By Victor Cabrera
Last season the Philadelphia Flyers secured a playoff spot in dramatic fashion and this season it’s starting to look like something even more dramatic has to occur to battle for the Cup. The second wild card spot is the only spot remaining but Philadelphia isn’t the only team competing for that spot as, Carolina, (New York Islanders), Tampa Bay, and Boston all sit above the Flyers in the standings. Although it is numerically possible to qualify the task is difficult as the Flyers would need the teams above them to lose games while Philadelphia winning their remaining games. March was a good month for Philly going 8-6-1 for 17 points and staying in the hunt for the playoffs. Analyzing this past month will reveal the reason why the Flyers will not qualify for the post season, without further ado here’s a breakdown of March.
The month’s first game was at home versus the Florida Panthers, the debut night for newly acquired Valtteri Filppula with the Philadelphia Flyers. A slow start to the game with no goals in the first and the game’s opening goal coming in the second period for the Panthers while being short-handed. The new guy Valtteri Filppula tied the game in the third with his debut goal and forced overtime after a 1-1 regulation score. Over time didn’t find a winner between these two teams and a shutout was required. The Flyers shot first with Jordan Weal who scored on his attempt. Mason made a save on the Panthers first shooter giving the home side a brief lead. Captain Claude Giroux had his bit denied and the Panthers scored on their second attempt tying it 1-1 after two rounds. Jakub Voracek was next up beating the Florida goalie to put Philadelphia up 2-1. With the Panthers facing sudden death they attempted to tie the shootout but Steve Mason denied them for a 2-1 win in the shootout for the Flyers. Next on the schedule was a four-game road trip the first stop being in Washington. A very slow-paced game as both the first and second period were scoreless. Sean Couturier opened the scoring early in the third but the Capitals tied it moments later. The tie was deadlocked and forced overtime the second consecutive one for the Flyers. The Capitals, however, decided the game scoring on a power play for a 2-1 overtime loss for the Flyers.
Philadelphia would then head North to face off with the Buffalo Sabers. Matt Read got the game started scoring an early goal to put the Flyers ahead however Buffalo’s dangerous power play tied the game, 1-1 was the score after the first period. Radko Gudas restored the lead for Philly scoring in the second but yet again the Buffalo power play had a response tying the game. Jordan Weal scored putting the Flyers back on top followed by a goal from Claude Giroux to increase the lead to two with one period left. Chris VandeVelde didn’t let the intermission stop Philadelphia from increasing their lead scoring early in the final period. Shortly after Travis Konecny further increased the lead to four goals but, before the game’s end the Sabers scored with the final score being 6-3 in favor of the Flyers. The following game was against the Toronto Maple Leafs who were also looking for a playoff spot like the Philadelphia Flyers. Wayne Simmonds kicked the game off with a power play tally but the Leafs did the same and a 1-1 score was the result at intermission. The leafs took the lead in the second scoring the period’s only goal. Toronto further increased their lead in the third scoring on another power play. Shayne Gostisbehere brought the Flyers within one goal. Being down by just one Philadelphia pulled the goalie but Toronto scored on the empty net winning it 4-2. A big two points to lose for the playoff push. To close out the road trip the Flyers paid a visit to the Boston Bruins another team battling for a playoff spot. The Bruins opened the scoring with a power play goal late in the first period the only goal of the frame. Jordan Weal tied the game in the opening minutes of the second with the period’s only goal leading to a 1-1 tie with 20 minutes to play. While the game was in its closing seconds it looked like overtime was going to be needed but the Bruins shot a puck towards the net got a lucky bounce and beat Steve Mason to win 2-1 with just 5.6 seconds left in the game. An extremely tough loss for the Flyers to go from an almost guaranteed one point to nothing at all for a long hard-fought game.
The Flyers returned for a two game home stand at the Well’s Fargo Center. The first team they would host were the Columbus Blues Jackets. The Blue Jackets got to work early scoring two unanswered goals in 60 seconds. Travis Konecny scored later in the first period making the score 2-1 after the opening period. Brayden “Hero” Schenn did his usual scoring a key power play goal to tie the game in the second. Shortly after Travis Konecny scored his second of the night giving the Flyers their first lead of the night. Columbus tied the game late in the period for a 3-3 with the third period left to play. The Blue Jackets took the lead in the final period capitalizing on a power play. The Flyers risked it pulling their goalie and Columbus scored on the empty net to win 5-3. The Pittsburgh Penguins came to close out the Philadelphia Flyers’ home stand. The game found itself not having a goal in the opening 20 minutes. Sean Couturier scored in the first minute of the second period to give the game its first goal. Wayne Simmonds increased the lead with a power play tally. 2-0 the Flyers lead with the third period left to play. Claude Giroux scored in the third increasing the lead to three and to secure the win Dale Weise scored off a fortunate deflection to give the Flyers a 4-0 win their first win after losing four in a row.Philadelphia hit the road the next night for a game against the struggling New Jersey Devils. Michael Del Zotto gave the Flyers the lead but the Devils answered quickly to make it 1-1 after the first period. The Devils struck twice in a row in the third for a two goal lead but Brayden “Hero” Schenn scored to make it 3-2 in favor of the Devils. The Flyers were down by just one with 20 minutes to play. New Jersey simply demolished Philadelphia scoring three unanswered goals in the third to win 6-2 their first win after 10 consecutive losses.
