They have transformed themselves on home ice.
They’ve gone from a team that lost seven of its first nine home games to a team that has won nine straight at the Wells Fargo Center, matching their win streak of October 2005, following a 4-1 win over Minnesota on Monday night (see Instant Replay).
It’s a big reason why the Flyers go into the Christmas break over .500 at 17-16-4 and with a hold of a playoff spot as the third team in the Metropolitan Division.
“We wanted to end this Christmas break off with a big win -- a lot of smiles on our faces,” Scott Hartnell said. “We have a lot of pride to wear the orange jersey in this building. We came out flying, came out hard.
“Two games ago, we had an epic win here [over Columbus]. We’re finding different ways here. We came out tonight and played a solid 20 minutes where we were hard on the puck and didn’t stop. We kept going.”
The Flyers' home record is now 11-7 -- a far cry from what it was a while ago.
“In the beginning, I think we played better on the road than at home,” Jakub Voracek said. “But it switched. Now we have to find that level to get some points on the road. It’s what we got to do. Make teams earn wins here.
“When I came here a long time ago with Columbus, this was a tough building to win in. That’s what we got to do. Make them a little bit scared before the game. Make sure they earn that win.”
Goalie Steve Mason notices the difference at home.
“There definitely is a sense of confidence playing at home," he said. "First, you are staying at your own house, sleeping in your own bed, so that is nice to get a little better rest.
"And you play in front of home fans and you don’t have to deal with the opposition’s fans. You have that sense of confidence, and we have been able to take advantage lately and that’s probably the reason we have been able to climb out of the hole we were in. We just have to make sure we are carrying it onto the road trip.”
Indeed, the Flyers haven’t been very good away from home, going 6-9-4 on the season with an ongoing five-game losing streak (0-3-2) on the road.
“We’ve obviously changed some things up,” Hartnell said. “I think it took a little while to learn how to play the right way and I know no one doesn’t want to let anyone down in here. Turning the puck over, making soft plays and you’re accountable to your teammates, the guy next to you in the dressing room. You play hard, you play smarter.
“We have to eliminate some simple penalties that we’ve been taking lately. It’s been a lot of fun here at home and we got to take this show on the road.”
Coach Craig Berube isn’t quite sure what changed on home ice, but clearly the Flyers' focus to generate some home momentum seems to have carried over along with the fact they’ve started to score goals here. That’s boosted the confidence factor all-around.
“I look back on some of the games and they were there to be won, and we just didn’t do it,” Berube said.
“I look back on that road trip coming back, coming out of Dallas and coming out of Chicago we were up 1-0 and things are fine, and all of a sudden come out for the second period and have a collapse.
“On the road, we tend to not push the issue enough at certain times and end up letting our guard down a bit and getting down a goal or two and that’s tough on the road.
“We got to do a better job of keep playing and doing the same things. Don’t get away from the system or what you are doing. Stay on it. Play a little smarter and stay out of the penalty box. We still have to do a better job at that, including tonight.”
It’s hard to get overly excited by a goal from a player who had scored just once in his previous 17 games.
Maybe there’s something to having Travis Konecny out there on the ice force-feeding Brayden Schenn with pucks.
Schenn got bounced off another top line recently by coach Dave Hakstol — just as he was bounced around the lineup under Peter Laviolette and Craig Berube.
You never know where "Schenner" is going to land.
Yet Konecny has taken to heart how he might get Schenn going and unleash all those goals in his stick.
Saturday’s splendid pass to his new centerman that made mincemeat out of Blackhawks defensemen Trevor Van Riemsdyk and Michal Kempny was the decisive blow in the Flyers' 3-1 victory over Chicago (see Instant Replay).
That’s now four wins in succession for Hakstol’s club.
“I watched a lot of video before the game,” Konecny said. “I know that their defense dives in at you, then backs off and give you some space. When I stopped there, the defenseman did exactly what I thought. It opened up a lane to Schenner.”
Schenn took his pass in full stride and flipped it over Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling for what was the Flyers’ third goal on just their fourth shot of the second period.
“TK sees the ice pretty well, no doubt about that,” Schenn said. “Small guy who can make plays in tight spaces and you could see on that goal. Give him just a little bit of room and he’ll take advantage of it. Nice pass. A great playmaker.”
Hakstol has noticed.
“That was a good speed play by both of them,” Hakstol said. “Getting up ice and a good play by TK to get him the puck and then a great finish.
“Brayden didn’t have a whole lot of time or space to get that puck away. But he got it away and put it in the one spot where their goaltender couldn’t get a piece of it.”
The only thing Darling expected to get a piece of in this game was the bench. He became an unexpected starter in the morning, as Corey Crawford underwent emergency appendectomy surgery during the game.
The second period began with the Flyers trailing, 1-0, but quickly turned around with two goals in 31 seconds from another rookie — defenseman Ivan Provorov (see 10 observations).
