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Flyers 7, Wild 4: Who are you and what have you done with my boys?

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The Flyers scored many goals tonight, and I feel strangely threatened.

Heather Barry - SB Nation

I know what all of you are wondering.

“Emily, the Flyers were literally giving away tickets to this game. Why on Earth are you home right now and not there? Don’t you want to get drunk on a Monday night watching your hapless boys do something suspiciously close to sports? Don’t you want a soft pretzel? Some $10.25 crab fries? Seriously why are they $10.25 that’s utterly absurd?”

Well, the truth is that I am tired. First, I’d have to step out of my comfortable joggers, then I would have to put on winter clothes, and I would need to leave my house. Those are three things entirely, and that’s too many things. But that’s not all, if you can believe it. I would even have to board the MFL, and then transfer to the BSL at City Hall, and then I’d have to make the short walk from the station to the Wells Fargo Center, and then I’d have to find my seats, and believe it or not, win or lose, I’d have to do a bunch of these steps in the reverse right afterwards.

It is difficult enough to get me to do things on a day off. For me to willingly do many things at once for the Philadelphia Flyers of all people is simply ridiculous. I am what you may call “lazy” and I feel for these boys like they are a plague on my life and soul. Some kind of parasite buried into my brain. I am completely obsessed with them, and I also loathe them deeply. I would do anything to cut them out of me, but they have latched onto me in a place I will never be able to reach, and so they stay, leeching off my blind loyalty and innocent, childlike optimism.

Tonight, the Flyers did something quite close to sports, and by that I mean they actually pulled a win right out of their ass like they’ve known how to do it all along. The long-dormant offense finally woke up, scoring seven (7) entire goals; this is not the team we have seen all season, and frankly I’m a little afraid. What have you done with my loser team? I’m not used to this, and I don’t trust it.

A lot of people are favoring a tank right now, and I don’t blame them at all. Lost season, might as well play for last place and hope to land Jack Hughes, right? However, the flip side of the coin is wanting to see improvement from key younger players. If you don’t have that, you have nothing. This was a game where we saw Nolan Patrick break out of his funk, saw offensive strides from Scott Laughton, and witnessed Carter Hart overcoming adversity early in the game and recovering calmly. These are good things. It’s okay to want good things. It’s okay to have good things.

Just roll with it.

The first half of the opening period was fairly embarrassing to watch if you’re a Flyers sympathizer, as I unfortunately identify. Although there were some plays that looked enticing (specifically, a nifty play by Claude Giroux and Travis Konecny that didn’t quite go) and the energy looked up to par, the Flyers looked clumsy with the puck, coughing up turnovers and playing up the mediocrity that has become the norm for them. It’s easy to feel discouraged, but this is just another day in the neighborhood.

A penalty was called on Wayne Simmonds for slashing of the illegal variety at 6:08. Looking at the power play numbers for the Wild, it was easy to see where this would be going, and I opened my heart up to this willingly. Sometimes, acceptance is the answer. What else were you going to do?

Jason Zucker “scored” a goal off a “deflection” at 7:35. The air quotes are there simply because this goal was barely scored; the puck had been covered up by Carter Hart, but he lost it underneath him and it gently glided over the line, all lackadaisical like. That’s certainly a flub of a goal that Hart would like to get back, but nobody can be perfect, my sweet boy.

The Wild have a guy with two last names, and I found this out when he scored a goal on us at 8:26, less than a minute after Zucker’s goal. Joel Eriksson Ek got another one past Hart on the deflection, and though it looked like Hart definitely should have had it, it’s hard to fault a goaltender for not anticipating a wonky deflection. It wouldn’t be too unfair to say that this was a soft goal to allow, but I would never say a negative word against Hart, as I am bound by blood pact with our own Brad Keffer not to.

Scott Gordon said he will turn this car around if he has to, and called a time out so he could surely yell obscenities at his deeply flawed boys. Oh, to be a fly on that bench, witnessing the tongue-lashing. It surprised me slightly that he didn’t choose to pull Hart after two goals against in under a minute, but it also showed some faith in his young goaltender, and that is absolutely not a bad thing.

Greg Pateryn was sent to the box for cross-checking at 11:09, and finally we got a good look at the new power play in action. For those of you not completely enslaved by your misplaced love and dedication to this team, it may be your first time hearing about the makeover our 30th-ranked (my God, really?) power play got this morning at practice. In an attempt to try literally anything that might work, the coaching staff have decided on an all-forward power play. I am tickled pink by this. I love getting weird out of pure desperation.

