nice middle finger to the refs. A better middle finger, however, is winning the game.
We spent a lot of the second half of the game waiting for the go-ahead, and holy shit when that go-ahead goal came, it was well worth it. Voracek was being ridden behind the Habs net by Beaulieu, but he managed to circle to the front. Wayne Simmonds appeared from the heavens in the slot, and the puck was barely on his tape before it was in the net. It was such a Feel Good™ goal, with the Flyers persevering through that ridiculous penalty kill and managing to take the lead not long after.
To further illustrate the effects that reffing can have on my mood, the reffing continued to fuck up in the most obnoxious of ways. Radko Gudas went to eviscerate someone (Lucas Lessio, apparently) with a hip check, and Lessio went down. Play continued in the opposite direction for several seconds, allowing Medvedev enough time to get a shot off. And then a whistle. A whistle? Why? Why wait so long? Apparently the hip check was clipping? It was a five minute major and a game misconduct? I don't know. You can't make it up.
The Flyers suddenly had to keep their heads above water with a five minute penalty kill, but for a unit that has struggled in the past, it looked pretty damn good. They were able to keep the Habs to the outside, limiting dangerous opportunities. In the end, they were able to seal the win with an empty netter coming from Matt Read. For a game that was equal parts enraging and exciting, the ending was delicious.
Bullet points, for organizational purposes:
- A game of reunions! Both Sean Couturier and Steve Mason made their returns to the roster, and they both played well. Mason made a ton of fantastic saves, effectively keeping the Flyers in the game as he's had to do since the beginning of time. He ended the night saving 30 of 32. Sean Couturier had some great plays, the most memorable for me being his short-handed breakaway chances. Would have been nice to see him net one in his first game back, but the season is long. Also, he totally had the opportunity to steal an empty-net goal for himself, but he gave it to Read. What a guy.
- I know we talk a lot about how the Bellemare-White-Vandevelde line is not producing the way they need to be, but I think Vandevelde and White had good games, Vandevelde in particular. They seemed a lot more tenacious tonight, opening up play with drawing penalties and skating hard. Please don't crucify me.
- Wayne Simmonds was stellar, Jake Voracek was a tour de force. Water is wet.
- Umberger was scratched! Oh my god! And it didn't really make a big difference. Gagner was very meh, in my opinion. Perhaps Weal will get another crack at it. He might look good on that second line. Then again, the Flyers won, so probably expect no changes.
- As Kurt noted, on the Badko-Gudass scale, Radko was pretty Badko tonight. I mean, he was operating at like a 90% Badko rate. There was this play where he was trying to keep the play alive at the offensive blue line and he...deked? Through his legs? Well, I mean, he tried, because it got broken up as most Radko Gudas dekes are wont to do. Gudas is one of the players for whom I truly buy into the whole "keep it simple" philosophy. He had been playing well up until the break. He's trying to get too fancy with his pinches, and it's really screwing things up, to be quite honest.
- Hey, speaking of Radko, that reffing was awful, wasn't it? That filled my heart with enough hate for a month. Feels good to make my quota again.