The Flyers returned home for a single game against the Carolina Hurricanes. The first period looked like it was a scoreless one but Ivan Provorov scored with less than a minute left for a 1-0 lead after the opening period. Dale Weise scored in the second increasing the lead to two but the Hurricanes scored quickly and then scored again in the closing minute of the second to tie the game 2-2. In the third, the Hurricanes took the lead with a power play goal. With the Flyers down by a goal and with their goalie pulled they scored tying the game with less than a minute to play to force overtime with a 3-3 score. The overtime didn’t last long with the game winner coming off Brayden “Hero” Schenn’s stick for a big two points at home. The Flyers had a four-game road trip next on their schedule with the first game being against the Winnipeg Jets. Neither team scored in the first period. Jordan Weal scored the game’s opening goal in the second however, the Jets tied the game with a powerplay goal. The game was 1-1 with the third period left to play. The Jets scored in the third getting a lead and increased it with another goal later in the third. It becomes out of reach for the Flyers but they scored with two seconds left of the game off a forecheck in the Winnipeg defensive zone, recovering the puck and getting a shot past the Jets’ goalie on the penalty kill for a 3-2 Flyers loss. Next up were the Minnesota Wild. The Wild got an early lead scoring in the game’s first minutes. Sean Couturier scored late in the first tying the game 1-1 after the first period. Matt read scored for the Flyers in the opening seconds of the second with that being the period’s only goal. Philadelphia held their one goal lead through the third and increased it with a Jakub Voracek empty net goal for a 3-1 win against the Wild.
The Flyers returned back East for their next two road games with the first game being at Nationwide Arena against the Columbus Blue Jackets. A slow and very defensive game in which the Blue Jackets won 1-0 with a goal in the second period. The next night the Flyers paid a visit to state and divisional rivals the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Pens took the lead with a power play goal but Jordan Weal took the wheel scoring in the last minute of the first period for a 1-1 score after 20 minutes of play. Valtteri Filppula gave the Flyers the lead with the only goal of the second period. Dale Weise scored early in the third to bump up the lead and then Jakub Voracek added another goal for the Flyers. The Penguins scored making the lead just two. Radko Gudas scored to bring the lead back to three and then Shayne Gostisbehere sealed the game with a goal of his own for a big 6-2 win for Philadelphia. The team would head back home to finish March at the Well’s Fargo Center for two games. First team to be hosted the Ottawa Senators. The visiting side found themselves on the board first with a power-play strike but the Flyers tied it with a power play goal of their own. The 1-1 score held till the third as neither side scored a goal in the second. The Sens took back the lead in the third and again the Flyers tied it this time with a goal from Jordan Weal forcing overtime after a 2-2 score. The extra session, however, didn’t decide a winner requiring a shootout. Jordan Weal would be the hero as he was the only shooter from either team to score and gave Philadelphia the two points in the 3-2 shootout win. The final game of march was against the New York Islanders who were in the battle for a playoff spot. The Flyers had a perfect first period scoring five unanswered goals. The goals came from Dale Weise, Sean Couturier, Radko Gudas, Jordan Weal, and a power play goal from Wayne Simmonds. The Islanders would finally answer back in the second scoring the period’s lone goal. The Islanders would then make the game interesting scoring two goals in the third bringing them within two goals. Valterri Filppula would get the game-sealer with an empty net goal for a 6-3 win.
March leaders for the Philadelphia Flyers are as follows: Goal leader Wayne Simmonds 30 goals, Assist leader Claude Giroux 42 assists, Point leader Jakub Voracek 59 points, Goalie leaders, Steve Mason 25 wins three shutouts, Michal Neuvirth 11 wins no shutouts, Anthony Stolarz 2 wins one shutout.
The Power play has been stellar with Schenn and Simmonds scoring big goals. The penalty kill wasn’t very hot allowing multiple power play goals in single games. Other guys have gotten on the board when Claude Giroux hasn’t made a goal scoring impact. Dale Weise, Sean Couturier, Radko Gudas, and Jordan Weal have made the goals count and are going to be big keys in the playoff fight for the remainder of the season. High scoring games for Philadelphia in this past month’s games have kept the team in the hunt. Two big wins against the Penguins have kept the Flyers in the wild card race. Losing key games to Eastern conference foes hurt the Flyers in the standings is the reason they won’t make the playoffs. Philly needed to win more games and get help, but it’s too late now. The Flyers will have to look to next season.
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April 8th, 2017