A look at the Philadelphia Flyers’ 4-1 victory over the league-leading St. Louis Blues on Saturday afternoon at Wells Fargo Center from the perspective of two players and one whistle-happy referee.
You guys smell that? That smells like a five-game winning streak, all against some of the best the NHL has to offer.
3. Francois St. Laurent
If you didn’t know that St. Laurent is a NHL referee before Saturday afternoon’s game, you certainly do now because it seemed like he was blowing his whistle every 10 seconds to call another penalty.
All told, St. Laurent and his partner Gene Hebert called 18 minor penalties – four of which were on Flyers captain Claude Giroux alone. But St. Laurent was the ref making most of the calls and skating over to the penalty boxes to announce them.
Two of the best and hottest teams in the NHL met on Saturday at Wells Fargo Center. Let ‘em play, ref.
That said, the Flyers’ penalty kill units were great yet again as they held the Blues, who entered the game with the seventh-best power play in the league, scoreless on six chances with the man advantage. That’s now 27 of the last 28 power plays against that the Flyers have killed off.
2. Steve Mason
There have been times this season when Mason hasn’t been great but his teammates picked him with some offense. And there have been times this season when Mason has had to stand on his head to help his team hang on to a lead.
Saturday was an example of the latter.
Mason made 32 saves to earn the victory. He came up especially huge in the third period when his team clung to a slim lead.
First, he made a great glove save on a shot from the point by St. Louis defenseman Alex Pietrangelo as the teams played 4-on-4. Then, with St. Louis on the power play, Mason stopped forward Derek Roy on the doorstep three times, the last of which may have been the netminder’s best save of the day as he snatched Roy’s opportunity out of the air while sprawled across the goal line.
The Flyers really needed Mason on Saturday as they were outshot 33-19 for the game and smothered by the Blues for the better parts of the first and third periods. In that third period, the Flyers were outshot 11-3 but Mason had every answer for those 11 third-period shots. It doesn’t hurt that two of the Flyers three third-period shots found the back of the net courtesy of Jake Voracek and an empty-netter by Wayne Simmonds.
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1. Scott Hartnell
Much like this past Tuesday when the Blackhawks were in town, the Flyers needed a spark after a lackluster start to the game. And much like this past Tuesday, Hartnell was there to provide it.
After the Flyers were swamped by the Blues for most of the opening stanza and found themselves down at intermission, Hartnell took a centering pass from Voracek and beat newly-acquired Blues goalie Ryan Miller for a power-play goal to knot the game at one just 57 seconds into the second period.
It was a goal that allowed the Flyers to get their feet back under themselves and get some confidence that would show throughout the rest of the period. They carried play in the second period and would eventually get another goal from Brayden Schenn that would stick as the game-winner.
With the Blues pressing again late in the third and the Flyers holding onto a 2-1 lead, Hartnell got in on the forecheck, caused a turnover and then sent puck over to Giroux, who fed Voracek for a huge insurance goal on one of the Flyers’ rare shots in the third. Without Hartnell’s hard work and forechecking, the goal likely never would have happened and who knows where things would have gone from there with how hard the Blues were pressing?
It was a hard-nosed, physical game so it shouldn’t be a surprise that Hartnell made an impact on Saturday afternoon.
That’s now six points – four goals and two assists – for Hartnell over the team’s current five-game winning streak. He’s stepping his game up at the right time.
In a week of statement wins, Saturday afternoon’s win over the NHL-best Blues may have been the biggest statement the Flyers have made. It may not always be pretty, but this team is getting the job done against the best teams in the league. The rest of the NHL is officially on notice because the Flyers look like they are for real.