Flyers-Bruins: Postgame Review
Just when it looked like the Flyers were doomed to lose another point at the hand of the Bruins, the captain swooped in and saved the day.
As the final week of the season begins, Claude Giroux is putting the finishing touches on a career year that hit new heights on Sunday, as he not only surpassed his career high in points, but goals as well in the Flyers 4-3 overtime win over the Bruins.
Let's jump right in with our Postgame Review.
- O Captain, My Captain - What a game and what a season for Claude Giroux. The Flyers have inched closer to the playoffs as a result of Giroux's heroic. If Giroux's name wasn't in the mix for the Hart before, it should be now.The two goals gave Giroux 29 on the season. That's a new career high. His first goal set a new career high in points which was increased to 95 by the end of the game. That's 29 goals, 66 assists and 95 points. What a season.
Giroux doesn't seem to get noticed when it comes to the rest of the league, but his 95 points are now tied for third in the NHL with Evgeni Malkin, two behind Nikita Kucherov and eight behind Connor McDavid. Giroux seldom gets a mention behind those three superstars.
In this game, it was Giroux's leadership that showed through. Right from the start, Giroux looked determined in warmups, almost frustrated that a game like this could hold such meaning, but with an intensity that said this game was going to go in the Flyers favor no matter what. When the Flyers nearly let that slip away, there was Giroux, on the ice for the key moment of the game.
- Kids Showcase - Giroux may have played hero, but the kids were just flat out showing off in this game.First, Travis Konecny. This kid has all the makings of one of his counterparts for Boston in Brad Marchand. Konecny is very much a rat in his own right, getting under the skin of the opposition with a combination of speed and skill that can be lethal.
Remember early in the season when Konecny just wasn't finishing? He had three goals in his first 29 games. His highlight-reel goal, arguably the goal of the year for the Flyers, was his 24th of the season.
Konecny is a second-year player though, so we've seen the raw talent come together as the year has progressed. The Flyers third goal was a showcase of two rookies only scratching the surface.
I'm not sure what part of the goal is prettier -- the finish by Nolan Patrick or the saucer pass by Oskar Lindblom that set it up. Either way, this is a 20-year-old setting up a 19-year-old for a goal that will be seen on a loop for a long time as well. To think this is only the beginning for all three of these players, all at such a young age with such bright futures in the NHL.
- The Tying Goal - The Flyers had this game won in regulation. They really did.As the Bruins tied the game on Patrice Bergeron's goal, this wasn't the case of the Flyers defending poorly, being out of gas or a soft goal allowed by a goaltender. This was a fundamental mistake that can't happen with veteran players on the ice.
First, Wayne Simmonds has the puck on his stick maybe 10 feet from exiting the zone. At that point, you don't have to carry it any further. Just clear the zone. He didn't and was poke-checked by David Krejci. Puck stays in.
From there, two more attempts by the Flyers were also kept in. The puck hits Jori Lehtera's skate and almost goes out before the stick of Marchand saves it. Then Andrew MacDonald's clear hit Lehtera and stayed in. Three failed clears.
The puck goes to David Backes, who actually tries to center for Marchand at the front of the net. It hits a skate and goes right to the tape of Bergeron. There was no hesitation on the shot -- just throw it on goal. Tie game with 3.8 seconds left.
The Flyers had their behinds saved by the captain in overtime, because if that was the reason for a point lost, it wouldn't be sitting well with anybody. Let's look at all aspects of this.
The personnel on the ice -- Simmonds, Lehtera, Valtteri Filppula, MacDonald and Brandon Manning -- are all on the ice because MacDonald had iced the puck with 26 seconds left. The Flyers never got a clear to be able to change lines.
That actually didn't matter, because with less than 10 seconds to go, the puck is on Simmonds' stick with the opportunity to clear. If it gets out of the zone, it's essentially game over. Not only did Simmonds fail to clear, but two more attempts were kept as well. Then the puck hits a skate too.
It was the perfect storm of unfortunate events that could all have been prevented by one simple play by a veteran player who knows better than to try to make a play for an empty-net goal.
- Mrazek Much Better - Whatever it was between his last few starts and entering Wednesday's game in relief of Michal Neuvirth, a more confident Petr Mrazek has emerged in his last two appearance.After make 17 saves in the last half of the win in Colorado, Mrazek made 36 saves in the win on Sunday, several of them worthy of the highlight reel as well. There was certainly none bigger than his glove save on David Pastrnak in the first period. Just after Mrazek made that save, the Flyers scored to take the lead, a big momentum shift in the game.
Mrazek overall just looked much more composed, which is certainly a good thing as the playoffs near. While the Flyers wait and see how Neuvirth progresses and if and when Brian Elliott is able to return, Mrazek should get at least two more looks in the final three games just as a warmup for the playoffs.
- Playoff Atmosphere - Speaking of playoffs, the Flyers magic number to clinch a spot with the win is down to three with three games to play, so they are virtually in already and just need to finalize things over the next few days. The crowd at Wells Fargo Center, though mixed with scatterings of Bruins fans, was certainly ready for some meaningful hockey into the spring months.The game as a whole carried a playoff feel -- close all the way through, tight-checking, dazzling performances and stand-out plays. Chances are the Flyers and Bruins will not cross paths in the first round of the playoffs, but it would certainly be an exciting series.
For now, the win keeps the Flyers in the first wildcard spot, which would set up a date with the Capitals. But the Flyers are also now tied for third in the Metro with Columbus and two points behind the Penguins. Why is this significant? Washington and Pittsburgh play each other on Sunday night, where a win for the Capitals would lock up the division title. Pittsburgh and Columbus play each other on Thursday night, in what could be a battle for home ice in the 2-3 Metro matchup or be a battle for third place. Those two games will determine how the playoff picture truly shakes out.
The Flyers in the meantime will have three games against non-playoff teams -- the Islanders, Hurricanes and Rangers. So there are still points up for grabs and it is not out of the realm of possibilities for the Flyers to be the hosting team in a playoff series. A lot would have to happen, but it is possible.
Ultimately, another win drew the Flyers closer to clinching, and that's all that matters for now. Get in first, then worry about the opponent.
Kevin Durso is Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.