Claude Giroux led the way for the Flyers in Buffalo with a goal and three assists, following a move back to center as Sean Couturier sat with a lower-body injury. Giroux moved to wing last season and never really looked back, but was a clear boost for the Flyers — and his line mates — in the win over the Sabres. James van Riemsdyk scored for the first time in seven games, and Travis Konecny added a goal as the line was dangerous all afternoon led by the Flyers’ captain.
Winnipeg is red-hot and winners of four of their past five with the only setback being a 1-0 loss to the Blues last time out. The Jets boast a high-powered offense that includes names among the NHL’s scoring leaders like Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, Patrik Laine, and Kyle Connor. They’re deep on defense but have gotten rather average goaltending from last season’s breakout star in Connor Hellebuyck, who carries a .907 save percentage and a 2.88 goals-against average into the game.
While the win over Buffalo was fun and good, the reality is that the Flyers are still second to last in the Eastern Conference even with the regulation win. The Devils are dead last, currently. The Flyers need to start stringing together wins and this road trip might just be the time to do it with a five-game swing through Western Canada. If you recall the Flyers’ last western road trip produced a 4-0-1 record through California earlier this year.
Giroux leading by example
The captains’ four point outburst was much needed in Buffalo, but it was the emphatic nature of Giroux’s third period shorthanded goal that propelled the Flyers to victory. With basically a 3-on-1, Giroux looked off the pass and ripped a wrist shot past Linus Ullmark to give the Flyers a lead they’d never relinquish. In a big moment Giroux took the reins and gave his teammates a confidence boost that they’ve sorely needed of late. Giroux is on a roll and look for that to continue against the Jets today.
Sanheim’s role expanding?
After a two-goal outburst against Columbus, Sanheim was rewarded with more than 17 minutes of ice-time against the Sabres. Sanheim continued to jump up in the play as he did against Columbus and rang a shot off the pipe yesterday. The confidence is starting to return in his game and the young defender is showing what a dynamic force he can be when he’s on his game. Not only is his confidence showing, but perhaps it’s leading to more of a leash from coach Dave Hakstol, who has been notoriously tough on Sanheim as a pro.
The rewards of going to the net
The Flyers made a conscious effort to get puck and bodies towards the front of the net against the Sabres and reaped the benefits with a slew of goals from the dots on in.
Wayne Simmonds, Dale Weise, and Konecny all benefitted from going to the danger area in this one and should be a sign to their teammates to do the same against a Jets team that will give up its share of goals if it gets into a track meet. The Flyers need to attack the net more, and with consistency from game to game. Saturday’s outburst showed the good that happens when you crash the net, and more of the same would be a welcome sight against these Jets.
Continued penalty kill success?
The Flyers have not allowed a power play goal in their last seven games, and have killed off 11-straight penalties in that span. That’s a far cry from their nearly season-long struggles a man down, where the Flyers still rank 30th overall even after a solid run here of late. That shows just how bad things were earlier this season.
Winnipeg’s fourth-ranked power play will provide a stiff test for the Flyers’ resurgent penalty kill and have weapons galore across both of their power play units. The Flyers need to stay disciplined in this one and limit the chances that the Jets’ high-powered power play gets, but when they do it will be interesting to see if the revamped penalty kill can keep the run going.
Flyers Projected Lineup
JVR — Giroux — Konecny
Voracek — Patrick — Simmonds
Raffl — Laughton — Weise
Lindblom — Lehtera — Weal
Provorov — Gostisbehere
MacDonald — Hagg
Sanheim — Gudas