By Jeff Quake, Sports Talk Philly staff writer
The Philadelphia Flyers have had some consistent issues on the ice as of late with a three-game losing streak. Their penalty kill is ranked 30th in the league at 67.4 percent. They allow an average of four goals against per game. They score an average of 2.8 goals per game. And, of course, there have been plenty of early-season injuries.
However, things may finally change for the Orange and Black as they collected a much-needed 3-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday in the first game of a four-game West coast road trip.
Just 21 seconds after Pontus Aberg scored to tie the game late in the third period, Nolan Patrick fired the puck past Ryan Miller after a terrific behind-the-net pass from Oskar Lindblom. The go-ahead goal gave the Flyers their first win since Oct. 20, a 5-2 win at home over the New Jersey Devils.
This also marked the first time since Feb. 2, 2008 that the Flyers have won against the Ducks in regulation, and their first regulation win in Anaheim since Nov. 15, 2006.
“It was a hell of a play. [Robert Hagg] did a good job of holding the blue line twice,” head coach Dave Hakstol said in his postgame interview. “There was no gamble to that play at all. Guys checked above it, got the puck back and made a good play to the slot. Patty got it on net quick.”
With injuries to James van Riemsdyk and more recently Michael Raffl and Corban Knight both going to the IR, along with recent call-ups for Nicholas Aube-Kubel and Tyrell Goulbourne, the team has a decent fire lit underneath them as they are just 4-6 in their last 10 games.
The Flyers as of late have struggled as a whole, but more importantly the defense has. One of those main defenseman having some struggles early is Ivan Provorov. Some are asking if the 21 year-old has been playing hurt, but according to Provorov, Hakstol, and GM Ron Hextall that is not the case and he is healthy.
“I think it was just another game for me,” Provorov said after Tuesday's win. “I’ve felt great since preseason just playing my game. Today, I got a goal, but it’s not changing my goal. If I do get points and some games I don’t, it doesn’t mean I’m playing worse than the other games.”
“Provy was good tonight,” Hakstol said. “Provy draws a lot of attention. Sometimes when things don’t go well for our team he draws the negative attention, but you’ve got to remember he’s playing against the other team’s best player every night. Hey, that’s his job and he loves that challenge. Tonight he was good. He was on top of everything and he was very sharp.”
This was also arguably the Flyers best defensive performance since the 5-2 win over the Devils. When all of the Flyers best defensive players, up front, on the blue line and in the crease, seem to be clicking, the results are there.
“It’s in those times where you gotta be prepared defensively,” Sean Couturier said. “You don’t want to give up that little chance that costs you and yeah, we played a good game. We controlled the puck a lot and created a lot of chances, but I thought we did a good job defensively, coming back in the slot there and not giving up second chances. Moose made the saves we needed.”
“They had a lot of puck possession coming through the slot area, but we were filling lanes and taking away shots and forcing them to look for other plays,” Brian Elliott said. “I thought that effort was really good and when they did take the shot, there was a lot of good sticks, good blocked shots out there for us.”
Can the Flyers continue this type of play after the quality win over the wounded Ducks? Up next, they take on another struggling team in the Los Angeles Kings, followed by the San Jose Sharks, before finally closing out the road trip with a home-and-home series against the Arizona Coyotes.
So far on home ice, the Flyers are 2-4 and they are 3-3 on the road. This four-game road trip is an important one for Philadelphia as they hope to get on the right track. Maybe a late-game win in a low-scoring game was just the spark they needed.