Hits and Misses (Flyers 7, Panthers 1)
It’s a little different offering news, notes and observations of a Flyers game from my couch, but that’s where I’m stationed for the weekend before rejoining the team in New York Tuesday.
So, with that said, here’s a Cliff’s notes version of the usual recap I have on here since I didn’t have a chance to talk to the guys in the locker room afterward.
All the talk from this game will center on Matt Read, who registered his first career hat trick, and goalie Ilya Bryzgalov who made 29 saves and had a fifth straight strong start. And there’s no question they deserve the recognition. But I’ll get to them below in the three stars section.
For now, let’s focus on a few other aspects of the Flyers 7-1 win in Florida.
First, Wayne Simmonds continues to be a beast on the ice for the Flyers. He got his second goal of the season when Kimmo Timonen’s shot from the point on a 5-on-3 grazed off his body to get past starting Panthers goalie Jose Theodore.
But, the goal aside, Simmonds was skating harder and stronger than anyone on the ice and seemed to be everywhere. He added an assist and was one of six Flyers with a multiple-point game. In the absence of Scott Hartnell for the next six weeks, Simmonds has filled that void nicely.
He proved last season he can be a goal scorer, now he has a chance to flourish, playing with Claude Giroux. So far, so good for Simmonds, who has two goals this season, but has played well enough to have a few more.
Secondly, let’s look at Luke Schenn. The Flyers were criticized by many for trading James van Riemsdyk for Schenn because of all the negative press he got from the Toronto media. However, the Flyers viewed him as a top pair defenseman, and have thrust him into that role.
It took him a few games to get comfortable but his last two games have been really strong, and Saturday was definitely his best as a Flyer.
Schenn had a goal, an assist and led the team with 11 hits. Eleven hits. There are games in the NHL were an entire team doesn’t get 11 hits.
He’s still a little hesitant at times with the puck, but he has gotten visibly more comfortable in each game. So far, so good with Schenn for the Flyers.
For one night at least, it looked like a smart move.
McGinn had a lot of energy and showed some great hustle in his shifts. He was rewarded for his efforts with his first NHL goal on a nice redirect of a pass from Braydon Coburn.
McGinn looks more and more promising with each game and is going to force a tough decision on the Flyers brass when Zac Rinaldo is healthy as someone will have to be sent back to the Phantoms and/or waived outright. McGinn appears to be earning his roster spot, for now.
The adjustments to the Flyers schematic was evident in the Flyers win over New York Thursday, but credit coach Peter Laviolette with another savvy coaching move of resting many of his top players in the third period of a blowout victory.
With another game less than 24 hours away in Tampa Bay Sunday, Laviolette relied more on his third and fourth lines and second and third pairs of defensemen than in most games.
For example, Claude Giroux played just 17 minutes. Timonen was just under 18. But guys like Mike Knuble, who needed to get a regular shift to find his legs, got almost 15 minutes. Scott Laughton, who was supposed to be the fourth line center, he too got almost 15 minutes. Kurtis Foster was almost 16 minutes. Bruno Gervais, 19 minutes.
And all of the Flyers top players will have more energy for the game against Tampa.
My Three Stars:
1. Matt Read – how can it not be him. His first career hat trick – on three shots no less. Read has been physical. He has been the other winger that the Flyers had hoped they’d find for Giroux. A true sniper, Read is versatile and can play anywhere, but he may have found a home on Giroux’s left side.
2. Ilya Bryzgalov – At some point, people will stop calling him a liability and instead call him an asset to the Flyers. He lowered his GAA to 2.21 and raised his save percentage to .923. If there is reason for optimism for the Flyers moving forward, it starts in goal. Don’t be surprised to see Laviolette stick with him again in Tampa.
3. Luke Schenn – If the Flyers get more games like this from Schenn, they’ll be winners of the trade with Toronto. Eleven hits. It bore repeating one more time.
Did You Know:
Ruslan Fedotenko scored his first goal as a Flyer in just over 10 years. His last regular season goal came on April 14, 2002 vs. NYI. He also scored a playoff goal three days later on April 17, 2002 vs. Ottawa.
The Flyers scored outside of the second period of a game for the first time this season. All five of their goals in the four games before tonight had come in the second period.
The last Flyers hat trick against Florida was by Eric Lindros in 1995.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37