With their season on the line, the Flyers’ offense suddenly
came to life toward the end of March, averaging more than four goals per game
during a stretch where they grabbed nine points out of a possible 10. And with
their season still on the line, Philly’s offense just as abruptly went ice cold
less than two weeks ago, only able to muster three scores over a four-game
span, essentially eliminating the squad from playoff contention.
The combination of which makes their seven-goal outburst in
Montreal on Monday all the more perplexing – against the second-place team in
the East and one of the better defensive clubs in the NHL at that.
It was just another example of how maddening it has been to follow
the Orange & Black this season. On any given night we might be treated to hockey
at or near its highest level, but too often only for a period or two at a time,
and some nights not at all.
The ability is in there though, as evidenced in
their 7-3 win over the Canadiens.
Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 25 of 28 shots, getting stronger as
the contest went along, perhaps even making a couple of his toughest saves of
the season. With the bench shorthanded defensively due to injuries and numerous
penalties, Luke Schenn skated a career-high 33 minutes, continuing to prove he
can be relied upon to carry the load at the back end. And Claude Giroux and
Jakub Voracek each had a goal and two assists, the one top-line connection for
the Flyers that has yet to lose its luster.
Quite possibly the biggest difference between this outing
and the previous 40 was Scott Hartnell finally re-emerging as a
difference-maker. Hartsy banged home a hat trick, giving him just seven goals
for the season after netting a career-high 37 a year ago.
Of course it is a condensed schedule, plus Hartnell
did lose around one month to a foot injury.
Injuries have been a theme all season long though. Multiple
players were missing for stretches, which at this point includes nearly all of
their defensemen who began the season in Philadelphia. Nicklas Grossmann, Braydon
Coburn, Andrej Meszaros, and Bruno Gervais were scratches for Montreal, and the group was stretched further after Kent Huskins was knocked out of the game in the first period and
Kurtis Foster received a 10-minute misconduct for coming to his teammate’s aid.
Yet not everything is about who isn’t in the lineup.
Injuries only explain away some of the inconsistencies. Take the Flyers’ power
play for instance. At one point it had ascended to number one in the NHL, only
to go six consecutive games without lighting the lamp, streak they finally snapped by converting on 3 of 4 chances in the victory.
Both the first and second PP units have remained largely intact of late. Maybe it was nothing more than a slump. Whatever the reasoning, they were firing on all cylinders here.
The Flyers found a way to win this one – and big – even though the occasion provided a few excuses to fail. Sure, Carey
Price hasn’t been sharp in net recently for the Canadiens, but the Orange &
Black got to him, chased him from the game, then continued pouring it on. Seven
goals match Philly’s highest output of the year.
What the front office is going to have to figure out in what
will surely be a taxing offseason is what causes these rapid mood swings. During wings like this the Flyers' level of talent is on full display. Now how do they
go about sustaining it from one game – or even one period – to the next?
>> BOX SCORE [Flyers.com]
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