Bill Meltzer: Meltzer’s Musings: Flyers Double Up Blue Jackets

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FLYERS DOUBLE COLUMBUS, 4-2, SNAP LOSING STREAK

On Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center, the Flyers played fairly well in a 3-2 loss to Minnesota. Two nights later, Philly played better in a 4-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Every time the Blue Jackets made a push at the Flyers — whether it was in generating scoring chances or scoring goals that tied the game at 1-1 and cut a two-goal deficit to one early in the third period — Philadelphia came up with a strong response.

Steve Mason was not exceptionally busy in net for segments of the game but came up with several critical momentum saves at key junctures. Twice the Flyers scored within the next couple shifts to restore or extend the lead.

Additionally, the Flyers played well both on the forecheck and (for the most part) defensively against Columbus. Breakouts were cleaner than in some recent games. Players had their feet moving. The gaps were generally kept under control. Philly won the majority of the battles. Once Philly extended the lead to 4-2, they didn’t sit back. Instead, the Flyers continued to skate and forecheck to close the game out with authority. Philly also dominated on faceoffs, winning 36 of 56 (64 percent) led by a dominating performance from Claude Giroux.

Lastly, the Flyers held Ryan Johansen quiet on the night. The Blue Jackets’ franchise player was held without a point or shot in the game.

In short, it was exactly the type of game the club needed to play.

Goals by Brayden Schenn, Mark Streit, Wayne Simmonds (power play) and Braydon Coburn paced the Flyers. Jakub Voracek had a pair of assists for his 10th multi-point game of the season.

Columbus got goals from Boone Jenner and Matt Calvert. Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 33 of 37 shots in a losing effort. 1st period

At the 2:38 mark of the opening period Brayden Schenn deflected Voracek’s shot from high in the zone for his seventh goal of the season. The puck both posts and went in behind Bobrovsky. Voracek earned his 21st assist of the season. Braydon Coburn got the secondary helper for his first point of the season.

The Flyers had their first lead since the Colorado tilt on Nov. 8. It didn’t last long. At 4:36, with Matt Read in the box for hooking, the Flyers penalty killing woes continued (things got better later as Philly killed off each of its two subsequent penalties).

On the play, Jenner one-timed a shot past Mason off the back bar of the net for his first goal of the season. The play was ruled no goal on the ice by referee Kevin Rehman but was quickly overturned on video review in Toronto. The assists on the power play goal went to James Wisniewski (7th) and Jack Johnson (8th).

Zac Rinaldo and Jared Boll fought at the drop of a neutral zone faceoff at 6:31. It was a short fight that ended as Rinaldo lost his balance and fell to the ice.

Columbus went on its second power play at 7:20 as Simmonds was whistled off for a glancing hook on Jack Skille along the right side boards. The Flyers survived but the Blue Jackets had a late chance from the doorstep that got swept aside.

Coburn had a shot blocked at the point, which led to an odd-man rush for the Blue Jackets and a scoring chance for Scott Hartnell. Coburn slid into the net, knocking it off its moorings for a stoppage at 11:57.

At near the 14:00 mark, Mason had to make a 10-bell save on Nick Foligno on an open chance from the slot: It was a potential momentum stop.

Sure enough, the Flyers re-took the lead at 2-1 on the next scoring chance of the period. Bobrovsky stopped Streit on an initial shot as he skated the puck in from the point but left out a fat rebound. Continuing to go to the net, Streit followed up and tucked the puck home for his fourth goal of the season and second in as many games.

The primary assist was Giroux’s 17th helper of the season. Nicklas Grossmann got the secondary assist for his third assist and fourth point of the season.

With 1:28 remaining in the first period, Del Zotto received a holding penalty along the wall for grabbing at Jenner. With 15.6 seconds left, Mason erased his own mistake on a bad rebound by stoning Artem Anisimov from the doorstep.

Shots in the first period were 11-11. Remarkably, Giroux went 10-for-10 on faceoffs through the opening 20 minutes. 2nd period

Columbus took 32 seconds of carryover power play time into the second period. The Flyers killed off the remainder without yielding any shots or chances.

