Flyers Focus: Late Surge Snaps Streak of Overtime Ineptitude



Entering the third period Wednesday night at the TD Garden, the Flyers stared down the barrel at a 4-2 deficit.  In a building where the Orange and Black held a 1-7-2 record ever since Danny Briere‘s goal clinched the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 2010, a comeback seemed unlikely.

But there was noticeable jump from the opening faceoff of the period.  Dave Hakstol sent out Claude Giroux, Michael Raffl and Wayne Simmonds to start the third.  The trio combined for an intense forechecking shift, setting the tone for what was about to come.

Less than eight minutes into the period, Jakub Voracek‘s forecheck caused a turnover by Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask, Giroux got a feed in the slot and buried upstairs.  4-3.

Less than four minutes later, beautiful execution in transition led to a Simmonds tally.  Mark Streit sent a stretch pass to R.J. Umberger, who dropped it off to Simmonds with a full head of steam.  Simmonds fired over a diving Bruins defender and beat Rask to the glove side for his first of the season.  That knotted things up at four and looked similar to Sam Gagner‘s first period marker.  Get on your angle, Tuukka.

The Flyers’ overtime struggles are well documented at this point.  The last time the team won a game that featured bonus hockey occurred on Feb. 21 of last season, a shootout victory over the Nashville Predators.  Since that game, the Flyers failed to win in eight consecutive overtime/shootout opportunities.

The speed of Michael Del Zotto caused Ryan Spooner to take a hooking penalty in the extra stanza.  That was all the Flyers needed to set up the always pretty, game-ending one timer from Giroux.  His second of the game.


It was a night of slump-busting in Boston.  Giroux’s winner snapped the OTL streak and the win was the team’s first in Beantown since Opening Night of the 2011-12 season.  Here’s a breakdown of some key Flyers stats:


Philadelphia entered the game against the Bruins as the lowest-scoring team in the Eastern Conference.  With just 8 goals in the team’s first 5 games, offense looked like an issue.  The offense exploded for 5 goals in the win over Boston.  The most since another 5-4 win over the Islanders on April 7, 2015.


Michal Neuvirth’s shutout streak came to a halt Wednesday against the Bruins.  After consecutive shutouts in his first two starts with the Flyers, Brett Connolly capitalized on a Giroux turnover and beat Neuvirth.  The Czech netminder left the game early after taking a stick to the helmet on Patrice Bergeron‘s late power play goal in the first period.


During the offeseason, GM Ron Hextall paid Michael Del Zotto to be a top-pair defenseman.  The 25-year-old defender agreed to a 2-year, $7.75 million contract in July, making him a Flyer through the end of the 2016-17.  Thus far, Hakstol is utilizing one of his biggest blue line assets, as Del Zotto leads all skaters in average time on ice.  MDZ has an elite shot, which will translate into goals as the season grows older and is a force when using his speed and creativity on the power play.


Zac Rinaldo remains a scumbag.  Only now, he’s not our scumbag.  This high hit on Sean Couturier injured the Flyers center and will undoubtedly result in another call to Rinaldo from the league office.  Hakstol said after the contest that “there’s no place for” a hit like that.

Okay, Stevie Franchise might have given up a pair of second period softies…but this save was a game changer.  After the win, Giroux told reporters that this moment was a spark plug.

Personally, this approach is refreshing.  Hextall inherited a mess from former GM Paul Holmgren.  Considering Hextall waived big-money player Andrew MacDonald ($5 milion) and both Vincent Lecavalier ($4.6 million) and Luke Schenn ($3.6 million) have each been healthy scratches this season, it’s easy to believe that the team is following the philosophy.


Sandpaper Award – Jakub Voracek

Voracek’s gutsy efforts in the win over the Bruins was noticeable.  His strong forecheck helped set up Giroux’s first goal and his board work in overtime to get the puck to Mark Streit which led to the game-winner was excellent.

Best Bill Belichick Impersonation – Dave Hakstol

During his in-game interview with noted creep (fast forward to 1:45) Pierre McGuire, Hakstol did his best to not answer any of McGuire’s questions.  When asked about Michal Neuvirth’s stature, Hak totally deflected the question and gave virtually zero info.

Redemption Award – Claude Giroux

Giroux’s bad first period turnover led to a Boston goal, then a 4-minute high sticking penalty resulted in another Bruins tally. Twitter went nuts.  Giroux was the worst.

But Giroux responded, scoring twice to help propel the Flyers past Boston.


Don’t rest on your laurels for long, boys.  The big, bad Rangers are on their way to the Wells Fargo Center.  This will be the team’s only game of the weekend (Saturday, 7 PM).

This is another team that’s caused the Flyers problems: 5-14-0 over the last four regular seasons against the Blueshirts.

They’ll get thier first of five cracks at the reigning Eastern Conference Champions this weekend.  A win would be a big statement on home ice.