As it would turn out, like a recently-divorced middle-aged mom with a new dye-job, it would seem that this fresh change may be exactly what the Flyers needed to get back out there. James van Riemsdyk scored off the deflection right in front of Devan Dubnyk’s net; a double-screen effort by both him and Simmonds would prove effective in redirecting a shot from Jake Voracek. I got all excited, like the type of person who likes hockey and stuff.

A red-faced Bruce Boudreau decided to challenge this goal on account of an offside play by van Riemsdyk. Although we wouldn’t get a good view of the moment in question right away, it took the linesmen a decent amount of deliberating to come to a conclusion here.

The goal would stand for mystifying reasons, as a closer look at the line would prove beyond any real doubt that van Riemsdyk was, in fact, offside, but sometimes it is nice to see things go our way for once, so I will not dwell on this at all, thank you.

Minnesota was given a delay of game penalty for the failed challenge, and so the Flyers went right back to the power play. For the first time in a long while, I’m not entirely reluctant to watch a Flyers power play. It’s a strange emotion, but I am open to it. Of course, nothing particularly thrilling went down during the man advantage, but that’s okay. Being unremarkable is not a crime, and if it was, I would be serving a life sentence in a high-security prison for it.

Not too long after the Wild penalty kill smothered the power play, Mikael Granlund would be called for a hooking penalty at 16:13. The officiating had not been incredibly kind to the visitors tonight.

Although the Flyers would again fail to score here, they managed to roll with the momentum and get one back before the end of the period. I feel religiously about Claude Giroux, a king among mere men, whose shot hit van Rimesdyk and turned into a goal at 18:48. We’re tied, baby.

AFTER ONE: 2-2, shots 14-12 Flyers

I know it’s not on trend to be excited by the Flyers in any capacity anymore, and certainly I have preached this myself time and time again, but goddamn it, when the right players are scoring and the right results are happening, it’s still going to make my heart beat real fast. The second period had everything you could want on that front. It felt good to see it.

Having said all of that, the second period didn’t exactly start out on a good note for the Flyers. Overcoming adversity and all that nonsense, I guess. Marcus Foligno scored on Hart at 2:23, another goal that maybe shouldn’t have gotten through. Goaltenders are going to have their share of shoulda-coulda-woulda games, and Hart was due for one as his rookie rite of passage, but to the credit of the rest of the team, they didn’t let that collapse them, and that’s the real story here.

In a perfect example of this, it didn’t take long for the Flyers to strike back, and what a perfect boy to do it. Nolan Patrick, who had been held without a goal for 25 games, took an excellent feed from Scott Laughton and got one on the backhand past Dubnyk at 4:59. It’s easy to root for the Flyers to tank, but seeing any kind of development from Patrick is a positive.

An assuredly illegal puck went in on Hart after a calamity of mob activity went on in front of his net. What’s a boy gotta do to get a whistle over here? Come on, guys.

Another penalty was called on the Wild, this time on Foligno for tripping at 8:22. The ensuing power play again looked like it had the potential to be effective, but nothing too dangerous could be generated, and they did not score. It’s probably worth noting that at this point in the period, the Flyers had been held to just 3 shots to the Wild’s 10. That’s likely not good, but we already know they aren’t good, so is anything a surprise anymore?

Something truly special went down at the 15:28 mark, and of course I am speaking again of Patrick, who was feeling himself something fierce in this period. A wrist shot through the legs at a difficult angle would fool Dubnyk, and for the first time of the night, the Flyers took the lead. Hey, it feels neat to say that.

This Wild team was clearly frustrated, and I can’t fully blame them. Imagine stomping into Philadelphia thinking we’re an easy bunch to conquer, and then being faced with an all-of-a-sudden explosive offense, getting creative and all. I’d be furious. I’d feel cheated by God. Devan Dubnyk certainly does, and he let this cloud his judgment, as he made the ill-advised move to hit Laughton up high after a whistle. Buddy, I wouldn’t do that if I were you. Laughton isn’t the type to retaliate in-game; he’s more the sort to play the long game, waiting many years for Dubnyk to feel safe and comfortable, until ultimately framing him for his own murder, Neil Patrick Harris getting involved, the works.

