Richards scores two as Flyers oust Senators

By JAY BOEHMER
Senior Hockey Insider — jboehmer@highhopesblog.com
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Mike Richards led the way Monday, as the Flyers continue to prove they're among the NHL's elite. (AP)

The Flyers are simply one of the top teams in the NHL right now. Facing an Ottawa team that had won five of their last six games before stepping into the Wells Fargo Center Monday night, the Flyers had a tougher challenge than their recent victories over Carolina and Florida. But that didn’t mean anything. The Senators were just another team, another night for this Flyers squad as they controlled all facets of the game in another complete victory.

Through the early minutes, they were getting the scoring chances, leaving Ottawa to pick at shots from far away, doing little but building Bobrovsky’s confidence and padding his stats. The Flyers, not surprisingly, struck first as Danny Briere tipped an Andrej Meszaros shot past goaltender Brian Elliott.

It wasn’t long, though, until the Senators tied the game up with a Jason Spezza shot that caught Bobrovsky by surprise. But that was the last the Senator’s shots would see of 4’x6′ opening behind the Flyers goaltender. The Flyers, with another clean faceoff win in the offensive zone, beat Elliott a second time with a deflection from the point coming off the stick of Powe after Timonen blasted a shot through traffic.

The second period saw flurries of Flyers chances coming off of four power plays, with three of the penalties being taken by Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson. In the final minutes, while passing around the horn during the fourth of these power plays, Mike Richards fanned on a pass intended for Kimmo Timonen, with it fluttering over to Claude Giroux, who reacted quickly by slapping it on net and past Elliott for a late period 3-1 lead.

Undefeated on the season when leading after two periods, the Flyers had but to finish out another one.

The defense held tight and the offense buried its chances. A few minutes in, on the penalty kill for the first time on the evening, Mike Richards and Claude Giroux swarmed the Senators point men, as Richards stole the puck and sprung out of the zone on a breakaway, beating Elliott with a backhand top shelf. As the penalty came to an end, the Flyers got another odd man rush, with a trailing shot bouncing off the back boards to the stick of Richards who put it in for his second of the game.

The lucky bounce has been part of a recent trend for the Flyers, with their confidence manifesting itself in things seeming to just “go right”.

“That’s what happens when a team starts rolling. You get more bounces and obviously it happened tonight,” the Flyers captain said when asked about his good fortune. “With the teams in this league being so close you got to have some bounces, and get soe luck, to have success and right now we are capitalizing on a lot of our chances.”

Three games, 18 goals for and 4 goals against. The common theme through these last ten games – in which the Flyers haven’t lost once in regulation, the longest streak of its kind for the club since ’05-’06 – is their ability to punish opponents for their mistakes. The Flyers have Bobrovsky making big saves, defenders blocking shots and intercepting pucks, and then they have the offensive talent to put it away with a goal at the other end.

This deadly transition game is the mark of any winning hockey team, as the Flyers opponents are finding out the hard way.

During the game, Dan Carcillo suffered an injury to his left knee that will likely keep him out for a couple of weeks. This means a more secure spot for James van Riemsdyk, who found himself a healthy scratch, but was reinserted into the lineup against Ottawa in place of Andreas Nodl. Liking what he saw from him Monday night, head coach Peter Laviolette is looking forward to what he can do going forward.

“I thought James [van Riemsdyk] came back in and gave us some jump. He was physical early, he had the chance when he hit the post and a couple other opportunities he got going. Hopefully he’s back, ready, and he’ll be good.”

KEYS TO THE GAME

Giroux / Richards: First and second on the team in points, respectively, Giroux and Richards are the tag team that go out, night in and night out, and lead by example by taking chances and making plays. Giroux’s seven points (3-4-7) over the last three games has been a major part of the Flyers’ recent success.

Sergei Bobrovsky: Finishing out his streak of ten consecutive starts – with Brian Boucher getting the nod Tuesday night in Montreal – Bobrovsky earned his eleventh win of the season, which ties him for the league lead.

Building a Cushion: It’s a good thing the Flyers are winning games now. Last season, through the month of November – and later in December – they did nothing but lose, it seemed, burying themselves at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. This season they’ve built a lead in the division, and established strong position in the league as a whole (ranked second behind the Washington Capitals in the NHL), that should give them room to work with going forward.

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