The final weekend of this Flyers season, at the culmination of a disappointing season, is whatever you want it to be. It can bring you sadness because the Flyers aren’t going to be playing hockey any more, it can bring you relief because this thoroughly underwhelming season is coming to an end, or you can just have a general sense of apathy given that these games are almost completely devoid of meaning for the team. Up to you, really.
But at the end of this season that has ended in such a way that none of us wanted to see it end, the Flyers are playing some of their best hockey of the year. Too little too late? Indeed. Pulling the team out of a slightly better draft pick? Probably. Chock full of contributions from guys who probably don’t factor into the long-term outlook of this team? Sure.
But there’s a lot to like about what this team has done lately, as they’ve now gone 5-1-1 in their last six games and have looked good doing it. And today’s 4-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets — their first win over Columbus of the season, in their final chance to pick one up — is a continuation of that trend.
On a day where they were both recognized as end-of-season award-winners, Ivan Provorov (not surprisingly) and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (?!?) both had highlight-reel-quality goals on perfect snipes over Sergei Bobrovsky. (Provorov’s shot may have grazed off of Sean Couturier on the way in, but for all intents and purposes it was Ivan’s goal.) Jakub Voracek scored the game-winner on the power play, with a move reminiscent of those you’d see from him in 2015 or so. Even Michael Del Zotto, who’s come around post-trade deadline after a rough contract year, had a goal on a long shot, thanks at least in part to Bobrovsky playing himself out of the line of the shot a bit (to the point where the refs initially deemed goaltender interference, only to correctly overturn it after a Dave Hakstol challenge).
And by and large, the good effort today went beyond the performances of individuals. 11 Flyers picked up at least a point today, and the guys who didn’t also played pretty solid games (chief among those, Jordan Weal). And defensively, the guys in orange and black turned in this effort -- a far cry from the kinds of performances we saw earlier this season, in which the Flyers were able to control the shot counter but let in way too many shots from in close:
Some kinda defensive effort from Philadelphia this afternoon: pic.twitter.com/SsFjAZ2M58— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) April 8, 2017
Columbus’ only two goals of the season were longer shots that deflected off of Flyers on their way past Steve Mason, and while that’s a very 2016-17 Flyers way to allow goals, those were more or less the best chances Columbus was able to get today.
And speaking of Mason, it was another solid game for him, in what was his 200th NHL win and also very well could have been his final game with the Flyers. As you can see above, he wasn’t asked to do a ton today, but you can only stop the shots that you get, and other than the two goals that changed direction off of his own damn defensemen, he did that.
Again, maybe this all means nothing to you. Maybe you’re annoyed about draft position, or at the fact that the Flyers weren’t able to spend all year playing like this. Fair enough. But it’s nice to see good performances up and down the lineup, and I’d rather end the season happy with what I’m seeing than annoyed by it. So it goes.
One more game, tomorrow night against the Hurricanes. Bring it home. Go Flyers.
Before we go: awards! The Flyers announced their end-of-season award winners prior to today’s game, and there were no real surprises in the group.
Gene Hart Memorial Trophy (to the player who has the largest heart, or something like that): Pierre-Edouard Bellemare
Barry Ashbee Trophy (to the best defenseman): Ivan Provorov
Yanick Dupre Class Guy Award (to the classiest person, more or less): Steve Mason
Pelle Lindbergh Memorial Trophy (to the most improved player): Radko Gudas
Bobby Clarke Trophy (to the team MVP): Wayne Simmonds