As the Flyers entered the 4th and final contest between themselves and the Montreal Canadiens Tuesday evening, they looked to continue to ride the momentum they have gained off of Sunday’s win in Chicago against the Blackhawks. Sergei Bobrovsky got the start again as he has looked like his old self lately. Over the past several seasons the Flyers and Habs have developed a hell of a rivalry. There is always a lot of animosity when these guys play these days and Tuesday night was no different. The atmosphere was testy again as Scott Gomez was involved in a scrum after a cross check he gave out early in the 1st period. Dan Carcillo offset what would have been a Flyers power play by going off for roughing. This was just a taste of the physical play that occurred all night.
The first 15 minutes or so of the game were entertaining and both teams generated scoring chances but what killed the Habs were the foolish penalties they were taking that led to Flyers power play time for extended minutes. Penalties by Andrei Kostitsyn, Jaroslav Spacek, and P.K. Subban led to two separate two-man advantages for the Flyers and the Flyers power play capitalized on both opportunities to make it 2-0 on goals from Jeff Carter and Kimmo Timonen. It was a jolt that the Flyers power play surely needed. Danny Briere noted after the game that 5-on-3’s really dictate the pace of the game and emphasized how important it was to score on them. The Flyers did just that, scoring on both. One thing that was really evident tonight was the passing was a lot crisper on the ice. Maybe it started with the 5-on-3’s but even on the 5-on-5 play and 5-on-4 power play the passing was superb which I felt made the difference.
Perhaps the play of the night was when the Giroux line had a shift that lasted close to two minutes. Just an incredible effort by all five guys who were on the ice keeping the puck in and generating tons of chances. This really represented how the Flyers played for most of the night which was really hungry. Peter Laviolette told us in his press conference that shifts may last 30 to 40 seconds “if they’re good” and emphasized what a great shift this was. This should definitely make the highlight reel for the week. Danny Briere continued his monster season adding a goal and an assist as well a Mike Richards continuing his strong play lately with a +2 and 2 assists on the night.
The Flyers will now head into the All Star Break with the league lead total in wins (33) and points (71), and will resume their season February 1st against the Tampa Bay Lightning at 7:30 pm. Laviolette emphasized in the coach’s press conference how important it was to head into the long break with a big win as compared to the last game before the holiday break against the Florida Panthers in which the Flyers came out totally flat. “We’re not practicing tomorrow, there aren’t any games to be played, there’s no redemption available, so you want to end it on the right note,” Laviolette said.
The Flyers took care of business tonight and as Danny Briere, Claude Giroux, and Peter Laviolette all head to Raleigh for the All Star Game, the rest of the guys will get some needed rest and down time. The Flyers have to like their odds for finishing strong and making a serious run at the Stanley Cup this year and this has to be as good a team I have seen in Philadelphia in recent memory. This time probably beats out any of the strong teams the Flyers had in the 90’s. Because of this, my pessimistic self is telling Flyers fans something I haven’t said in many years at this point in a season, and that is: The Flyers have as good a chance to win it all as any other top team in the league, and they are inferior to no one.
Other Game Notes/Observations:
* The Flyers won their 1,000th home game in franchise history with tonight’s win. They are the first expansion team to achieve this feat.
* Chris Pronger assisted on 4 Flyers goals tonight. This was the first time he has done this since 2005 vs. the Calgary Flames while he was with Edmonton.
* The Flyers now head into the All Star Break with 33 wins and 71 points, both are good for top spot in the NHL currently.
* The Flyers now improved to 22-4-2 with Dan Carcillo in the lineup and 11-8-3 without him.
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