Flyers Backcheck: Bob Prob Solved

This one feels good. The Flyers not only put an end to their four-game losing streak on Saturday night, they did so by convincingly beating their irritating nemesis, the Columbus Blue Jackets. Philly’s 4-2 win on home ice also ended Columbus’ four-game win streak between the two divisional foes, giving the orange and black their first victory over a former friend named “Bob.” But it doesn’t end there.

Solving Bob

Heading into his third career start against his former team, Sergei Bobrovsky walked into the Wells Fargo Center with the type of swag that screams, “You mad, bro?”

After finishing off the Flyers in a 4-3 win on Nov. 14th, it appeared as if Bobrovsky and his Jackets were charging the Flyers rent to live in their own heads. It was Bobrovsky, who after traded from Philadelphia, would go onto win the Vezina Trophy in 2013. And it was Bobrovsky who gave Columbus their first franchise victory in the City of Brotherly Love last season with a 2-0 shutout win.

On Saturday, the Flyers used goals from Brayden Schenn, Mark Streit, Wayne Simmonds, and Braydon Coburn to hand Bobrovsky his first defeat at the hands of his former squad. As for Steve Mason, who collected his fourth win on the season, it was a much needed win against an old team of his own.

Steve Mason, aided by the fact his team allowed just 22 shots, beat his former team and outdueled former Flyers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (33 saves) as the hosts avenged a 4-3 loss to the Blue Jackets eight nights earlier. — Sam Carchidi, Philly.com

Saturday’s victory wasn’t Mason’s first win against the team that drafted him in the third-round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. Last Dec., Mason earned his first win against Columbus, but it was Curtis McElhinney who took the loss. This time around, with a 1-2-0 record against the Blue Jackets, it was Mason who skated off the winner after seeing Bobrovsky standing at the other end of the ice.

Bobrovsky, who started and finished Friday night’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins, stood in front of Philadelphia’s firing squad that pounded the 26-year-old with 37 shots. It was as if he didn’t stand a chance. After each team taking credit for 11 shots in the first period, the Flyers smothered Bobrovsky and his team in the second period, outshooting them by an 18-4 margin. By the final horn, the Flyers owned a 37-22 shot advantage, as well as a sound 4-2 win.

“These guys did a good job of moving the puck around,” said Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds, who scored the game-winning goal on Saturday. “[Voracek] tried to thread the needle as he usually does. The puck deflected, and I don’t think anyone saw it but me. So I stuck with it, found it on the ice and shot it as quick as possible.”

Philadelphia’s performance was impressive for multiple reasons. For one, they continued to skate hard, winning battles in the corners, and sustaining extended zone time – a pleasant change of pace from past matchups with Columbus. Especially after Friday night’s letdown loss against Minnesota.

“Yeah, you can’t keep leaving points on the board, especially against division rivals, guys that are chasing us in the standings,” said Mason.

“In our situation, we’ve got to start picking up points on teams in front of us. It was a great effort  … You try not to watch the standings, especially because it’s still early in the season, but when you lose four games in a row it’s easy to see points slipping away. Tonight, I thought was probably our best all-around effort of the season.”

Second, head coach Craig Berube’s decision to roll seven defensemen into the lineup asked the forwards to pick up the slack. Simmonds double-shifted throughout the night, and was rewarded with his first goal in four games, and second in his last eight.

Braydon Coburn, who logged a hefty 20:13 of ice time, drilled the nail in the coffin, scoring his first of the season at the 3:18 mark of the third period. Coburn’s first of the year accommodated his first assist of the season as well, answering Matt Calvert’s third period score, which briefly brought the Blue Jackets to within one.

With three games left between the newfound rivals, the Flyers will next look to snap another four-game losing streak. On Dec. 9th, Philadelphia will take the ice at Nationwide Arena in search of their first win there since Dec. 13th, 2005.

Mr. 400

Home wins against Columbus are becoming more and more sentimental for Flyers captain Claude Giroux. Last Dec., Giroux scored a jaw-dropping over-the-shoulder goal, which turned out to be more than just a game-winning goal. It was his 100th career NHL goal.

Giroux entered Saturday’s game just one point shy of career NHL point number 400. In another home victory over the Jackets, Giroux accomplished that feat by assisting Mark Streit’s first period goal. Giroux would add to his night by dishing out another helper, this time to Wayne Simmonds on a second period power play goal.

