Bill Meltzer: Meltzer’s Musings: Flyers Tame Wild, Night Before Christmas



The Philadelphia Flyers could not have asked for a better start to their eight game road trip: wins over the Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets and Minnesota Wild. The club heads into the three-night Christmas break with an even 14-14-6 ledger for the season after grabbing points in nine of the last 10 games (6-1-3).

On Tuesday night in St. Paul, the Flyers skated off with a 5-2 victory. Philly built and lost a 2-0 lead but re-took the lead by the second intermission and then built on it in the final stanza.

Even-strength goals by Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Vincent Lecavalier and Michael Raffl (empty net) paced the Flyers. Jakub Voracek added two assists. Winning goaltender Ray Emery stopped 22 of 24 shots.

For Minnesota, an even strength goal by Marco Scandella and a power play goal by Charlie Coyle temporarily forged a 2-2 tie by the early stages of the second period. Darcy Kuemper stopped 25 of 29 shots in a losing cause.

The Flyers were opportunistic in this game, twice making Minnesota pay for turnovers or failed clears. Another goal was a rebound put-back. The fourth was a deflection. The final one was the empty net goal in the final half-minute of the game.

Couturier’s goal, scored at 7:16 of the first period, was scored off a Jonas Brodin turnover at the right hash marks. Brodin’s attempted outlet pass ticked off R.J. Umberger and directly to Couturier. Couturier’s sweeping shot from the left circle wasn’t artistic but ticked in off a skate for his ninth goal of the season.

At 9:33 of the first period, Giroux pounced on the rebound of a Luke Schenn shot and flipped the puck upstairs for his 11th goal of the season to put the Flyers ahead, 2-0. Voracek drew the secondary assist.

Minnesota mounted a comeback. Just 30 seconds after Giroux’s goal, Scandella weaved a point shot through traffic to shave the deficit in half. Jared Spurgeon and Zach Parise drew the assists.

The Flyers took a 2-1 lead and 8-7 shot edge into the second period. Minnesota got the better of play early in the second period as the Flyers took two quick penalties.

Philadelphia survived a Nicklas Grossmann minor penalty for boarding Jason Pominville. They did not emerged unscathed from their next penalty. With Brayden Schenn in the box for closing his hand on the puck, the Wild tied the game.

At the 3:43 mark – 20 seconds into the Schenn penalty — a Pominville shot re-directed off Coyle past Emery. The Flyers goalie had no chance to stop it.

The 2-2 deadlock lasted until 15:22 of the middle period. The Flyers held a clearing attempt by Minnesota’s Kyle Brodziak in the offensive zone along the walls. Moments later, from the right faceoff dot, Simmonds beat Kuemper to the top corner on the long side. Brayden Schenn and Mark Streit earned the assists.

Simmonds goal proved to the game’s single most pivotal moment. The Flyers took a 3-2 lead to the second intermission and wound up outshoot the Wild in the second period, 11-10 (19-17 through two periods).

The Flyers played a strong third period. Rather than constantly sitting back and treating it like a 20-minute penalty kill, the Flyers skated well and attacked when possible. Philly outshot the Wild, 11-7, to finish with a 30-24 shot edge against one of the NHL’s better puck possession clubs.

At 5:29 of the third period, the Flyers restored a two-goal advantage. Lecavalier scored his third goal in the last two games as he deflected home an Andrew MacDonald point shot. The secondary assist went to Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, who had a strong forechecking shift along with Chris VandeVelde.

The Flyers rode their 4-2 lead until the Wild pulled Kuemper for an extra attacker. Voracek passed to Raffl in the neutral zone and Raffl made the game a 5-2 final by guiding the puck into the vacated Minnesota net.

For the game, the Flyers were charged with just two giveaways to nine for Minnesota. Faceoffs were basically even (35-34 for Minnesota). Led by three apiece by MacDonald and Nick Schultz, the Flyers blocked 15 shots to 11 for the Wild. The Flyers also outhit the Wild, with 23 credited hits to 19 for Minnesota.

With the win, the Flyers moved with six points of the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers (who have two games in hand) in the Metropolitan Division standings. The Caps currently hold the final wild card seeding in the East.

********* Flyers Night Before Christmas 1984

For many years, it was a tradition during Flyers TV broadcasts to air an intermission segment on the final broadcast before Christmas in which that season’s players, coaches and other club personnel read “‘Twas Night Before Christmas.” It was actually via Gene Hart in the 1970s that I first learned the famous poem was written by a man named Clement Clarke Moore (“How apropos to the Broad Street Bullies!” said Hart).

The only version to be found on Youtube is the 1984 edition. Fortunately, it’s one of the best. Another one I got a big kick out of was the 1996 version, in which Trent Klatt got to read the line, “When out the lawn, there arose such a clatter.” Rookie defenseman Janne Niinimaa had the task of spouting off the reindeers’ names in his heavy Finnish accent; the same part read by countryman Ilkka Sinisalo twelve years earlier.

Apart from the sheer entertainment value of the clip, the video reminds me how many of the people in it are no longer with us and just how young they were. Rest in peace Pelle Lindbergh, Peter Zezel, Miroslav Dvorak and E.J. McGuire, as well as Flyers’ wives Kathy Kerr, Karen Brown and Jenny Barber.

On a much lighter note, how about that stylin’ sweater Bob Clarke is wearing?