(Photo: Kate Frese)
By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor
Toward the end of the winning streak, the Flyers were winning games by the slimmest of margins — two overtime wins and a one-goal win over Vancouver on Monday before the streak ended in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Kings. This game, they delivered a comfortable win.
The Flyers handled the struggling Ducks with four first-period goals and never looked back, picking up their 10th win in the last 12 games to keep the line moving.
More in our Postgame Review.
Phil Varone opened the scoring, off a nice feed by Raffl, to make an early impact just 2:44 into the game.
In the last few games, the Flyers had been in a situation where they had no choice but to rotate the top nine forwards in an effort to finish off a win or complete a comeback. In this game, with a comfortable lead, they were able to give the fourth-line players some deserved ice time late.
Couturier also added two assists for a three-point game. In his last five games, Couturier has eight points. He's up to 48 points on the season in 53 games, nearly pushing point-per-game status. The goal was his 23rd of the season, putting him back on pace to surpass his career high in goals, set last year when he scored 31.
Perhaps the biggest thing with Couturier is the way Scott Gordon has used him. He's not afraid to move Couturier onto a line with Claude Giroux and put Jake Voracek out there as well to create a new-look top line. Couturier has already brought a lot to the second line, with Voracek and Oskar Lindblom. And on the second power play unit, Couturier has completely revitalized the group. Nolan Patrick is more involved. Travis Konecny is more involved. It's producing more offense from a group that was silenced for so much of the season.
Hart's eighth straight win makes him just the second goalie in NHL history to string together eight wins before his 21st birthday, joining Jocelyn Thibault. His numbers say so much more than that. His save percentage climbed again to reach .926. His goals against average dropped to 2.45. He now has an 11-5-1 record in 17 starts. These are right up there with the league leaders, and Hart is fast approaching the minimum number of games played to be ranked among them, even after starting his season in the NHL on Dec. 18.
More than anything, there's a stability with Hart in goal. He's so calm and poised, that so much looks routine. It feels very repetitive talking about his game, which is certainly rare, since the Flyers have seen so many inconsistent goalies come through that some form of consistency, especially at this level, is simply stunning.
Hart's handled every test thrown his way. His next one could be a preview of a really big game to come.
Lindblom's been on a real good run since Scott Gordon came on board. Maybe it's the move to the second line, or just the little things in his game coming around, but since mid-January, Lindblom has doubled his goal total to reach eight.
Patrick is now at 11 goals on the season after his power-play goal on Saturday. What a transformation the last month of the season has been for him. There are nights when Patrick is not the best player or not getting on the board, but he looks completely different than the player that started the season. Last season, Patrick started off his NHL career slowly, due to offseason surgery that can hamper a player for the better part of six months after the season. He finished the season with 13 goals and 30 points after a strong second half. Patrick now is on pace to shatter the 13-goal mark from a season ago and at 20 points, should move past the 30-point mark here too.
Konecny's late goal was his 15th of the season. A strong second half of his own led him to 24 goals on the season and 47 points. With the goal and two points in Saturday's game, he's got a chance to reach the 25-goal mark and should easily move beyond the 47-point mark, sitting at 33 on the season.
It all seems to be coming together for the young kids on the roster, and it's making the product on the ice very enjoyable.
That sound familiar.
It was just a month and a half ago in late November that the Flyers were experiencing a similar path. It cost Ron Hextall his job. Three weeks later, more struggles cost Dave Hakstol his job. Even in the early going, after a 3-1-0 start under Scott Gordon, the Flyers lost eight straight games.
Since the final loss of that eight-game streak on Jan. 8., the Flyers are 10-1-1. For now, pending the results of Saturday night's games, the Flyers are six points out of a playoff spot. That was unimaginable a month ago.
The Ducks, meanwhile, entered Saturday's game with two wins in the last 52 days. They have now lost seven straight games and 19 of the last 21. And every bit of it showed on Saturday.
If anything, appreciate what the Flyers are doing right now, whether it ends with a remarkable comeback to a playoff spot or not. The Flyers are at least showing signs of life, making a push and winning games. They are also doing it while giving young players experience and setting themselves up nicely for the future and for the upcoming offseason — see Chuck Fletcher's trade on Saturday.
The Flyers were just in the shoes of the Ducks a month ago, hovering at the bottom of the standings with no real signs of getting out. Now they are in a playoff race.
By the Numbers
The Flyers actually finished on the short end of the possession battle with a 48.54 CF% at 5-on-5. The Ducks actually had 13 high-danger scoring chances to the Flyers seven. The heat map below shows just how much the Ducks got in front of the net, forcing Hart to be solid in close.
Stat of the Game
An interesting duo tied for the team lead in blocked shots in this game. The number was three blocked shots, shared by Wayne Simmonds and Oskar Lindblom.