Apparently, the seventh time’s the charm. The Flyers finally exercised their Tampa Bay Lightning demons that had reached six games, owning Monday night’s contest, 7-3. Five second period Philadelphia goals left the Bolts shocked, and the Flyers victorious in three of their last four games. But wait, there’s more. You’re invited to relive this beautiful demonstration of hockey in another winning edition of Flyers Backcheck.
Bolts Shocked in Philly
The excuses may be plenty, but it doesn’t change the outcome. Evgeni Nabokov was starting in lieu of Ben Bishop. Victor Hedman left the game after only 6:56 of ice time, while Tyler Johnson was relegated to 9:24 himself. And you can’t forget about Radko Gudas, who’s missed Tampa Bay’s last six game.
Tampa Bay announced that forward Tyler Johnson and defenseman Victor Hedman both sustained lower-body injuries during the contest. Hedman was forced to exit the game late in the first period while Johnson’s night ended in the second frame. — Ryan Dadoun, Pro Hockey Talk
Never mind the fact that the Flyers were starting a 33-year-old rookie in net because of an injury of their own in Steve Mason. And just disregard the circumstances that’s left Kimmo Timonen sidelined for the entire season, likely ending his career.
Monday night’s shellacking is an experience mostly every team experiences at some point throughout the long 82-game schedule. It’s a little strange, however, to be on the other side of it – with this season’s Flyers team, that is.
The win brought the Flyers to within nine points of the final playoff spot again, with three teams between Boston and Philadelphia.
But hey, you have to start somewhere, right?
Flyers Zepp Rally
Speaking of Rob Zepp, the overseas league journeyman is now 2-0-0 in his first two starts. How about that?
“It probably feels better than the first time around,” said Zepp afterwards. “What can I say? The guys played outstanding tonight. To build a 7-1 lead against a team like that is incredible.”
Someone ought to write a book about Rob Zepp. One of the most fascinating people I've ever met.
— Dave Isaac (@davegisaac) January 13, 2015
The 33-year-old’s numbers weren’t overwhelmingly terrific – 21 saves on 24 shots for an .875 save percentage – but they didn’t have to be.
If Zepp is Philly’s good luck charm, let it be. Rub his belly, send him out to the ice, and win hockey games. Monday night’s goal explosion was a season-high for the Flyers, which probably left starter Steve Mason muttering to himself, “of course.”
Stamkos, the Flyer Killer
Do you think Steven Stamkos enjoys playing the Flyers?
In his 23rd career regular season game against Philly, the 24-year-old sniper registered his 18th goal and his 27th point. Stamkos’ first period equalizer came via a Tampa Bay power play, and was scored on Tampa Bay’s third shot of the game.
It was the Tampa Bay captain’s fourth goal of the season against the Flyers to boot.
can't wait until the flyers sign this stamkos guy to a long term deal when he's 45
— CK (@cranekicker) January 13, 2015
Nonetheless, it was Stamkos’ fifth straight game with a goal against the Flyers, as the seven-year veteran has now registered nine points in that same span.
Here Come the Hartnell Comparisons
R.J. Umberger sure is heating up. After a 17-game pointless streak earlier in the season, the 32-year-old veteran cashed in on his seventh goal of the season on Monday night. The Ohio State product now has five points in his last 10 games, with four of those points earned by finding the back of the net.
As Umberger starts to produce, however, the comparisons to Scott Hartnell, whom Umberger was traded for, have popped back up. The former Blue Jacket now trails Hartnell in the goal department by one. When it comes to overall points, though, Columbus fan is quick to point out the 13 point gap in Hartnell’s favor.
Steve Hartnell 8 goals
Steve Umberger 7 goals
We win trade
— jsaquella (@jsaquella) January 13, 2015
It’s almost as if Blue Jackets fans care a little too much.
After holding the Boston Bruins to just eight shots in the final two periods of Saturday’s game, the Flyers continued to limit opponents’ shot on net on Monday. The Flyers held the Lightning to just five first period shots on net, followed by six in the second period.
“We defended really well and you have to defend against that team because they’re the highest-scoring team in the league,” said Flyers coach Craig Berube. “They come with a lot of speed. I thought our defense did a good job with good gaps.
“The forwards backchecked hard. We forced turnovers and actually caught them a few times with odd-man rushes the other way.”
Tampa Bay was able to test Zepp 13 times in the third period, but that was mostly due to Philadelphia’s enormous lead. But while the recent shot suppression is nice, it’s equally concerning that the Flyers are giving up goals on such a limited number of shots.
