Philly Sports Talk

Anyway … Anyhow … Anywhere

flyers

You may have noticed that the articles I write tend to borrow their titles from popular songs, either a well-known line or the actual title. In mid-December, I was thinking that “Who Are You” might be the choice for a Flyers team that had begun the month 2-3-2 after rampaging through November. They didn’t appear to have maintained their momentum, scoring more than 3 goals only 3 times in 7 games (two of those were shoot-out losses). Even their previously stingy goalies had begun to show a mortal side, averaging more than 4 goals allowed over those same 7 games.

Home wins against the Capitals, Blue Jackets and Wild were then sandwiched around a disappointing loss in Columbus.  As the yearly Disney-on-Ice-induced western trip lay before them, the team seemed well aware of what it could mean.

“If we lay an egg [on this trip] we’re going to shoot ourselves in the foot,” said Scott Hartnell. “We had a lot of home games the first month and got off to a poor start, but we’ve gotten back to where we want to go at this point. But, if we let that slide on this road trip we’re going to be scratching ourselves in April looking back wondering what went wrong and we can look at this road trip saying it’s the turning point.”  He then added, “We have to focus, be prepared and do the right things off the ice and get ready to play hard and get some points.”

The trip began with a reunion.  Ilya Bryzgalov, the expensive and ultimately disappointing free-agent goalie with whom the Flyers had cut ties in the off-season, had recently been signed by the Edmonton Oilers.  They quickly found themselves trailing 2-0 and facing a netminder that wanted nothing more than to put one back in the face of his former employers.  They charged back on the strength of a power play that has begun to roll.  Wayne Simmonds potted 2 PPG’s in the second period and Scott Hartnell one in the 3rd.  When Claude Giroux and Michael Raffl bested Bryzgalov, the Flyers left the northern prairie with that rarest of prizes, a shootout win, 4-3.

The Flyers had now won 4 of 5, led by the streaking trio of Jake Voracek, Giroux and Simmonds with points in their last 8, 8 and 6 games respectively.  The Soul Patrol had also scored multiple goals in three straight games, becoming only the 3rd Flyer in history to do so (Reggie Leach -twice – and Ross Lonsberry).

Two nights later, they faced the always dangerous Sedin twins and the rest of the Canucks in Vancouver.  Steve Mason was amazing.  Coach Craig Berube made it clear after the game that he was disappointed in their defensive effort.  But, they entered the 3rd period tied at two and were able to answer a flukey late goal by the Canucks when Brayden Schenn tied it up with the Flyers skating 6-on-5 and Mason on the bench.  For only the second time in team history, the Flyers won consecutive games via the shootout as Mason completed his virtuoso performance by confounding all three Canuck shooters.

Simmonds and Voracek had their point streaks snapped.  But, as happens when a team is streaking, others stepped up.  Mark Streit and Schenn contributed goals, Schenn’s ended a 16-game drought.

The following night they celebrated New Year’s Eve in Calgary.  Berube’s displeasure with their team defense in Vancouver seemed to be fresh in their minds.  Backstopped by a solid effort by Ray Emery, they handed the struggling Flames their seventh loss in their last eight games.  They weren’t perfect.  But, when Calgary native Braydon Coburn’s clear found its way into an empty net, they had swept western Canada for only the first time since 1996.

“I think our team’s real confident right now,” Berube said. “I think they believe they can win games whether they have their best stuff or not. They’re finding ways to win because they’re a confident team right now.”

Confidence?  Belief?  Finding ways to win?  I am thinking I had the right band, just the wrong song.

“Nothing gets in my way
Not even locked doors
Don’t follow the lines
That’ve been laid before
I get along anyway I dare
Anyway, anyhow, anywhere”

- The Who

The Flyers greet 2014 on a 4-game winning streak and sitting in the third guaranteed playoff spot in the Metro Division.  There is still a long way to go and much to be fixed.  But, this looks like a team that wants it enough to put in the effort.  Some nights they’ll fill the score sheet, other nights they’ll lean on Mason or Emery.  If the last few weeks are any indicator, they’ll get along anyway they dare … Anyway … Anyhow … Anywhere.

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