There weren’t many bright spots to point out in the Flyers abysmal first period performance Wednesday night in Pittsburgh. As the Penguins jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, the Flyers seemed to have left their skating legs in the locker room.
Except Brayden Schenn.
One of five Flyers seeing their first NHL playoff minutes, Schenn announced his presence shortly after the halfway point of the first period. Starting what would turn into several minutes of offensive promise for the Orange and Black, Schenn finished his forecheck with a thud, bowling over Paul Martin behind the Pittsburgh goal. Just seconds later, Schenn upended Matt Cooke in a forceful collision along the half boards.
However, the momentum that Schenn had started to roll in Philadelphia’s favor was squashed, when a bouncing puck found it’s way past Ilya Bryzgalov in the waning seconds of the first stanza. The Penguins took a 3-0 lead into the locker room, a fitting result for yet another Flyers slow start.
The second period began with a sort of anticipatory buzz amongst the Pittsburgh faithful in Consol Energy Center. Immediately after Penguins announcer Paul Steigerwald commented on several saves Marc-Andre Fleury had made that seemingly kept the Flyers from getting back into the game, Schenn corralled a puck at center ice and whipped it up to a looping Danny Briere, who made no mistake on the breakaway. The Flyers had cut the Pittsburgh lead to just two goals. The clock read 13:38.
The second period would end with the scoreboard reading 3-1 in the Penguin’s favor. The Flyers had dug themselves into a hole that only a couple teams can say they got out of. In regular season play, the Penguins were 32-0-3 when leading after two periods.
Just before the ten minute mark of period three, Brayden Schenn cycled the puck into the corner, where Danny Briere grabbed it and fired it into the back of the net, for his second of the night. Down now by only one, the Flyers comeback was sparked by two Schenn-to-Briere combinations.
Three minutes later, Jaromir Jagr gained the offensive zone and dropped a pass off for Scott Hartnell. With Schenn streaking toward the net backdoor, Hartnell fired a slap-pass which Schenn redirected past Marc-Andre Fleury.
Watching Schenn enter the zone and gradually skate his way behind the Pittsburgh defense reveals his world-class hockey sense. After all, the most dynamic players are as dangerous with the puck as they are without it.
Brayden Schenn now had a goal and two assists in his playoff debut. The game was tied.
Shortly after the first overtime period of the 2012 playoffs began, Jakub Voracek completed the unlikely Philadelphian triumph, slamming home a rebound for the game-winner.
Named the game’s first star, Brayden Schenn was the backbone of the Flyers resurgence in Pittsburgh.
But, Schenn’s maturity should not come as a surprise to Flyers fans.
At the 2011 World Junior Championships in Buffalo, Brayden Schenn lead all players in points, tallying 18 in just seven games. Schenn’s Canadian team would lose to Russia in the final, but Schenn would earn the tournament’s award for Most Valuable Player.
Aside from the rare teenager making an international Olympic roster, the U-20 World Junior Championship is the biggest stage for 17, 18 and 19 year-olds in the world. And, Schenn flourished in the spotlight.
In addition, Schenn’s career playoff totals in the Western Hockey League, as part of the Brandon Wheat Kings and Saskatoon Blades, are the product of an uncanny ability to perform in high-pressure situations. In 42 career playoff games in Western Canada’s premier junior hockey league, Schenn amassed 24 goals and 27 assists.
Of course, this is also the same player who scored his first NHL goal in the 2012 Winter Classic, under the lights at Citizens Bank Park with millions watching worldwide.
Highly touted as the next Mike Richards, perhaps it’s fitting that despite being 2,600 miles apart, and being traded for each other, Brayden Schenn and Mike Richards both had three points in fueling their respective teams to game one victories Wednesday night.
Puck drop for game two at Consol Energy Center is just several hours away. Now that the world has seen what the 20 year-old can do on the big stage, what will Brayden Schenn do next?