The Philadelphia Flyer’s 5-0 win vs. the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday night is the most important win thus far in the season.
From the start of the contest, Philadelphia and Detroit battled back and forth, but neither seemed to be gaining an edge. A Scott Hartnell deflection put the Flyers in the lead, but besides the five penalties between the teams, that’s about all the action there was in the first period.
The remainder of the game saw the Flyers take control. Hartnell notched his second goal of the game, and Adam Hall added one of his own. In the third, Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier tallied the team’s fourth and fifth goals.
Steve Mason was a man among boys throughout Tuesday’s game. He seemed to be standing on his head as he stopped all 33 shots he faced, and recorded his second shutout of the season.
This was the Flyer’s eighth straight home win against the Red Wings, a streak spanning back to 1997.
So why was this game so important?
The Flyer’s were 2-5-2 in their last nine heading into this Eastern Conference matchup. After going 19-6-3 from Nov. 9 – Jan. 8, they vaulted themselves back into playoff position by becoming one of the hottest teams in the NHL.
No, you can’t win every game. However, seeing the team get so cold, so quick, was a bit shocking and disappointing to fans.
The win vs. Detroit was against their so-called “B-Team,” as they were missing star players Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Frazen, and Stephen Weiss among others. This doesn’t make the two points any less valuable, or any less important to a team that needed them desperately. This win is the possible spark plug to lift the team out of their slump. Lets also not forget that they should see the return of their on-ice spark plug in Zac Rinaldo, who is currently listed as day-to-day with a high ankle sprain.
Giroux and Hartnell also continued their hot play as of late. Both tallied three points against Detroit to give them impressive numbers: Giroux has 29 points in his last 22 games, and Hartnell is averaging a point a game over his last 21 outings.
Both the players are team leaders for the Flyers, as they both wear a C and an A, respectively. The team’s slump didn’t affect their play, which is important because, as team leaders, it’s their job to pick up slack if there is any.
Steve Mason also needed this kind of performance. After signing a new deal (3 years, $12.3M), most would have guessed his spirits would be high, and his performance would to be high as a result. However, it did exactly the opposite.
Since Jan. 11, Mason has gone 1-3-1, boasted a .851 save percentage, and a goals against average (GAA) of 4.56. These are woefully low numbers for a starting goaltender in the NHL.
Mason’s 33-save shutout should undoubtedly improve his morale as he looks to regain his form from the beginning of the season.
Couturier’s third period goal ended a nine game goalless streak. The 21-year-old forward is a huge part of the Flyer’s plan. He has proven to be a top penalty-killer and defensive forward in the NHL, and it’s incredibly important he increases his offensive productivity to improve his all-around game.
The Flyer’s visited the penalty box six times vs. the Red Wings to add to their NHL leading 845 penalty minutes, well ahead of any other team. This is a major issue the Flyer’s need to take care of soon, or they are sure to see problems continue.
The Flyer’s travel west for a three game road trip in California, facing the Ducks, Kings and Sharks before returning home Feb. 6 to face the Avalanche.
All three Californian teams sit atop the Pacific Division in playoff position. Philadelphia needs to ride Tuesday’s win into a strong road performance to avoid another prolonged slump, much like the one they faced at the start of the season. Seeing team leaders perform the way that they have provides a feeling of confidence for fans, and is rightfully deserved.
HartnellDown Tracker: Scott currently sits at 187 for the season.