Inside the Flyers' seven-game home winning streak

Inside the Flyers' seven-game home winning streak

Lately, it may seem like the Philadelphia Flyers have been on the road for an eternity.  You’re not crazy if you think that way because the Flyers basically have been on the road for the last month.

The Orange and Black have played nine of their last twelve games away from Wells Fargo Center and have dropped the last four of those nine games.

But on the rare occasion the Flyers have been home recently, they’ve been damn good. Try like seven straight wins at home good.

Granted the wins have been spread out over the course of about six weeks, but the Flyers have won seven straight games on Wells Fargo Center ice. It’s the team’s longest home winning streak since they won eight in a row in South Philly from Dec. 9, 2008 to Jan. 10, 2009.

The current streak started way back on Nov. 9 with a 4-2 win over Edmonton. You may remember that Saturday afternoon matinee as the game where Claude Giroux finally scored his first goal of the season and the team responded from a demoralizing, 3-0 shutout at the hands of New Jersey in their previous game.

The comfy stretch of home cooking has included wins over Ottawa, Buffalo, the New York Islanders, Winnipeg, Montreal and Tuesday’s 5-2 win over Washington. Not the sexiest teams the NHL has to offer and only Montreal and Washington really pose a legitimate threat according to the standings, but, hey, a seven-game home winning streak is a seven-game home winning streak. Am I right?

But why have the Flyers been so good at home recently after starting the campaign 2-7 on home ice?

Let’s start with the goaltending.

Steve Mason has been in net for six of the seven games. In those games, he’s allowed just 10 goals total on 171 shots faced. If my math is correct, that’s good for a 1.42 goals-against average and a .947 save percentage. Not too shabby, Mr. Mason.

Ray Emery started the Nov. 21 game against Buffalo and allowed just one Sabres goal on 30 shots faced in a 4-1 Flyers win.

It’s fair to say that type of spectacular goaltending has been the backbone of the Orange and Black’s recent home success.

The much-maligned Flyers’ offense has done its part, too.

During this seven-game streak, the Flyers have scored 27 goals. That’s an average of 3.85 goals per game and quite a bump for a team that enters Thursday in the bottom third of the league with just 2.35 goals scored per game.

The offensive effort has been spread throughout the team, too.

Starting with Jay Rosehill’s – yes, that Jay Rosehill – goal in the first period of the Edmonton game, 13 different Flyers have scored those 27 goals. Matt Read leads the way with five while Giroux is right behind him with four. Headed by Jake Voracek with five to his name, 16 different Flyers have recorded an assist. Giroux and Voracek lead the way with eight points each during the streak.

That’s what is known as an all-around offensive effort.

The Flyers will look to make it eight in a row at home tonight when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets, a new Metropolitan Division foe. Because Columbus, Ohio is so metropolitan, but I digress. It’ll be the start of another home-and-home series. The return match will take place Saturday night in Columbus.

The Blue Jackets – who sit two points behind the Flyers in the Metropolitan standings - have been able to hold their heads above water despite injuries to key players like sniper Marian Gaborik, free-agent acquisition Nathan Horton and reigning Vezina Trophy-winner - and No. 1 goaltender in your hearts – Sergei Bobrovsky.

Don’t worry, guys. Bob won’t be able to stick it to the Flyers tonight because he’s still slated to be out a few more weeks with a groin injury.  Something called a Curtis McElhinney will start between the pipes for the Jackets.

Look out for the young talent the Blue Jackets feature in forwards like leading-scorer Ryan Johansen and Cam Atkinson and defensemen Jack Johnson and Ryan Murray.

As far as the Flyers are concerned, Mason will start for the first time against his former team. And somehow, someway Brayden Schenn will play after taking that frightening hit from the Captials’ Tom Wilson the other night. With as ugly as that was, it’s almost a small Christmas miracle he’s ready to play.

In case you were wondering, the Flyers franchise record for a home winning streak is 20 games during the 1975-76 season.

Only 13 more to go!

But that might take awhile because they leave for another six-game road trip after Monday’s game against visiting Minnesota.

Stupid Disney On Ice.

NHL Notes: Rangers' Kevin Hayes out 2-3 weeks with lower-body injury

NHL Notes: Rangers' Kevin Hayes out 2-3 weeks with lower-body injury

NEW YORK -- New York Rangers forward Kevin Hayes will miss two to three weeks with a lower-body injury.

The team announced the timeline Monday after Hayes underwent an MRI in the morning. Hayes left the Rangers' game Sunday against the Detroit Red Wings during the second period.

Hayes had seven points in his previous six games and is third on the team in points with 35. The 24-year-old has 13 goals and 22 assists in 47 games this season.

His injury is a major blow to New York, which holds the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. The silver lining for the Rangers is that Hayes will miss fewer games because of the upcoming All-Star break.

Senators sign Zack Smith to 4-year, $13 million extension
OTTAWA, Ontario -- The Ottawa Senators have signed forward Zack Smith to a four-year contract extension worth $13 million.

The Senators said that the extension goes through the 2020-21 season and carries an annual average value of $3.25 million.

Smith, 28, has 11 goals and 11 assists in 43 games this season and is averaging a career-high 16 minutes, 13 seconds per game.

