Flyers early-season break could threaten momentum


After a 'Jekyll and Hyde' split to open the 2015-16 season with a solid performance against the Tampa Bay Lightning followed by a blowout loss to the Florida Panthers, the Flyers returned home to Philadelphia in the hopes of figuring out which identity was truly theirs. Two Michal Neuvirth shutouts later, we appear to have the answer. 

Neuvirth was stellar in the first two home games of the year after a personal family issue pulled starter Steve Mason away from the team. The 27-year-old native of the Czech Republic recorded a 31-save blanking against Florida on Monday and followed that performance with a 30-save doughnut against the reigning Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday.

With a current shutout streak of 132:05, it's safe to say that for once in the past handful of years, the Flyers are carrying some early season momentum. 

Momentum in a hockey game is huge. It can single-handedly help determine the outcome on any given night. Take for instance Neuvirth's save on Marian Hossa's shorthanded breakaway attempt. If that doesn't do it for you, how about Sam Gagner's first goal as a Flyer? 

After being a healthy scratch in the first two games of the season, Gagner was inserted into the lineup in place of the injured R.J. Umberger and has fared well in his Orange and Black debut. Hispower-play goal against Chicago was a game-changer, and the obvious emotion after the goal solidified just how important momentum truly is. 

When asked if his exuberant celebration was out of frustration, Gagner replied it was actually quite the opposite.

"No, it was just getting the crowd going," Gagner said. "That’s all that was. It’s always great to score a goal especially in front of that crowd, it’s electric in there. That’s all that was."

Gagner isn't the only Flyer who believes in the power of momentum. Flyers All-Star winger Jake Voracek isn't too happy to have a handful of days without a game after stringing together two, solid home performance.

"I don't like that to be honest with you," Voracek said. "Especially if you have momentum like that, it's something you don't want to have. It is what is it. You gotta make sure you work on the details in practice, you skate a lot and try to be focused on the game."

When asked specifically if the days off would have an effect when the club plays again on Tuesday, the always candid Voracek offered his opinion.

"I expect us to be a little bit rusty against Dallas," Voracek said, "because it's not really that good when you have that many days off, but you know, you find a way to win the games. Doesn't matter how, just find a way to win."

Not everybody is convinced that the five days off is bad thing. Head coach Dave Hakstol looked for the positives of having a few days off.

"Control what we can control," Hakstol said. "We have known we have a couple of days off coming up here. I think the rest will be good for us. I think the practice time will be good for us. It’s nice to be able to go into that with some small success and feel good about the way that we are working and the things we are doing.”

Although the club has recorded points in three of their first four contests, it will be important for them to keep the pedal to the floor when they hit the ice again next week against the upstart Dallas Stars, a reeling Boston Bruins team and the rival New York Rangers.

If they can keep the momentum going through this next slate of games, we may just get a glimpse at a team that is destined to make some noise in the Metropolitan Division this season. 

Zach Hopkins is a contributing writer for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on Twitter @healedbyhockey.

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