The Flyers team that stepped onto the Wells Fargo Center ice Monday night looked a little different than the one that just strung together three consecutive wins, the only streak of the season. Missing were three parts: Danny Briere, serving a suspension, and Andreas Nodl and Andrej Meszaros – both nursing injuries sustained in Saturday’s contest against the New York Islanders.
Briere learned earlier in the day via conference call that he was being issued a three game suspension for his hit to the head of Frans Nielsen against the Islanders on Saturday. Briere was surprised at the ruling, as were many other players and fans. A suspension seemed necessary, but the extended punishment of three games may have been too much. One suspected reason for this is the fact that the Flyers and Islanders face off again three games from now – just long enough to keep Briere out of action for what could be an ugly rematch.
In any event, his spot was taken by Jeff Carter, who moved from Giroux’s wing back to center with Leino and Hartnell on his left and right, respectively. Carter’s position on the wing was taken by Nikolay Zherdev, a healthy scratch in the last two games.
Andreas Nodl was replaced by rookie Eric Wellwood – drafted by the Flyers in the sixth round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. The 5’11”, 180 winger filled in Nodl’s style perfectly, flying around the ice, working hard in the corners, and separating men from pucks whenever he got the chance.
Andrej Meszaros was replaced on the third defensive pairing by Oskars Bartulis. Bartulis had a successful evening, with just over 15 minutes of ice time while minimizing chances and blocking a couple of shots.
The Hurricanes had their chances in the first period, though the Flyers kept them from getting second and third shots. The first shots, however, were often testers coming in good position in the slot. This is where Sergei Bobrovsky came in. Making his fourth straight start and picking up as many wins, “Bob” kept his team alive through some scary moments in the first – keeping the game tied just long enough for the offense to strike.
The newly formed line of Carter, Hartnell, and Leino, looked as strong as it had all year with Briere at center. Cycling well through the offensive zone, with the forecheck keeping play alive, Carter eventually tossed the puck on net from the high slot just to take a bounce and land on the stick of Scott Hartnell, who roofed it backhand from behind his back and sent it over a sprawling Justin Peters for the 1-0 lead.
The Flyers carried this lead into the second, where their dominant offense began to establish itself. Unfortunately, despite controlling the puck and the flow of play, an ill-timed turnover by James van Riemsdyk along the blue line sent James Dwyer in on a breakaway where he beat Bobrovsky to tie the game.
Throughout the night, the power play accumulated plenty of scoring chances coming off of terrific puck movement around the perimeter. When they sent the puck on net, there was always someone waiting to bat it home. Claude Giroux notched their only power play goal of the night as he fired a turnaround shot from the high slot off a pass by Mike Richards just 5 seconds into a man advantage.
The third period saw each team go back and forth for awhile until Scott Hartnell found his second of the night after deflecting a Kimmo Timonen shot past Justin Peters for the 3-1 lead. The Canes pulled within one in the final minute of the third, looking to threaten the Flyers’ lead, but fell short after failing to establish any further offense.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Scott Hartnell: He doesn’t have too many points so far this season, but Hartnell’s certainly turned it up during his team’s current winning streak, with 4 points in 4 games and as many goals (2) as he has penalties. His pair on the evening was the obvious edge this team needed, with Hartnell netting the first one to get things going and finishing it off with the eventual game winner in the third period.
If he can start to find the same level of production he had alongside Leino during last year’s playoffs, the now hairless Hartnell will be a force to be reckoned with.
Claude Giroux: I said it earlier in the year that Giroux will be a likely candidate for one of these spots nearly every night, and that’s proven to be true. His consistent offensive production is unlike that of any other player on this team, making him the true offensive cornerstone in a roster with more offensive depth than most.
Eric Wellwood: Only here for a short stay while Andreas Nodl recovers from a relatively minor injury, Wellwood has to work as hard as he can to prove himself every second of every shift. With only 14 minutes of ice time to make a mark, Wellwood made the most of it, tallying a team high 6 shots and a couple of hits to boot. His impressive play alongside JVR and Mike Richards made a case for himself as a player that should be a regular part of this roster.
What happens with him when Nodl comes back, we’ll have to wait and see. But chances are, Wellwood will be returning to Adirondack for the time being. But remember him, and keep an eye for him to crack the roster again should anyone fall to injury.
Sergei Bobrovsky: Bobrovsky has now won four straight games, accumulating a .924 save percentage and GAA of 2.00. With a goaltender putting up numbers like that behind an offense with as many threats as this, the team has a chance to win every night.
And to add to Bob’s already impressive glove hand and impeccable pad saves, he’s learning to handle the puck. More so than any other game so far, Bobrovsky looked like he was starting to get the hang of it last night. He held it under pressure, waiting for a play to develop, he sent it wheeling behind his net with trust in his defenseman to seek it out. He also showed an increased aggressiveness towards opposing shooters, coming out of his crease to cut down angles on multiple occasions.
Another nice sign to note was his immediate scurry to pat Dan Carcillo on the head after the play was blown dead when Carcillo blocked a shot at the top of the circle and was unable to get up. A good gesture of thanks to see from any goalie, especially one that may seem so distant from his teammates given the current language barrier.