PHILADELPHIA - This great goaltending thing is contagious.
Steve Mason had been cruising along in his past five starts with lights out numbers as the Flyers won four-of five, including two shutouts.
But, in this final game before the Olympic break, Mason took a seat in favor of Ray Emery, who personally has tremendous lifetime numbers against Calgary, Saturday’s opponent.
It was a good recipe of past ingredients plus current momentum and energy for the Flyers to lean on Emery and go into the break on quite a roll.
The end result was a soufflé of good team play in a game that could easily have been a trap game against a non-conference, non-playoff opponent just before the team gets a 10-day hockey vacation.
Emery was at the center of it all with 32 saves, not allowing a goal until the final minutes of play to T.J. Galiardi.
All told the Flyers increased their winning streak to four games with a 2-1 victory over the Flames and enter the Olympic break with a three-point lead for third place in the Metropolitan Division standings.
Emery entered the game with a 7-2-1 career record against Calgary with a 1.39 goals against average and a .948 save percentage, numbers that all got better after this performance.
“He was huge for us,” said Andrej Meszaros, who was back in the lineup and played well, picking up an assist and a plus-2 in 21:24. “He won us the game and kept us in when it was 0-0 and 1-0 and then we got the second goal even though they scored in the end, he was incredible. It was a big part of our win.”
Emery continued a stretch of tremendous goaltending for the Flyers as they have only allowed nine goals in the past six games (5-1-0) which includes a 1.34 GAA and a .958 save percentage.
As well as the goalies have played though, Emery wants to chalk that up to good team defense in front of the net – for the most part – and then the goalies chipping in when they have to.
“During the last stretch of six or seven games we’ve tightened up and really not given teams that much,” Emery said. “I think it was a great stretch heading into this break. We talked about it before those six or seven games that we could either put ourselves in a good position or play ourselves out of it. Fortunately, we’ve put ourselves in a pretty good spot going further in the year.”
That spot has the Flyers sitting alone in third place in the Metropolitan Division, which is a playoff spot, three points ahead of fourth place Columbus.
The Flyers four-game winning streak is the longest active winning streak in the NHL and their 26-13-5 record in the past three months is tied for fifth best in the NHL and second-best in the Eastern Conference behind only Pittsburgh.
And yet, the Flyers still are in the thick of a playoff battle, and will have to emerge from this 18-day hiatus for the Olympics ready to hit the ground running against the Sharks.
“Our players have to first be ready to go before we start practicing [again],” coach Craig Berube said. “I know you’re going to take some time off and stuff but make sure you’re staying in shape and doing the right things so you’re ready to go. We get practice time here. We get five, six days in of practice and then you’ve got a big stretch of games.
“The key is to be ready to go before we start practicing and not work your way into practice. I want to get going right away when we get back and practice fast and hard to get ready.”
Brayden Schenn struck first with a goal in the second period, and could have had a few more as he had a bevy of chances prior to scoring off a pass from Wayne Simmonds. He was easily the best offensive player for the Flyers as his line seemed to generate the most offense in the contest.
“We’re lucky we got one,” Schenn said of his line. “We feel like we’ve been getting chances as of late. Games before this they just weren’t going in so it’s nice to get one.”
However it was the captain, once again, providing the needed offense for a win as Claude Giroux, fired a shot off of teammate Scott Hartnell's shin pad for the game-winner, It was Hartnell's 15th goal of the season and it moved Giroux into 11th in the NHL scoring race with 57 points.
“I think the team is getting comfortable with the way we are expected to play,” Emery said. “I think the rest of the year is not so much easier, but you get into the playoff battles and you get those competitive juices flowing.”
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers
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