With great delight I must share that I am imagining Scott Laughton’s deep, emotionless monotone delivering the “Cool Girl” monologue from Gone Girl. I hope someone in the Flyers social media team somehow reads this article and gives me what I desperately deserve.

Even though I was privately enjoying my own jokes in my head, the hockey game actually decided to continue without my full attention. Both Laughton and Dubnyk would take penalties here, Laughton for interference and Dubnyk for roughing, sending us to some 4-on-4 hockey with, fittingly, just over four minutes left on the board.

Both teams would get a few good looks here, but it wasn’t until the very last few moments of the period that anything would get through at either end. With only five seconds left to go, Wayne Simmonds got another past Dubnyk on a feed from Laughton. What a treat.

AFTER TWO: 5-3 Flyers, shots 24-20 Wild

Going into the third, I have to admit that my confidence in this team’s ability to actually finish out on a good note was low. I have been trained into pessimism by these boys, like they have sufficiently drained me of my hope and good faith. Hey, I’m only human.

Boudreau made the decision to relieve Dubnyk during intermission, and a fella I’ve never heard of named Alex Stalock would come in to take his place. I had no idea if this was good! It seemed likely to be bad, as the Flyers love nothing more than to under-perform when faced with nameless back-up goaltenders, but sure, I’d love to get wild here. (Get it? Wild? Haha.)

The game as a whole could not be described as “refined” but it definitely has been entertaining to watch. The third period was no exception. Both teams looked clunky on defense, but they managed to trade looks at both ends of the ice. For the Flyers, it seemed that bounces were just going their way, and luck was on their side. You know, sometimes we deserve that. Don’t you think you deserve something nice every once in a while? You’re a hard worker, and you’re doing the best you can, and the Eagles just got knocked out of the playoffs, and it’s been so cold out lately, and I don’t know about you, but seasonal depression has been brutally kicking my ass. Let’s just enjoy this game. Let’s just have some fun with it.

Anyway, right. Giroux would be sent to the box at 6:01 for hooking.

It’s not news that the Flyers penalty kill has improved significantly since Dave Hakstol’s firing, but you really get a good look at it when you’re seeing it face a top-10 power play. For the most part the Wild were efficiently stifled, save for a short flurry of shots right at the end of the man advantage.

Shortly after the return to full-strength, however, karma or kismet or whatever would get us back. A mess of bodies in front of Hart’s net right at the eight minute mark wound up in a goal by Ryan Suter that was instantly waved off by the linesman, on account of Eric Staal completely bowling over Carter Hart right before the goal. Bruce Boudreau, looking positively incensed, decided to challenge the call on the ice, arguing that Robert Hagg pushed Staal into Hart to begin with. The refs marinated on this for some time, but ultimately they gave the goal back, or whatever. One-goal game. Hagg looked absolutely at peace with this turn of events.

The Simmonds-Laughton-Patrick line, which has been absolutely whipping ass tonight if you haven’t realized by now, took it upon themselves to get us another one back. An effort by Laughton and Patrick to get the puck to Simmonds on a breakaway was a fruitful endeavor, and what a treat it is to see some vintage Wayne. Back to a two-goal lead at 10:43. What is this thing you call “offense?”

A hooking penalty assessed to Suter at 12:23 put the Flyers back on the power play, which was just fine, and not particularly great. Although it’s a little unideal to be praising your goaltender during a power play, it’s worth mentioning here that since the first period, Carter Hart has played quite well. He came back from a couple should’ve-had-them goals, and stayed pretty calm to close out the game. That’s something you want from your goalie; not just the ability to make saves, but the ability to stay calm when things don’t go your way. A 2-on-1 shorthanded opportunity by the Wild was quickly stifled by Hart, and it was comforting to see.

With just over three minutes left in the game, Stalock went to the bench for the extra attacker. It did look for a second there like the Wild were going to score, which would have not been fun for me personally, but as was the story for most of the night, they could not hold onto the puck and ended up giving it to Giroux. Wasting no time, Giroux pushed the puck ahead for van Riemsdyk who put it in the net for the hat trick. Hey, he’s scoring goals now, guys.

Hagg took a tripping penalty with under a minute left in the period, but no one looked worried here, and for good reason. That’s game, folks.

AFTER THREE: 7-4 Flyers, shots 38-27 Wild