Sticking to the game plan key to Flyers' win
Wayne Simmonds has nine goals in his last nine games. (USA Today Images)
All aboard! The Wayne Train is coming through.
Over the past month, there hasn't been a hotter Flyer -- or maybe even NHLer -- in front of the opposition's net than Wayne Simmonds. The gritty forward has collected at least one point in eight of his last nine games and has potted nine goals during that span.
Simmonds is a major reason why the Flyers are headed back East having earned eight of 10 points on their West Coast swing.
“We played the majority of the teams in the West [earlier] when we were struggling,” Simmonds said (see story). “We’ve gotten a lot of confidence since then. Playing a lot better hockey. We’ve been resilient of late.”
Simmonds, who has a team-high 14 tallies, will look to continue his strong play when the Flyers wrap up their six-game road trip in New Jersey on Tuesday.
With that in mind, here are a few other storylines we'll be following this week:
Goals were at a premium for the orange and black earlier this season -- they averaged just 1.47 per game through the first 15 games -- but their forwards have come alive as of late.
After Saturday's 5-3 win over the Phoenix Coyotes, the Flyers now have five players -- Simmonds, Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Brayden Schenn and Matt Read -- with 10 or more markers this season.
That number could change as early as Tuesday. Vinny Lecavalier and Scott Hartnell each have nine goals and Sean Couturier is right behind them with seven.
Climbing the standings
Believe it or not, the Flyers woke up Sunday morning in second place in the Metropolitan Division.
Let that sink in for a second. The Flyers, who got off to the worst start in franchise history (1-7-0) and saw head coach Peter Laviolette get fired after just three games, trail only the Pittsburgh Penguins for the top seed in the division.
Granted, the Penguins have a 17-point cushion on the Flyers, but it's still remarkable to think of how far the team has come in such a short period of time.
It's also a testament to how weak the Metro really is. The Flyers have the same amount of points as the Washington Capitals (46), but hold the second spot because they have more wins (21).
Not far behind are the New York Rangers (44 points), Carolina Hurricanes (43) and Devils (42). Heck, the second-to-last place Columbus Blue Jackets are only six points back from the Flyers and Caps. This will only get more fun to track as the season progresses.
The Flyers have a pair of back-to-backs this week.
They'll finish up their trip in New Jersey on Tuesday before returning to Wells Fargo Center, where they have won nine consecutive contests, on Wednesday for a matchup with the Montreal Canadiens.
The Flyers will play a second straight game at home when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning in a Saturday matinee. Then it's back on the road to face the rival Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Sunday evening.
Players to watch for
New Jersey: What more can be said about Jaromir Jagr? The ageless wonder is having a spectacular year for the offensively-challenged Devils. New Jersey's woes were to be expected after Ilya Kovalchuk's departure, but Jagr has actually filled in admirably. The 41-year-old has 13 goals and 34 points to lead the Devils in scoring.
Montreal: Let's go with another former Flyer. Danny Briere's first year with the Canadiens hasn't gone according to plan. He suffered a concussion that cost him 10 games and has been a healthy scratch at times. But he showed signs of a turnaround on Saturday. No. 48 netted two goals and assisted one more against Ottawa.
Tampa Bay: The Lightning are still without Steven Stamkos. You know what that means: Keep an eye on Martin St. Louis. The speedy forward is leading Tampa in scoring with 38 points (17 goals) and is a certified Flyers killer. In 44 games against the orange and black, St. Louis has recorded 14 goals and 43 assists.
New York: Here's a no-brainer. The Flyers will be facing one of the best netminders in the world if Henrik Lundqvist is between the pipes next Sunday. "King Henrik" hasn't had the best season statistically -- he has a 12-16-2 record with a .905 save percentage and 2.78 goals-against average -- but the Swede always seems to give the Flyers fits.