PHILADELPHIA – Claude Giroux walked away from the throng of media who waited to speak to him after the game.
He could have easily sauntered to the showers without so much as an acknowledgement.
But this was a different day than many other recent days.
Instead, Giroux walked over to the Flyers Public Relations director, smiled and in a sotto voice said, “It’s definitely more fun talking to these guys after a win.”
He said it with a sense of relief, almost as if he had forgotten the feeling.
Winning hockey. It was something the Flyers had done just once previously. But this night was different. This night was about starting anew. This night was about finding confidence and then not letting it go again.
This night was about a much needed two points in the standings.
The Flyers defeated the New York Rangers 2-1. The Rangers are scuffling along just as the Flyers have. They’ve played one fewer game, have one fewer loss, have scored one fewer goal, but have given up a ton of goals.
It wasn’t the perfect victory. The Flyers still had their flaws, they still made mistakes. But they found a way to win and that’s oh-so-very important.
“When you’re off a week, a lot of the time you can be rusty with the puck and I thought that was the case early on in the game,” said coach Craig Berube. “As for the execution, a lot of the plays that were right there, we just missed. I still think that offensively we are not where we have to be.
“We do not put enough consistent pressure on the other team. We get some chances but we need to have a little bit more fight with the puck - win some more battles, keep some more zone time. Defensively, I thought we were pretty solid tonight.”
It was an apt description.
Defense and goaltending was strong. Offensively, the Flyers got to the net a little more – Although they can do it more – and the power play is still in shambles, but hey, why focus on the negatives when there are definite positives?
“To get everybody on the same page we had a week to work on the new system and the new way we want to play,” said captain Claude Giroux, who still didn’t produce offensively, but played a strong game in the areas that don’t show up in a boxscore. “We had a lot of chances again tonight, but if we keep playing hard like this and playing as a team, we’re going to start winning games.”
One down, more to go….
Matt Read was easily the game’s best player, and not just because he had a multi-point night that included his first goal of the season.
No, Read was noticeable on every shift, whether it was in the offensive or defensive end. Whether it was on the power play or on the penalty kill, this was Read’s best game this season.
And it all started with a goal…
“I think most of the guys we’ve been pass first and not shooting pucks,” Read said. “I was lucky to get a nice bounce and get a half break away and you have to have a shoot first mentality if you want to score more than two goals a game. That is something our whole team has to work on, is shooting the puck more and driving to the net.”
Read got the break when Derrick Brassard lost an edge an slipped at the point with the puck on a Rangers power play.
Read took off in the opposite direction, eventually joined by Sean Couturier on a 2-on-1 break. Read looked to Couturier for an instant, almost lulling Rangers goalie Cam Talbot to sleep, before snapping off a wrister that beat the goalie to the 5-hole to make it 1-0.
Later, Read made a fine forechecking play to strip the puck from a Rangers defenseman and feed Braydon Coburn for what would be the game-winning goal.
“I think everybody is trying to pull in the same direction here and it’s a matter of just putting it all together,” said Coburn, who has the game-winning goal in both of the Flyers wins this season. “We’ve got a lot of good pieces here and it’s just a matter of executing it. I think that has been one other part in this early season that we have lacked is execution and you know that is something we will have to keep working on.”
And the Flyers can continue to “keep working on” things as long as Steve Mason continues his solid play in goal.
Mason was sharp again, turning aside 28 shots for his second win of the season. In seven starts now with the Flyers this season Mason is carrying a 2.17 goals against average and a .930 save percentage. The goals against ranks 10th among goalies who have started at least half their team’s games. The save percentage is tied for sixth in the same grouping.
Not too shabby for a goalie on a 2-7-0 team.
“You just have to be ready for anything,” said Mason. “You know the next save could be a turning point in the game. I think Talbot made a huge save coming across there and that could swing the momentum in their direction but it’s my job to make the saves.”
Speaking of Talbots, while Cam was making stops for the Rangers, Max was doing his best Ian Laperriere impression for the Flyers.
After getting bumped from behind face-first into the boards, getting a cut on the tip of his nose in the process, Talbot appeared to be done for the game.
Yet he came back and played a strong third period defensively, helping to keep the Rangers from tying the game.
“You walk it off,” Talbot said of the injury. “You see it’s a tight game as well. I took some time with the doctors; we did all of the tests. I still remember all of the words he asked me. I had to repeat five words. Everything seemed okay. We patched up my nose a little bit. When you feel you’re fine to come back, you come back.”
Hey, he’s a hockey player.
The Flyers had a five-minute power play after Benoit Pouliot was ejected from the game for the hit on Talbot, but the Flyers couldn’t capitalize. They got the break they needed later in the period though when a goal by J.T. Miller was waved off by the replay officials when it was determined he kicked the puck into the net.
It was a close call, one that could have gone either way, but the Flyers were happy it went their way.
“It was great to get a [break],” Giroux said. ‘Especially in the third. When they got that goal there [and then reviewed it] I was talking to my friend upstairs… I was in the penalty box there, and I was feeling pretty small... To get that disallowed, it gave the guys a little breather. [It was like], ‘Alright, have a [break] here, so let’s go and finish this game here.’”
And that’s what they did, which is why things were so much more fun for Giroux afterward than the alternative.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers
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