“Score one goal in a game, that’s a pretty good feeling and then score two in one shift, that’s pretty unbelievable,” the 19-year-old said.
Recall Provorov had a very forgettable minus-5 game in October against the 'Hawks at United Center. He fared a tad better in this one.
“Keep everything in perspective,” Hakstol said. “From a night like that, he’s a guy who has continued to work at his game. He’s built it. He didn’t do a whole lot different tonight from his last 10 games. It was nice to see a couple pucks go in for him.”
Provorov also gave goalie Steve Mason an unwitting assist. Later that period, the 'Hawks thought they had scored on a net scrum.
The problem was, Provorov’s glove hand was hiding the puck in the net. Therefore on replay, it was inconclusive since the puck wasn’t visible.
“I just have to trust they obviously look at it real closely,” Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “We wanted the goal, but you just have to trust that they are doing everything. They obviously look at is as much as they can, so they know more than I do.”
The Flyers did a lot of things right in the opening period and still trailed, 1-0, outshooting the Hawks, 16-6, while outplaying them.
Artemi Panarin scored the lone goal for Chicago at 3:44 during a bizarre sequence in which the Flyers lost a faceoff, cleared the zone, but Duncan Keith sent it back in to Patrick Kane.
Kane threw it down the right boards for Artem Anisimov, who managed to suck all five Flyers to the right side, forcing a collision between Konecny and Michael Del Zotto as Anisimov threw a pass to the opposite circle for Panarin’s one-timer.
That was really the last time Mason had to worry about mix-ups or heavy traffic the rest of the game. The Flyers shut things down nicely in the final 10 minutes of the period, too.
“When you let an early goal in, the worst thing you can do is get away from your game plan,” Mason said.
“We stuck to ours, which is why we got the result there. Big second period with three goals. Overall, our effort was pretty high.”
It was the Ivan Provorov show at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday afternoon when the Flyers took down the NHL-leading Blackhawks, 3-1 (see Instant Replay).
The orange and black are now on a season-best four-game winning spree and have climbed past the Capitals for fourth place in the Metropolitan Division.
Let’s delve into the game with 10 observations.
1. Remember this? When Provorov tripped over his own two skates in Chicago? It was a bit of an embarrassing moment for the 19-year-old. It resulted in an easy Blackhawks goal and, in many ways, served as Provorov’s rookie initiation as he finished a minus-5. Well, you can forget all that. The Flyers’ young, prized blueliner, who entered with one goal in 25 games, showed Chicago his true colors Saturday by ripping off two markers in 31 seconds of the second period. Good for him.
2. Brayden Schenn was extra demonstrative after extending the Flyers’ lead to 3-1 in the second period. Can you blame him? The 25-year-old had just one goal in his last 17 games. Schenn has been up and down the lineup, playing on all four lines and at both wing and center. He looked good here with Travis Konecny, who delivered a surgical pass to set up Schenn.
3. Patrick Kane had a secondary assist but that was all as the Flyers kept him mostly quiet. Kane, a four-time All-Star and last season’s Hart Memorial Trophy winner for NHL MVP, had 24 points coming in, good for seventh in the league.
4. Steve Mason was good in net. He’s now won three straight, a span in which he’s stopped 90 of 95 shots.
5. Aside from a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty by Nick Cousins in the third period, the Flyers played with great discipline. Chicago wasn’t awarded any power plays until there was 6:31 left in the game. The Flyers forced the Blackhawks to beat them at full strength and they couldn’t.
6. Cousins, Chris VandeVelde and Michael Raffl all tallied an assist apiece. The Flyers outshot Chicago, 30-27, and had just seven giveaways.
7. The Blackhawks’ opening goal was a nice one. Artem Anisimov adeptly eluded a sliding Provorov in front of the crease and fed Artemi Panarin for a one-timer. Mason had no chance. Panarin, as you may know, beat out Shayne Gostisbehere for last season’s Calder Memorial Trophy given to the NHL’s top rookie. The 25-year-old has nine goals and 22 points this season.
8. Unexpectedly, Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford underwent an appendectomy at a Philadelphia hospital Saturday, putting Chicago in a bind. Second-string netminder Scott Darling received the start, but the Blackhawks needed an emergency backup. Enter the pride of Temple, Eric Semborski, a 23-year-old from Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, who played club hockey for the Owls. Chicago inked him to an amateur tryout, essentially for one day. He was seen in warmups wearing a Temple mask, which sported “Philly Proud” and “Temple Tuff.”
9. Chicago came in 13-3-2 since Oct. 28. However, the Blackhawks overall are 6-6-1 on the road compared to 10-1-2 at home. The Flyers did catch a break as Chicago was without Crawford and three-time All-Star Jonathan Toews (back). Still, a really good win for the Flyers against a team that was atop the NHL.
10. Wondering if there were any “woo” chants in the first home game since Jakub Voracek blasted fans for it? Well, only a select few had the audacity to try it but the woos never gained steam. Fans are past it.