Last night the Philadelphia Flyers faced a talented St. Louis Blues team. They began the game and were quickly outworked in both the first and the start of the second period. Just 9:11 into the second period and the Flyers found themselves facing a 3-0 deficient.
Then something wonderful happened, the Flyers scored a short-handed goal just a minute after the Blues scored their third goal. From that point on, the game was completely in the Flyers favor, their shot differential rapidly evened out and the score followed suit.
This was a big game for the Flyers, not because their opponent was a solid team, but because of the resiliency they showed. Too often over the last two seasons when Philadelphia is playing a bad hockey team they lower their level of play. The same could be said about when they face deficients, especially early in the game.
There was something different about their play last night and this could be an indicator of something even bigger. When asked about what his shorthanded goal meant to the team here’s what Chris VandeVelde had to say.
Yeah, earlier in the season I don’t know if we would have won that game. We’re definitely growing as a team and that’s good to see. We’ve been playing better and better and hopefully we can grow on that after the break.
Earlier we discussed the Flyers lack of coaching experience showing in their poor play. This was a staple of the beginning of the season, but the longer the season goes, the better this team plays. It’s no secret that rookie head coach Dave Hakstol has gained a lot of valuable experience from the start of this trying season. He spoke on their ability to come back from a slow start and here’s what he had to say.
Guys kept fighting. I think that’s what it says. We didn’t have a great first, we created most of our own problems. I think that probably goes without saying, but we had it going a little bit in the second period. We gave up the third goal the way we did sometimes that can be the nail in the coffin. Guys kept scrapping and a minute later big play by Belle [Pierre-Edouard Bellemare] to create the shorthanded opportunity that got us into the right direction.
Hakstol’s Flyers are learning and growing together as a unit. They’re certainley not the best team in the Metropolitan division. But the Flyers team that took the ice in October was definitely not capable of coming back against adversity like they did last night.
Goaltender Steve Mason was rattled last night after allowing three goals, but later completely shut down the Blues offense. Often times a goaltenders reputation is determined by the team in front of him, there are very few goaltenders like Marc-Andre Fleury or Henrik Lundqvist who can mask the flaws of an entire team. Once the Flyers stepped up their play, Mason had help and looked like the goaltender who had the third highest even strength save percentage in the NHL last season.
Rookie defender Shayne Gostisbehere continued his string of solid performances and it seems he won’t be heading back to the American Hockey League anytime soon. Once one of the only bright spots on the Flyers, he’s not just one of their players.
This Flyers win isn’t to say that they’re going to make the playoffs because at this point it’s a long shot they do. At the same time, the Flyers are finally showing a spark and they won’t accept defeat anymore.
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Michael Pityk is an analyst who has written for numerous sites since beginning his professional career. He’s acted as a credentialed member of the media for the Philadelphia Phillies, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Pirates and the Pittsburgh Penguins. His work has been featured in Sports Illustrated, The Sports Journal, MSN, PensLabyrinth, Montreal Hockey Talk, ESPN Pittsburgh, The Hockey Writers, Todays SlapShot and The Bleacher Report. He formerly was the editor of Pens Labyrinth and an analyst for The Sports Journal. Michael presently acts as an NHL Analyst for The Hockey Writers