Philadelphia finally got its first power play of the game at 7:21 of the middle period. Jordan Leopold was called for interference for obstructing Voracek away from the puck.

Philly generated good puck movement through the first 1:15 of the power play. Bobrovsky got a stoppage as he saved and held onto a Giroux one-timer. The second unit came out and did not fare as well over the final 45 seconds

Rinaldo and Dalton Prout received coincidental roughing minors at 10:06 as they jousted behind the Columbus net, setting up two minutes of 4-on-4 play.

Voracek and Michael Del Zotto traded off a pair of nice passes in the offensive zone during the 4-on-4 but a return feed from Del Zotto to Voracek stationed near the left post barely missed connections.

David Savard went off for tripping R,J, Umberger deep in Columbus territory at 13:02. Wayne Simmonds had a chance from the doorstep 45 seconds into the advantage but was in too close to Bobrovsky, who had everything sealed off low, and flipped the puck into the goalie.The Flyers received a 15-second 5-on-3 as Wisniewski slashed Rinaldo.

The Flyers did not score in the brief two-man advantage but soon extended their lead to 3-1 on the ensuing 5-on-4.

Simmonds stashed home his eighth goal of the season (fifth power play goal) from a tight angle. Simmonds got a centering pass from Voracek (second assist of the game, 22nd of the season) who had initially received a cross-ice feed from Giroux (second assist of the game, 18th of the season) and made a strong move into the open space over the middle.

Mason and Bobrovsky took turns making tough saves as the period wound down. The Flyers goaltender stopped Cam Atkinson at one end of the ice — just the team’s fourth shot of the period. Shortly thereafter, Brayden Schenn and Voracek had cracks at the Columbus net.

Shots in the second period were 18 for the Flyers to four for the Blue Jackets. Giroux went 9-for-12 on faceoffs to run his two period faceoff total to 19-for-22 (he lost two of the first three in the period). 3rd period

The Blue Jackets cut the deficit back to 3-2 at 2:06

Mason made a momentum save on the next shift, denying Anisimov on a counter rush. As happened in the first period on Streit’s goal, the Flyers used it as a springboard to get the next goal.

Coburn, who has had trouble putting shots on net, made no mistake on a center point shot that rocketed past Bobrovsky for his first goal of the season. Matt Read, who fed the puck to the point got the primary assist (sixth assist and eighth point of the season). Nick Schultz got the secondary assist (fifth of the season) as the Flyers went ahead 4-2 at 3:18.

Del Zotto took an inadvertent icing at 10:01 of the period, but Giroux won the ensuing defensive zone faceoff and the Flyers had an easy breakout.

The Flyers had a very strong defensive shift by Laughton’s line with about five minutes left in the game. Columbus activated their point men at every opportunity and forechecked very aggressively but the Flyers contained them to the outside and blocked a pair of shot attempts.

With 3:30 left, Philly had a chance to put the game away for good as Lecavalier fed an open Umberger. The rush fizzled out. Moments later, Bobrovsky denied Brayden Schenn’s bid for his second goal of the game.

Three times, the Flyers got pucks in deep to prevent Columbus from pulling Bobrovsky for an extra attacker. He finally got to the bench with 1:01 remaining. Foligno took a desperation interference penalty against Voracek in the neutral zone with 13.6 seconds left on the clock. The Flyers killed off the rest of the clock to skate off with the 4-2 win.

Shots in the third period were eight for the Flyers and seven for Columbus. Final shot totals were 37 for Philadelphia and 22 for the Blue Jackets. Giroux went 4-for-6 on draws in the third period to finish the night at a staggering 23-for-28. Notes and quotes

* The Flyers will hold an 11:30 a.m. practice tomorrow at the Skate Zone in Voorhees in preparation for Monday’s game in Uniondale, NY, against the New York Islanders.

* Claude Giroux’s assist on Streit’s goal was the 400th point of his regular season NHL career. He has played 434 games to date.

