Craig Berube could not have scripted it any better.
Go into the Olympic break with his players feeling good about themselves and their game. Go in with a four-game winning streak. Go in having tightened things up defensively.
And finally, go in with strong solid goaltending from both Steve Mason and Ray Emery.
That’s precisely how things unfolded for the Flyers, who disposed the Calgary Flames, 2-1, Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center in a matinee (see Instant Replay).
“You know, it’s good,” Wayne Simmonds said. “Obviously we have a good feeling going into the break and that’s what we wanted. We have a lot of time off and we’ve got to make sure we’re responsible and come back hard.”
Simmonds’ entire line was dominant in the game. Brayden Schenn had one goal -- and oodles of chances -- while the unit with Vinny Lecavalier cranked out eight shots.
Meanwhile, Ray Emery, who had not started a game since Jan. 23, picked up his seventh win with a strong 32-save performance (see story).
“He played awesome for us today,” Simmonds said. “I think he’s played great every start. I’m just happy today we played for him and we had a better game.”
Calgary’s lone goal in the waning minutes appeared to be offsides before the puck even went in the net for Matt Stajan’s redirect. It should have been a shutout for Emery.
Schenn, who picked up his first goal in seven games, had three excellent scoring chances in a dull first period that ended 0-0. He stayed within his game and plugged away on goalie Reto Berra.
“Yeah, no frustration,” Schenn said. “I think you start to get frustrated or start to worry when the chances don’t come. As long as the chances come eventually it’s going to go in, and tonight it did.”
The young centerman came into the game with just a single point in his last 10 games -- a goal on Jan. 23 at Columbus.
“I had quite a few opportunities, not just me but our whole line,” Schenn said. “And we’re lucky we got one. We feel like we’ve been getting chances as of late. Games before this they just weren’t going in so it’s nice to get one.”
If there any concerns -- and there were -- about the Flyers pushing through this game, keeping the focus, and not looking toward the break, they were answered.
Bob Hartley’s club made it a grind game, start to finish, and the Flyers responded to the work at hand.
“Mentally, it’s a little bit tougher just to be ready,” team captain Claude Giroux said. “You just have to stay focused on what you have to do and I think we did a good job of that.
“We just stay with a system. We won a lot of battles. I think that was always one thing before the road trip -- make sure we win more battles and work more together, and I think we did that.”
Giroux, incidentally, appeared to have scored his 20th goal of the season for the eventual game-winner at 4:04 of the second period. After the game, the goal was credited to Scott Hartnell on a tip.
One minor injury. Defenseman Nick Grossmann suffered a shoulder injury, sources said, in the second period and did not play, as a precaution, in the third period.
“He’s fine,” was all Berube would say.
The bad news is that the Flyers now have a long Olympic break to contend with and it will certainly impact team given how well they’ve played. The momentum will fade.
“Yeah we’re playing good,” Giroux agreed. “[Today] we did a lot of good things I think for sixty minutes but Ray Emery played unbelievable. He’s one of the reasons why we won.”
When the Flyers return at month’s end, the roughest part of their travel schedule is all behind them as they play 14 of their final 23 games at home.
“I think the team is getting comfortable with the way we are expected to play,” Emery said. “I think the rest of the year is not so much easier, but you get into the playoff battles and you get those competitive juices flowing.
“I think the tough part is out of the way, the tough months are normally January and February and it gets a bit long.”
Berube said the Flyers need to be mentally focused when the puck drops against San Jose on Feb. 27.
“Home or on the road, in this league you got to ready to go,” he said. “Teams are going to come in here looking for points. It will be tough. Guys have to be ready. We got to play hard and be sharp every night.”