The lead-up to tonight’s game amongst Flyers fans was largely one of discontent. The Flyers scratched not one but two of their exciting young players in Shayne Gostisbehere and Travis Konecny, making them the proverbial scapegoats from Tuesday’s monstrosity of a game against the Hurricanes. This — coupled with the insertion of other not-exactly-fan-favorites Dale Weise and Nick Schultz into the lineup — made a healthy portion of the fanbase less-than-thrilled, and that includes us here at BSH.
So really, after all of that (still-justified, in my opinion) hand-wringing, was there any doubt that the Flyers were winning this game?
Whatever message Hakstol was trying to send with his lineup choices clearly seemed to have gotten through to the rest of the team, as they put together one of their soundest defensive games of the season and rallied from an early goal against to pick up a 3-1 win over Montreal. The win was their fourth in five games, and it gave them two points to start off this crucial five-game homestand that is now underway.
The game started out pretty poorly for the Flyers, by almost all accounts. Montreal would totally control the game’s first five minutes, getting all five shots on goal that occurred in that time and capping it off with a one-time goal from recently-acquired defenseman Nikita Nesterov. The shot came at the end of a good shift from Montreal, and at that point one could have been forgiven for believing that we, the people, were in for a long night.
But luckily that wasn’t the case! Instead, the Flyers managed to get the better of the play for the rest of the contest. Montreal would only pick up nine shots on goal between the moment where they scored their first goal of the night and the 13-minute mark of the third period, thanks largely in part to a Flyers team that played a very tight game defensively.
Of course, “very tight defensively” often comes at the expense of the team’s offensive capability, and in that sense, this game really was a slog for much of the night. Things were certainly not quite at the level of Tuesday night’s debacle in Raleigh, but offense seemed like it was at a premium for the guys in orange as they played a pretty conservative game. Only the Michael Raffl - Claude Giroux - Jakub Voracek line did much at all in the way of generating quality chances in the first two periods, and all-world goalie Carey Price was there to snuff those chances out when they came around.
But the Flyers would luck out a bit late in the second, as a very stupid and unnecessary Andrew Shaw interference penalty on Nick Cousins would give the orange and black their second power play chance of the game. And it was a shot by Giroux from the top of the right circle that would tie things up, as a Wayne Simmonds screen impeded Price just enough that he’d flub Giroux’s shot and let it through.
That 1-1 tie would stand into the third period, and it was at that point that the Flyers, who had been a one-line team for most of the night, seemed to pick up the urgency a bit across the board. And 3:32 into the third, a 3-on-2 that started with a Nick Schultz pass up the boards from behind his own goal line (I mean, what?) ended with Matt Read launching an absolute rocket past Price and into the top-left corner of the goal, giving Read his first goal since before Halloween and giving the Flyers their first lead of the game.
And for the most part, other than one flurry of shots on Neuvirth with just under seven minutes left, the Flyers actually played well and kept Montreal from mounting much of a comeback! And it wasn’t just from going into a shell, either — a number of rushes and near-chances for the Flyers were turned aside in the offensive zone, which isn’t what you expect from a team and lineup like this up a goal in the third period. Color me surprised. In any case, Sean Couturier iced the game on an empty-netter with 14 seconds left.
This certainly wasn’t the most exciting game the Flyers have played this year, and yeah, you’re allowed to worry a bit that the win might lead to more scratchings of good, fun, young players like Gostisbehere and Konecny. But the Flyers largely controlled play after the game’s first five minutes, and if their goal as a team in this one was to lock things down defensively, it’s tough to argue they didn’t do that:
Habs set a new season low with 16 shots on goal tonight.— Аrpon Basu (@ArponBasu) February 3, 2017
(16 shots. Hey, that’s the same number that the Flyers had against the Hurricanes. Sorry in advance if any of your good young players are scratched next game, Habs fans.)
And not only that, they mounted a comeback against a team that’s notoriously difficult to mount a comeback against, what with them having the best goalie in hockey and all. So hey, take the wins as you get ‘em. The Flyers will end tonight still in a playoff spot, and that’s pretty cool.
Home again on Saturday against L.A. Go Flyers. Here are your highlights from tonight.
What happens when the Flyers skate around in their own zone like chickens with their heads cut off? Well yeah you can figure it out. pic.twitter.com/1WIwOZEuhS— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) February 3, 2017
and then he said "VandeVelde is going to go farther in this league than you, Travis" pic.twitter.com/rQLGmT1RWQ— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) February 3, 2017
TIE GAME— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) February 3, 2017
GIROUX'S SHOT SNEAKS THROUGH pic.twitter.com/v8hKUfUD1k
Daddy Read snipes it pic.twitter.com/W1yoXdeqrj— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) February 3, 2017