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TAMING THE WILD

SIMMONDS HAS A BIG NIGHT AS FLYERS ENTER BREAK IN PLAYOFF SPOT

Tuesday, 12.24.2013 / 12:02 AM ET / News
By Anthony SanFilippo  - Philadelphia Flyers Inside Reporter
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TAMING THE WILD
When Craig Berube decided to tweak his lineup six games ago as far as line combinations, there were some eyebrows raised when he decided to put Brayden Schenn, Scott Hartnell and Wayne Simmonds together.\r\nConventional wisdom would have suggested it was a unit that was doomed for frustration. Three players, all who play a similar style, none of which have blazing speed, plugging along as a line full of power forwards.\r\nIt\u2019s kind of like trying to text with your toes.\r\nBut conventional wisdom has taken a back seat for now with this unit, as the trio have found a way to make a difference in hockey games.

PHILADELPHIA – When Craig Berube decided to tweak his lineup six games ago as far as line combinations, there were some eyebrows raised when he decided to put Brayden Schenn, Scott Hartnell and Wayne Simmonds together.

Conventional wisdom would have suggested it was a unit that was doomed for frustration. Three players, all who play a similar style, none of which have blazing speed, plugging along as a line full of power forwards.

It’s kind of like trying to text with your toes.

But conventional wisdom has taken a back seat for now with this unit, as the trio have found a way to make a difference in hockey games.

Wayne Simmonds acknowledges the crowd after being named first star against the Wild with a three-point effort.

Especially Simmonds. There’s been no slowing the Wayne Train, as he is called by many fans on social media, in the past few games.

Simmonds scored twice and added an assist, registering his first three-point game since a four point night in Carolina last April 20, leading the Flyers to a convincing 4-1 win over the Minnesota Wild in their final game on home ice in calendar year 2013.

Simmonds now has five goals and two assists for seven points in the past four games for the Flyers, coming on the heels of a 10-game drought in which he was only able to muster three assists.

“I think it’s worked great,” Simmonds said of his new line. “We all do the same thing, we play north-south, we get bodies in, we grind on the other teams defense, and we get the pucks to the point and we crash the net. I think that’s a good recipe and so far it’s been working.”

Has it ever.

For a team that has struggled to find much offense all season – the Flyers entered play Monday ranked 24th in the NHL in goals – they have been able to post three or more goals in seven of the last 10 games and more specifically have done it five games in a row now, totaling 21 goals in that span.

“I thought they were real good because all three of them worked hard together,” Berube said. “In order for that line to be successful they all need to work and play a power game. I thought they did that tonight.”

Most noticeable was Scott Hartnell, who only registered one point – an assist on the game’s first goal by defenseman Luke Schenn that marked the 500th point of his career, but each of his 19 shifts seemed to have a determined Hartnell outworking Wild players around every turn.

“We’ve obviously changed some things up,” Hartnell said. “I think it took a little while to learn how to play the right way and I know no one doesn’t want to let anyone down in here; turning the puck over, making soft plays and you’re accountable to your teammates, the guy next to you in the dressing room; you play hard, you play smarter.”

And the Flyers have been a much smarter team, especially at Wells Fargo center where they’ve won nine straight games for the first time since October-November 2005.

Against the Wild it was about as precise a performance as there could be. The Flyers clamped down defensively, making goalie Steve Mason have a relatively easy night in goal. He made 26 saves, but only a few of them were tough.

They still took too many penalties – giving the Wild five power play chances, but they only allowed one shot on goal in those five power plays – and it was the lone Minnesota goal during a 5-on-3 opportunity.

The team is playing well,” said Claude Giroux, who had a goal and an assist, stretching his career-best point streak to seven games. “We’ve got the four lines going and everyone’s playing great. I think when you have a team effort like tonight, it’s a really good feeling. So we can take it in for a couple days for Christmas and be ready to go on the road.”

And the Flyers head into the holiday break, and the looming six-game road trip, holding onto sole possession of a playoff position as they sit third in the Metropolitan Division with 38 points (17-16-4).

“We got to take this show on the road,” Hartnell said. “You can’t be homers and expect to make the playoffs and take the next step, so we got to take what we do here at home and put it on the road.”

To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email asanfilippo@comcast-spectacor.com or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 x - NYR 74 47 20 7 226 172 101
2 MTL 75 46 21 8 197 167 100
3 TBL 76 46 23 7 244 198 99
4 PIT 75 41 23 11 207 188 93
5 NYI 76 44 27 5 230 211 93
6 DET 74 40 22 12 216 201 92
7 WSH 75 40 25 10 218 186 90
8 BOS 75 37 25 13 199 195 87
9 OTT 73 37 25 11 213 195 85
10 FLA 74 34 26 14 184 202 82
11 PHI 76 30 29 17 198 219 77
12 CBJ 74 35 35 4 203 230 74
13 NJD 74 31 31 12 166 189 74
14 CAR 73 27 36 10 170 201 64
15 TOR 75 27 42 6 194 241 60
16 BUF 74 20 46 8 141 249 48

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Voracek 76 21 55 7 76
C. Giroux 75 23 46 2 69
W. Simmonds 75 28 22 -5 50
M. Streit 75 9 36 -10 45
B. Schenn 76 14 25 -7 39
S. Couturier 76 13 17 1 30
M. Del Zotto 58 9 20 -5 29
M. Read 74 7 22 -7 29
M. Raffl 61 20 6 7 26
V. Lecavalier 52 7 11 -10 18
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
S. Mason 15 17 11 .927 2.24
R. Emery 10 10 6 .892 3.15
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