He set career highs with 25 goals and 36 points in 2015-16. He has 75 goals and 61 assists in 443 games, all with the Senators.

Smith was Ottawa's third-round pick (79th overall) in the 2008 draft.

Stay or Go Part 8: Ryan Mathews to Steven Means

Stay or Go Part 8: Ryan Mathews to Steven Means

In the eighth of our 12-part offseason series examining the future of the Eagles, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro give their opinions on who will be and who won't be on the roster in 2017. We go alphabetically — Part 8 is Mathews to Means.

Ryan Mathews
Cap hit: $5M

Roob: The Eagles have to get better, younger, faster, healthier, more durable and more reliable at running back. I love the way Mathews runs when he’s healthy. The guy runs hard and he runs physical and he's aggressive. Then he always gets hurt. Mathews actually has the third-highest per-carry average among running backs in Eagles history, but they just can’t rely on him anymore. How can you count on a running back who misses significant time every year? Time to move on. Factor in the cap savings — $4 million if the Eagles release him — and it’s a no-brainer.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: The Eagles can save $4 million in cap room to cut the running back who needed serious neck surgery after his season was ended in the Giants' game. Mathews played pretty well in his two seasons with the Eagles, but, as has been the case during his career, health was an issue. And now he’s 29 and will turn 30 early into next season. Time to move on. 

Verdict: GOES

Jordan Matthews
Cap hit: $1.57M

Roob: Matthews is going into Year 4 and I’d still like to see him make a jump and become a 1,200-yard type of receiver. Maybe it will happen with another year under his belt with Carson Wentz. Matthews has the 11th-most catches in NFL history by a player in his first three seasons — 225, or 75 per year — but his 2,673 yards are 50th most. Matthews is as hard a worker and as committed a player as you’ll see. He'll get the most out of his ability. I’d just like to see him take his game up one more level, and I think he will.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: It’s a shame the Eagles don’t have any legitimate threats at their outside receiver positions, because if they did, so much of the burden wouldn’t fall on Matthews. No, he’s not a great receiver, but he’s a very good one who has been solid in his first three years in the league. In his first three seasons, Matthews has 225 catches for 2,673 yards and 19 touchdowns. There have been just 10 receivers in the league to put up those numbers or better: Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Demaryius Thomas, Odell Beckham Jr., DeAndre Hopkins, Emmanuel Sanders, Doug Baldwin, Mike Evans, Randall Cobb and Brandon Marshall. Matthews isn’t going anywhere and it’s time to think about an extension. 

Verdict: STAYS

Alex McCalister
Cap hit: $557K

Roob: McCalister, a seventh-round defensive end, spent the year on injured reserve but considering the Eagles’ lack of pass-rush potency, he’ll definitely get a look this summer. McCalister had 17½ sacks at Florida, so he’s got that going for him. Still a long shot.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: This is tough because McCalister was a seventh-round draft pick who was placed on IR with a injury that didn’t appear to be serious. The last year was a redshirt season for the defensive end who has some pass-rush ability but needed to work on packing more muscle onto his frame. Haven’t seen enough to think he sticks. 

Verdict: GOES

Leodis McKelvin
Cap hit: $3.45M

Roob: The Eagles have to do better than McKelvin. He made a few plays, gave up a lot more, and as far as I’m concerned, the Eagles should hang onto Jalen Mills and get rid of all their other corners. Not to mention the $3.2 million in cap savings the Eagles would gain if McKelvin is released. See ya.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: The Eagles can save $3.2 million by cutting McKelvin, which will probably happen. If it doesn’t, it’ll be because the Eagles think his lingering hamstring issue played a big role in his play and because defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz goes to bat for him. Ultimately, I think McKelvin’s days in Philly are over. 

Verdict: GOES

Rodney McLeod
Cap hit: $5.6M

Roob: McLeod played really well most of the season, tailed off the last few weeks, and goes into next year a question mark because of that inconsistency. When he’s right, McLeod is a sure tackler, willing run supporter, big hitter and capable in coverage. But those last few weeks raised some eyebrows. There were times you just wondered what he was doing out there. If the Eagles can have the first-10-games McLeod for a full season, they’re fine. But he has to be consistent. He’ll be here through 2017 but after that is anybody’s guess. Another mixed year will likely spell the end here for McLeod.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: There were a few plays that showed questionable effort from McLeod this season, which was shocking based on his past. He was an undrafted rookie who worked his way into the league and into a contract with the Eagles. This ended up being a pretty good signing; he had a nice season. He’s under contract through 2020 and the Eagles hope he hasn’t yet fulfilled his potential. He and Malcolm Jenkins should only get better after more time playing together. 

Verdict: STAYS

Steven Means
Cap hit: $690K

Roob: Means, a veteran journeyman defensive end, played only 36 snaps all year. He did pick up one sack against the Vikings, but as far as his future? Most likely, he won’t be back.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: Means did everything in his power last training camp to make the 2016 roster. He flashed every day and in the preseason games. But in 2016, he didn’t get to play very much and was clearly buried on the depth chart behind Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry and Marcus Smith. The Eagles need to upgrade at the defensive end spot, which might be bad news for Means if more bodies come in. But for now, he's a good depth piece. 

Verdict: STAYS