Flyers Continue to Show Strength of Team in Recent Wins
It went from what felt like a classic road Flyers start to a tie game in a matter of seconds. For nearly half the game, the Flyers were held at bay. They were prevented from getting many chances of quality. The Blue Jackets had emerged with a 3-1 lead.
Then, in a span of 1:26, the Flyers had tied the game, capped off by Claude Giroux’s power-play goal. Giroux sat on the bench following his goal with that look of determination in his eyes. It was a look that said there was no way the Flyers were losing this game. They didn’t, grabbing a 4-3 overtime win over the Blue Jackets to win both ends of a home-and-home.
That’s perhaps the biggest difference between the Flyers of this season and the Flyers of last season and years past. This team believes they are never out of a game. More times than not, they have risen to the occasion. There have been times when people want to pronounce them dead for a poor performance or a crushing loss, only to have them rise to the occasion the very next game.
It is a team that regularly shows the bond they have. Wins like this, where that team chemistry and camaraderie is on full display, couldn’t come at a better time. The trade deadline is Monday, and while making a run at this time can breed action and taking a shot at being more than just a participant in the playoffs, the Flyers have to look at this team and like just about everything they see from it in its current state.
February is rapidly coming to a close -- the Flyers have just three games left in the month -- and they have not lost back-to-back games since the six-game road trip that came after the holiday break in December and continued into early January. They have a 7-3-0 record in 10 games this month. They have a 12-5-1 record since the six-game losing streak concluded on Jan. 7. That continuous string of games without back-to-back losses keeps the line moving. What it shows is that the Flyers haven’t wallowed in the sorrows -- not after a poor 4-1 loss to Montreal on Jan. 16, not after an overtime loss to Pittsburgh where they deserved better, not after an embarrassing 5-0 loss to New Jersey, not after furious rallies fell short in crushing fashion to the Islanders and Lightning. In the next game, they have come back playing their game and grabbing the result in their favor.
Another big reason for the Flyers successes this season has been their play within the division and conference. With the home-and-home sweep of the Blue Jackets, the Flyers now have a 12-4-4 against Metropolitan Division teams and a 25-9-5 against the Eastern Conference. Against the Blue Jackets in particular, the Flyers have been able to exorcise demons of the past. Last season, the Flyers were locked into tight games with Columbus all season, the last three meetings decided by a goal. The Flyers were swept in the season series with an 0-2-2 record. Kevin Hayes’ overtime winner sealed a season sweep for the Flyers.
Why have things been different? Certainly, the biggest impact is the man behind the bench. It’s hard to find a moment where Alain Vigneault made a decision that didn’t pan out for the Flyers in a positive way. His system has the Flyers doing the small things to get the bigger result, going hard on the forecheck, playing smart defensively and protecting the neutral zone. But that’s just the beginning of what the Flyers have that is making them successful.
Now, the Flyers have depth across the lineup. At the top, they have a first line that has three players with a total of 47 goals. Their current second line has also accounted for 47 goals. Their current third line has scored 34 goals. And their fourth line, often regarded as a weakness of the team in recent years, has produced 12 goals. Their defensemen have scored 41 goals. They have 22 goals from players who classify as rookies. That’s what a balanced lineup looks like. This team doesn’t have a pure scorer, but they have a number of contributors.
The Flyers have a penalty kill that has come up big in clutch spots. Locked in a tie game late in the second, the Flyers faced a 5-on-3 kill for 1:14. They completed another successful kill in that spot.
The Flyers have made playoff runs over the years and looked like this team in February before only to turn in a March to forget and crawl into the playoffs instead of powering their way in. But it just doesn’t feel like that will happen with this team. Not with their resilience. Not with their bond that get stronger with each game.
Following another win in another big game, one that they very well may have found a way to lose over the last few seasons, Brian Elliott may have said it best.
“We want to keep climbing,” Elliott said. “We don’t want to sit back and watch other teams.”
More games and results like that, and they won’t be watching the scoreboard for too long.