Remember when we used to laugh when the Leafs were in town? Sometimes you yearn for those days.
Toronto has so much young talent working right now that even thinking about the Flyers competing against their speed and skill is enough to give me hives.
My hives died down as the game began because I thought, you know, at the very least, we’ll lose. Who cares, right? Everything is ephemeral anyway. Still, it’s hard to divorce yourself from the Flyers and caring about every single point.
When the game started up, it was a near replica of the start against the Rangers. Truly, it was getting tiresome to report the same things every single game. Wow, the Flyers turned the puck over a lot? Shocking. Slow in the neutral zone? Groundbreaking. Losing puck battles? Revolutionary. I mean, at one point the Leafs had the Flyers pinned in their own zone so effectively that they could execute a line change. They weren’t on a power play, dude. They were just plain better.
As we saw against the Rangers, some dumb luck grease goals and some above-average goaltending can wipe these things away. What tends to exacerbate the issues is being forced to penalty kill, especially against the second ranked power play in the friggin’ league. Could that be the deciding factor?
The Flyers took their first penalty, Ivan Provorov looking to lift the stick of Tyler Bozak and accidentally whacking him in the mouth. Drawing blood meant it was four minutes, and Jesus Christ, it felt like the writing was on the wall. Couldn’t you just see it in your mind’s eye? Auston Matthews scores twice or something ridiculous like that? Neuvirth gets pulled 10 minutes into the game? I don’t know if I’ve just been beaten down into pessimism, but shit, I did not feel great at that point.
Luckily, the penalty kill looked great, with the Flyers able to keep the Leafs to one-and-done style rushes that never amounted to much. That’s about as good as you can hope for against such a great power play.
Not long after time expired on the penalty, Travis Konecny made an exceptional pass to spring Wayne Simmonds on a breakaway. He’s an All Star, so you can guess what he did. (Hint: it had something to do with scoring.) Sometimes I wish he was my actual dad. That’s neither here nor there.
The Flyers killed the majority of their second penalty to the end the period, leaving them with a rarity: a lead going into the second! What sorcery! What fun! I opened a Labatt to celebrate. You have to take advantage of little joys in life. Yes, I know it’s only Thursday and I probably shouldn’t be drinking. What are you, my mom?
I was about three quarters of the way through my beer when the second period started up, which means I had to chug it so I didn’t feel like a massive failure. This is the Flyers best period, so I had to be on my game.
The first half of the period felt tired. It wasn’t especially bad, but the ice definitely felt tilted in Toronto’s favor. Neuvirth made some creative saves and kept the lead for the Flyers. Just about halfway through the period and the game itself, Travis Konecny got held up along the boards and gave the Good Guys their first power play of the game. It didn’t tally, but god, when they’re generating chances like they’re able to, it’s so gotdang fun to watch. Everything but the goal, and we still had a lead. I was cruisin’.
Little did I know, however, that I was actually cruisin’ for a bruisin’. The Flyers got tied up in their own end, Nick Cousins reversing the puck and then skating into teammate Brandon Manning. All hell broke loose. It ended with Nylander picking up the garbage after the silly play, tying the game at one. It was bound to happen, you know? Bad things are bound to happen.
The game was well within reach going into the third period, so I sat back down with my beer slushies after having left them in the freezer for too long, feeling optimistic. It’s tied. All even. We took the lead once, we could theoretically do it again.
It was like they heard me being optimistic, my brain waves traveling the 11.4 miles necessary to seep into their brains. They hounded possession, keeping the Leafs almost entirely in their own end. Why couldn’t they do this earlier in the game? I wondered. It must be me. I must be the deciding factor.
Despite the deluge, minutes started to tick away and it felt as though the Flyers would be sinking into yet another overtime. That’s a bad feeling, of course. Outplaying late in the game and still not being able to score? Ridiculous.
Just as I was about to resign myself to being thankful for a point, Roman Lyubimov potted his fourth of the year, giving the Flyers the late lead with just about two minutes left to go in the game. They managed to hold the Leafs off, even as they pushed late.
Some feelings and emotions based on bias and not fact:
- Auston Matthews is so special and important. I love him so much, it’s almost unbearable. I just had to get that out of the way. USA. USA. USA.
- Sean Couturier is comfortable covering stars, as that’s kind of his bread and butter. Whatever way you feel about Coots, please don’t yell at me, but he kept Matthews off the board. That deserves credit, right? Actually, you will probably tell me it doesn’t. Thank you, I appreciate it. I’ve been enlightened.
- James van Riemsdyk is a Leaf still, and that’s important because we traded him away. You might have forgotten because no one ever mentions it at all. He almost scored, but he didn’t.
- Honestly, like, I love JvR, but thank god he didn’t score. We wouldn’t have heard the end of it. It’s been years, guys. Move the frig on.
- Even level headed people thought the fourth line was great tonight, and they were rewarded with a goal. Good to see. I’m sure that encourages them to keep up the good work.
- Travis Konecny has some kind of special hustle, man. Early in the second, Brandon Manning and he were streaking into the Leafs zone, and Manning took a big shot right after he crossed the blue line. Seemed like a pretty basic play that would die after the save. Not on Teeks’s watch! He flew in, snatched up that rebound so quick. I was shocked. I really didn’t think he’d be able to get there in time. Anyway, I love him and I love the things he does.
- Neuvirth made 27 saves on 28 shots. Pretty good, as far as percentages are concerned.
- The Post pretty much saved the game for us when Connor Brown’s shot redirected and nearly went in with just six and a half minutes left. Thank you, The Post. I love you, The Post.
Hate to take credit for this, but the Flyers are now 2-0 since I told them very publicly that they’re the reason I’m alive. I don’t know for sure that it’s because of me, but I think we can all agree it’s at least 75 percent because of me.
Flyers go into the All Star break with a three game win streak, goals in back to back games for their All Star and my dad, Wayne Simmonds. Money in the bank.