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Flyers Handle the Blues, Inch Closer to a Wild Card Spot

The Flyers have been playing a dominant brand of hockey as of late, back to back six goal performances are evidence.

I don’t think the Orange and Black can keep up that level of scoring, but they are playing a fast and aggressive game and it really is paying off.

Two minutes into the game, first-time NHLer Tyrell Goulbourne absolutely leveled veteran defenseman Alex Pietrangelo in his own zone which lead to a turnover and Scott Laughton’s unassisted goal to open the game.

A short four minutes later Giroux scored on a two-on-one chance that bounced off a defender’s butt.

Jordan Weal kept his hot streak alive and scored a very pretty goal to bring the lead to 3-0.

A few minutes later Sean Couturier became the first Flyer to reach twenty goals this season. Giroux set him up perfectly.

The Blues scored before the end of the second period to bring the score to 4-1. They also opened up the scoring early on in the third period to drop the lead to two.

With 9:15 left in the game, the Flyers scored their first power play goal of the night when Simmonds deflected a Gostisbehere blast from the point.

The Blues weren’t going to go quietly, as Colton Parayko scored his fourth goal of the season.

Sean Couturier put the game on ice with :15 remaining when he scored an empty net goal, his 21st of the season.

This game was a microcosm of what the Flyers are and have been for what seems like forever, a team that will always play up or down to their competition. The Flyers were never out of control of the game, and they were ready to play from the very beginning. Without further ado, here are my thoughts on the game (one for each goal).

1. Claude Giroux is red-hot.

I figured it would be a good idea to start with the Captain, Claude Giroux. Giroux put up a three point night, which is gives him 51 points at the half way mark. Not only is he seven points shy of tying his point total from last season, he is second (!!) in the league in points scored behind Nikita Kucherov.

Giroux has 17 points in the last ten games. At this pace he will have 28 goals and 75 assists at the end of the season. That is insane. Those are MVP numbers.

Giroux is the heart and soul of this team, it’s no surprise that his success can be correlated to the team’s recent success.

2. Sean Couturier deserves to be in Selke talks.

I know, it might seem early to talk about post-season awards, but Sean Couturier has been one of the best defensive forwards in hockey since he entered the league. He just never had the offensive numbers to hear his name in Selke talks.

The 2017-2018 year changed that. Not only is Coots one of the best shut down forwards in hockey, he is currently third on the team in points at 41. If he finishes the season with close to 80 points he should be a shoo-in to win the Selke Trophy.

3. Questionable coaching.

You thought that just because the Flyers won their second straight and having back to back six goal performances would expunge Dave Hakstol (and the coaching staff)? You have another thing coming.

Don’t get me wrong the Flyers played a great game, but there were some things that need to be resolved.

First things first: Why on earth is Travis Sanheim here in the Wells Fargo Center and not playing? Either suit him up or send him down. Keeping him with the club but not playing him isn’t good for his confidence or growth as a player. He needs to be in the lineup against the Sabres on Sunday.

If the Flyers want to keep rolling with their current defensive pairs that’s fine too, send Sanheim to the Lehigh Valley and bring up Mark Alt to ride the bench. Sanheim needs to be playing some sort of hockey.

Second: I don’t think that it is directly Dave Hakstol’s decision, but what the hell is going on with the second power play unit? The second unit was Nolan Patrick, Jordan Weal, Jori Lehtera, Brandon Manning, and Ivan Provorov. What?

That’s terrible. How is Travis Konecny not involved? How is Michael Raffl not involved? That is the reason why the Flyers second power play unit is bad. The answer to the question “Why is the second power play unit bad?” Is right in front of your eyes, it’s self-explanatory. This can be an easy fix, but it doesn’t seem like the coaches want to adapt.

4. The kids are all right (Part III).

The young guys look good, they’re really coming into their own. Let’s break down the usual three:

Jordan Weal: Weal kept the point streak alive, something I called after Tuesday night’s game against the Penguins. Weal’s confidence is starting to grow which is doing wonders for his game. Let’s see how he plays on Sunday against the Sabres.

Nolan Patrick: Patrick had a quiet game on Saturday. This is expected of a 19-year old rookie. He made some nice passes and showed why he has potential to be a game changer. He also had a couple turnovers. On the bright side, I love his line (with Simmonds and Weal). Given the chance he will only get better with those two on his wings.

Travis Konecny: I. Love. TK. On. The. Top. Line.

Pairing Konecny with Giroux and Couturier is one of the best moves that Hakstol has made. TK finished the game with an assist and created a lot of offense for his linemates. That’s back to back games with a point for Philadelphia’s second favorite #11.

5. The future of the fourth line.

I think Philadelphia fell head over heels for Tyrell Goulborne after he laid out Alex Pietrangelo. However, he only played 5:23 in Saturday’s game. With Goulbourne’s presence it leaves a lot of question marks along the fourth line. Will Hakstol scratch Weise and Lehtera on a nightly basis to give Leier and Goulbourne some ice time? There is some parity here.

I doubt both Weise and Lehtera will be scratched at the same time, so look for one of them to anchor the fourth line with Scott Laughton and Goulbourne and Leier will split time on one of the wings. That’s my prediction. Let’s see how it unfolds.

6. Playing up (and down) to competition.

As I mentioned earlier the Flyers always tend to either play up or down to their competition. On Saturday they played up to the competition of the 4th best team in the Western Conference. On Sunday they play the Sabres, the second worst team in hockey. With Neuvirth due to start in net, it will be interesting to see how the Flyers (and Neuvy) play against the Sabres. Here’s hoping they suffocate them and let the dominance roll into their road trip.

This was a huge win for the Flyers, they are now 18-15-8 at the halfway point of the season. They will really need to step it up in the second half if they want to make that wildcard spot. If Saturday’s game is any indication how the second half will go, the Flyers will be a fun team to watch in the post season.

You can follow Anthony Mazziotti on Twitter (@AntMazziotti) and e-mail him at [email protected]. Follow Philly Influencer on Twitter (@PHL_Influencer), Facebook and Instagram.

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