* Claude Giroux went 23-for-28 (82 percent) in the faceoff circle. Per the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time a Flyer won 23 or more faceoffs in a game was November 29, 2005 when Michal Handzus went 23-for-31 (74 percent) in a 4-3 win at the New York Islanders. The last time it happened anywhere in the NHL was March 25, 2014 when Jonathan Toews went 23-for-28 for Chicago in a 4-2 win over Dallas.

* Flyers head coach Craig Berube dressed seven defensemen in this game, as Michael Del Zotto returned to the lineup. Forward Jason Akeson and defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo were healthy scratches. The coach was non-committal as to whether he will continue to go with seven defensemen in upcoming games. The hunch here is that he does not.

* Which defenseman will be a healthy scratch on Monday if the Flyers dress six? Tonight’s ice time would suggest it will be Luke Schenn, who skated 8:48 over 12 shifts and did not get another shift after Calvert got inside position on the second Columbus goal.

* In the meantime, Berube was effusive in his praise of the younger Schenn brother, top line left wing Brayden. The coach said that, as the player has experienced some success, he is doing more and more of the type of things Berube wants to see.

“Little things,” said Berube. “I think he’s been strong on pucks and getting them to the net and he is more aggressive all over the ice. He is making strong plays with the puck and that’s the biggest thing. He is more aggressive and is skating well.”

* Berube’s assessment of the last two games: “Two good efforts in a row. One thing in this league is that when you compete and you work hard good things happen. Those are two things that you are in control of a lot of the time. Talked to our guys about competing and work hard every night and every shift.”

* Brayden Schenn on his goal: “It was a face-off play. The d-man bumped the puck to Jake [Voracek] who was on the half wall and I think he shot it through [Jack] Johnson’s legs. I was just standing there and the puck hit my skates, went post to post and went in.”

* Jakub Voracek pushed his league-leading point total to 29 and his league-leading assist count to 22. It was the Czech winger’s 10th multi-point game out of 19 games this season. With the exception of the two games (road losses to the Chicago and the Rangers) in which the Flyers team got shut out, Voracek has at least one point in every game this season. Not too shabby for a player whom a panel of “experts” on ESPN.com recently ranked as the 60th best forward in the NHL.

* Mark Streit on Craig Berube telling him to be aggressive in joining the rush, and the player enjoying that role: “”I really am. Chief talked to me a lot and let me know that I should jump into the play and create offense in a smart way, obviously, and I feel good. We have some good forwards and they see me jumping up into the play. They can feed me and I’m just trying to help this team win some games.”

* Wayne Simmonds on his goal: “These guys did a good job of moving the puck around. Jakey tried to thread the needle as he usually does. The puck deflected and I don’t think anyone saw it but me. So I stuck with it, found it on the ice and shot it as quick as possible.”

* Claude Giroux on Mason making momentum saves in this game: “That’s what Mase does. He makes some big saves for us, for us to kind of keep the momentum or get the momentum. He played a very strong game tonight.”

* Steve Mason on the breakouts the team generated in this game: “Columbus does a good job of chipping in and making it difficult for our defensemen and not giving me the opportunity to play the puck as much as normal. They did a good job of taking the wing boards but to our defensemen’s credit we kind of put on the forty fives to the winger on the half wall, and obviously the center coming up underneath made for some pretty smooth transitions. When you have smooth transitions you are spending less time in the zone and as a result we had a pretty good game.”

* Simmonds on whether general manager Ron Hextall’s post-game tirade to the players in the dressing room after Wednesday’s shutout loss in New York had an effect on the team: “Yeah, I think anytime your GM calls out every single player on the team, I think it’s going to light a fire under your butt. I think we had a good response. We played two strong games in a row. We are going to Long Island, we are going to play a good hockey team on Long Island on Monday night and we’ve got to be prepared.”

* Simmonds on being self-critical: “I’m a man. I can admit when I’m not playing my best hockey and I wasn’t playing my best hockey. I think I just had to start keeping it more simple and same as the team. You try different things, you know they’re not working, you gotta go back to basics, and you’ve got to start from scratch. Do what made you successful as an individual and as a team. I think we’ve done that.”

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