The New York Islanders team that showed up Saturday was not the same as the one that the Flyers ran up the score on, physically dominated, and completely humiliated in front of a Wells Fargo Center crowd last Saturday. Through much of the game, New York not only hung with the boys from Philly, but even controlled the play through the night.
The Flyers defenders had their work cut out for them, blocking 26 shots to the Islanders 9, and still finding themselves outshot on the night. Sergei Bobrovsky – not just the men in front of him – found himself very busy throughout the game. He was called on to bail his team out on a number of occasions, and they returned the favor in kind.
Twice in the first period, as pucks got behind Bobrovsky on their way across the goal line, his teammates saved him and got in the way. Matt Carle lunged across the crease and got his stick in the way of a Matt Moulson shot, and later on, Andrej Meszaros poked away a puck that trickled through Bobrovsky’s legs on its way to the net.
Late in the first period, one in which the two teams exchanged momentum during flurries of offense, Mike Richards put the Flyers ahead as he called for a Chris Pronger shot along the outside post of the goal, and tipping his top shelf shot down and through the legs of Dwayne Roloson.
Roloson – a much more reliable counterpart to the Islanders’ Rick DiPietro – was steady and sound while stopping 24 of 26 Flyers’ shots. He stayed in position, squared up the shooters, and was pretty quick on the move. The only two goals scored against him caught him standing up straight with space open between his legs.
The second of these Flyers goals came in the third period. Mike Richards crossed into the offensive zone alongside his line of Eric Wellwood and Andreas Nodl – reinserted into the lineup in place of the healthy scratch James van Riemsdyk (whose disappointing start to the season has left him a victim of offensive depth). The trio moved the puck around, from Nodl to Richards to Wellwood, who took a high shot on Roloson that forced him to leap and tip it with his mask. As the puck dropped down right in front of him, Nodl slid it through with ease for the 2-1 lead with only minutes remaining.
That goal was a bit of luck for the Flyers, who barely survived a hellish second period on the back of a stellar Sergei Bobrovsky. The Islanders dominated them entirely, outshooting them 14-5 during the twenty minute stretch. The Flyers managed to hold on, as the Islanders players swarmed them with a fast and hard forecheck.
Unfortunately, Bobrovsky’s puckhandling ability doesn’t compare to his puck stopping prowess, as he put his team in danger during the final minutes of the game by clearing a puck over the glass and taking a delay of game penalty. Down six men to four with one goal to spare, the Flyers had another defensive struggle on their hands, and they succeeded. Wellwood barely missed an empty net chance, almost picking up the third goal of the night amongst his linemates.
Stringing together this many wins has the Flyers pulling away from the rest of the division, with a four point gap between them and rival Rangers and Penguins. Ignoring the amount of games played, the Flyers’ 19 points has them sitting in first place in the NHL.
Their next game has them facing off against the Washington Capitals, the other team competing for first place in the East. A win would really put the Flyers in position for a successful season, lengthening the distance between them and the majority of the conference.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Mike Richards: The Flyers captain, a skilled and gritty champion of the lead-by-example style, lined up alongside Eric Wellwood and Andreas Nodl, two players who look to emulate his hard forechecking style. His goal, a perfect tip-in after directing Pronger’s shot, showed his confidence in commanding his team on the ice.
Andreas Nodl: Dubbed Andreas “No-Goal”, Nodl has struggled to prove his worth beyond just playing a gritty, fight-in-the-corners style role, failing to generate offense. Lately, that’s been turning around as his three goals on the year put him on the same level as Mike Richards, Nikolay Zherdev, and Ville Leino. Tonight, his game winning tally came off of his being in the right place at the right time, the first step to accumulating goals in this league.
Sergei Bobrovsky: “Bob” was a shining star on this team once again, keeping out 31 of 32 shots scored him a second star spot and his sixth consecutive win, keeping the team’s streak going. His 8-2-0 record has him leading rookie goalies, with his goals against average and save percentage ranking high as well.