Giroux got an assist on the Mark Streit goal, making that the 400th point of his NHL career. Giroux is really good, and hopefully he’ll still be in Philadelphia when he scores his 4,000,000th point. — Al K., Broad Street Hockey

Comedy aside, Giroux is really good. The captain’s 18th assist of the campaign tied him with Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby for second in the league in assists, and tied him for fourth in points with Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos with 24.

Giroux haunted the Blue Jackets with much more than setting up goals, though. A quick draw on the faceoff dot raised Giroux’s faceoff percentage to 56.2 percent on the season. And after seeing a five-game point streak end in New York on Thursday, the two point night gives him points in two straight now.

Claude Giroux went 23-for-28 (82 percent) in the faceoff circle. Per the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time a Flyer won 23 or more faceoffs in a game was November 29, 2005 when Michal Handzus went 23-for-31 (74 percent) in a 4-3 win at the New York Islanders. The last time it happened anywhere in the NHL was March 25, 2014 when Jonathan Toews went 23-for-28 for Chicago in a 4-2 win over Dallas. — Bill Meltzer, Hockey Buzz

Saturday marked Giroux’s seventh multi-point game of the season, and his 10th point on Saturday’s this season. With the New York Islanders up next on the schedule, history suggests Giroux will add to his point totals. In 29 career games against the Isles, the captain has eight goals and 26 assists for 34 points, including a pair of game-winners.

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With Brayden Schenn flourishing now on the top line with Giroux and Jakub Voracek, perhaps just about anyone could be elevated playing along with Philly’s dynamic one-two punch. Taking nothing away from Schenn, or even Michael Raffl (before his injury), Giroux and Voracek continue to throw up gaudy numbers with little stability on the left side.

Schenn’s first period goal was his seventh of the season, and gave the 23-year-old forward points in seven of Philadelphia’s last eight. Schenn’s more consistent play is exactly what GM Ron Hextall had hoped for when he signed the Saskatoon native to a two-year, $5 million bridge contract.

Jakub Voracek, of course, continued his career year with yet another multi-point game. Voracek’s two assists padded his league-wide point lead (29) to three over Dallas’ Tyler Seguin and Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby (26). Furthermore, Voracek also enjoys the top of the NHL’s mountain in assists with 22, and shares it with Seguin when it comes to even-strength points with 19.

Tidbits

Scott Hartnell’s second trip back to Philly as a member of the visiting team came and went without much more than a pre-game photo of the 32-year-old sharing a moment with Steve Mason.

Hartnell was again held scoreless, despite handing out seven hits and two blocked shots. In two games against the Flyers – as a member of the Blue Jackets – Hartnell has zero points, six shots, and a minus-one rating.

Just for laughs and giggles, both he and R.J. Umberger have the same number of points and wins to this point in the season series. Ready to declare Columbus the winner of the trade still? I ask sarcastically, of course.

The line featuring Scott Laughton, Vinny Lecavalier, and R.J. Umberger has given the pair of veterans that Laughton has been slated with new life. Laughton, who for the second straight game, skated as if he was playing to keep his lights on at home. His six hits led all Flyers, while the former first-round pick added three shots on an increased time on ice of 15:01. He’s here to stay.

On Nov. 14th, James Wisniewski scored his first and second goals of the season. On Saturday, it was Boone Jenner who beat Mason top shelf for his first goal of the season. Jenner’s tally tied the game at one in the first period, and was scored on Columbus’ first power play of the night.

Nick Foligno, however, was held scoreless, which was nice.

Through the Flyers’ first 18 games, it’s been a bumpy ride for Braydon Coburn. Whether it’s an unfortunate injury that sidelined the veteran defenseman for a month, or struggling to find his bearings on the ice, Coburn found a higher gear against Columbus on Saturday, notching a goal and an assist – his first two points of the season. And although Coburn’s big night may be considered a sliver of a sample size, it’s that kind of performance that the Flyers need out of the 29-year-old if they’re serious about competing this season.

What a difference two points (and a day) can make. Before Saturday’s win over Columbus, the Metropolitan Division basement dwellers in the Carolina Hurricanes, and the Jackets themselves, were within a win of striking distance. With the win, however, the Flyers jumped to within three points of third place.

Losses from the Washington Capitals and New Jersey Devils kept the current landscape of the division tight. And when the Penguins lose, it’s always a good night. Yes, Saturday night felt good.