Brutal Penalty Kill Continues
Chalk up two more power play goals allowed by the league’s worst penalty kill. Power play goals from Steven Stamkos and Ryan Callahan dropped the Flyers PK percentage to a 30th ranked 74 percent. Philly has now given up 38 goals with one of their own in the penalty box, two more than Arizona’s 29th ranked penalty kill. In case you were wondering, that’s not good.
flyers penalty kill went from one of the best in the league last year to one of the worst this year…
— Miranda K (@mirrrkon7) January 13, 2015
The Flyers did go 3-for-4 on the power play themselves on Monday, however. Matt Carle’s six minutes of penalty time in the second period included a hi-sticking double minor, led to three of Philadelphia’s five second period goals.
Jakub Voracek, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, and Mark Streit all scored with Carle in the sin bin. Thank you very much.
Defensemen Dropping Like Flies
With Nicklas Grossmann already on the shelf for three weeks, the Flyers blue line got a little thinner on Monday night after Braydon Coburn re-injured his left foot.
Coburn blocked a shot from Nikita Kucherov at 9:46 of the opening period and did not return to the game. The puck struck that same left foot.
Coburn left the arena limping but was not on crutches — a good sign, perhaps. — Tim Panaccio, CSN Philly
Braydon Coburn injury listed by @NHLFlyers lower body. I've learned its a right foot fracture, out likely a month.
— Howard Eskin (@howardeskin) January 13, 2015
The word on the street now is that Coburn will likely miss a month of action, which will likely bring Carlo Colaiacovo back into the lineup for the first time since Nov. 19th.
Streit’s Two-Way Street
Mark Streit added to his stretch of scoring mastery by turning in a three point performance against the Bolts on Monday. The 37-year-old Swiss hammered home his fifth goal of the season, while adding two assists to extend his points streak to four games. Furthermore, Streit now has points in 10 of Philly’s last 12 games.
With his 1G, 2A so far tonight, Mark Streit has jumped up to a tie for 4th among NHL D-men in points (31) & tie for 3rd in PP points (16).
— Bill Meltzer (@billmeltzer) January 13, 2015
Streit’s 31 points tie him for fourth in scoring among defensemen throughout the league, leading Norris Trophy winners and candidates in Erik Karlsson, Shea Weber, and P.K. Subban. But by all means, let’s laugh at the idea of Streit’s name showing up in contention.
Fourth Line Super Powers
Although Vinny Lecavalier was left on the outside of Philly’s scoring exhibition on Monday, his fourth line colleagues certainly didn’t miss out. Chris VandeVelde opened the scoring in the first period with his third goal of the year, while Pierre-Edouard Bellemare dented the twine for the first time in 28 games.
Two even-strength goals from #Flyers' fourth line as they open a 4-1 lead on Tampa Bay.
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) January 13, 2015
Callahan’s ‘Neat Stat’ No More
Dating back to his acquisition from the New York Rangers last season, the Bolts were 15-0-0 when Ryan Callahan scored a goal. The key word in that sentence, however, is “were.”
Well… Ryan Callahan just scored.. Lightning trail 7-3 but are 15-0-0 when he scores. Soooooo, here comes a ridiculous comeback
— Jeff McAdam (@JeffMcAdamTV) January 13, 2015
Callahan’s third period power play goal snapped that streak, making this season’s Flyers a rare positive trivia answer. Jeff McAdam just happened to tweet what we were all thinking. Let’s be honest, who would’ve been surprised?
Jake Voracek Watch
Jake Voracek’s goal and assist on Monday added to his league-leading points total, pushing the All-Star to 52 points. Voracek now has five points in his last five games, and a new three-game point streak to go along with his NHL-leading 35 assists.
Teammate, and captain, Claude Giroux may have something to say about Voracek’s quest for the league’s scoring title. Giroux’s two assists against Tampa Bay bring him even in points with Dallas’ Tyler Seguin for second in the league with 48 points. The captain’s 34 assists also trail Voracek’s top mark of 35 helpers by only one.
It’s getting interesting and fun, all in the same breath.
And Then We’re Going to Go to Washington… Yeah!
It’s off to the nation’s capital now, where the Flyers will meet the Washington Capitals for the second time in as many weeks. The Caps are as hot as the color of their home sweaters, going 13-2-3 to start off the calendar year of 2015. Alex Ovechkin has scored six goals in Washington’s last seven games, while the Caps sit just two points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Metropolitan Division with 54 points.
But one of those five losses in 2015 came at the hands of the Flyers. Jake Voracek’s overtime game-winner on Jan. 8th extended Philadelphia’s win streak over the Caps to four games.
The Flyers haven’t lost to the Capitals in regulation since Nov. 1st, 2013, which coincidentally happens to be the month for U.S. elections. With the Philly’s recent success against Washington, can you blame them for feeling a little Howard Dean mojo?
Andy is a contributor for The Hockey Writers, covering the Philadelphia Flyers. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications from Walsh University. He enjoys spending time with his family, golfing, and reading. He is married with a daughter. You can follow Andy on Twitter @ADudones.