What a stretch it has been for the Comeback Kids. Prior to Saturday’s (12/17) 3-1 loss in Dallas, the Flyers had won ten straight whilst averaging 3.6 goals for and 2.3 goals against per 60 minutes. The winning streak is the longest by a Flyers club since 1985. Saturday’s game in Dallas was actually the Stars’ second crack at ending the Flyers’ dominance, as they visited the Wells Fargo Center and lost just a week before. The Flyers only played two games, wins in Detroit and Colorado, between the meetings. And if it counts for anything, the Fly-Guys fought hard despite a ‘sloppy for their standards’ performance and a desperate Stars squad needing a win more than ever. Rookies Taylor Leire and Ivan Provorov had a game; Leire scoring his first career NHL goal and Provorov ringing two posts in the third period. The Flyers still own a six-game winning streak on home ice, and stand tall with 41 points in the most competitive division in hockey.
On a more positive note, the league recognized on Monday (12/12) that Flyers’ first-line winger, Jake Voracek, would receive the “NHL’s First Star of the Week” award, just seven days after Steve Mason was given the honor. Voracek racked up nine points over four games including his eighth career overtime goal in a 3-2 win over the Panthers. The Philly forward was also the first Flyer to contribute four or more points in consecutive contests (wins over Edmonton and Dallas) since household name Eric Lindros achieved a similar feat in the 97-98 NHL season.
Across the course of the Flyers’ ten-game winning streak, the longest in the NHL this season, Voracek was responsible for sixteen points; four tallies and twelve assists. His performance over those ten games also consisted of a +6 rating and seven points on the power play (2 PPG, 5 PPA). Aided by Jake and the rest of coach Dave Hakstol’s dynamic first power play unit, the Flyers had briefly taken over as the top power play in the NHL, scoring approximately 23% of the time on the advantage.
Just to touch on the brilliance, the Flyers’ visit to Detroit on Sunday (12/11) at the Joe Louis Arena was a tremendous game for even the most neutral of hockey fans. The box score may indicate to some that the game was a boring 0-0 hockey game rescued by an overtime goal. This was not the case. The second period consisted of a thrown elbow by Michael Raffl on veteran instigator, Steve Ott, which obviously wreaked havoc. Red Wings’ defenseman Xavier Ouellet jumped Raffl immediately following the hit. Wayne Simmonds was quick to defend his fellow teammate, practically screaming at Ott, most likely condoneing his instigation tactics. The linesman held up the defensive zone draw for nearly a minute, something you rarely see before the puck is back on the ice.
The fire aside, Radko Gudas made a game-saving play by knocking the net off its mourings in the second period, just in time for the whistle to blow before what seemed like a go-ahead goal for the Wings. Ivan Provorov played an excellent defensive game behind the Flyers’ blue line according to Flyer faithful, Chris Therien. Provorov also assisted on Brayden Schenn’s overtime winner, a give-and-go that must be watched to be fully appreciated. All that and Anthony Stolarz pitched a shutout into overtime in just his second NHL start. The game was indeed a nail-biter, but a beauty nonetheless.
Not to pick on Schenn, but some would agree that ‘nonexistent’ is a word that could be used to describe his start to the 2016-2017 NHL season. Considering how well Schenn performed early in the ’15-’16 season, some might say they were disappointed in the young, talented forward’s play on the ice this year. That negative talk subsided quickly when the Flyers hosted the Stars on Saturday (12/10) in South Philly. Schenn came out of the woodwork and notched three goals including the game-winner to start the weekend; recording the Flyers’ first hat trick of the season. After taking over that game single-handedly, Schenn decided that he really wanted to extend what was then the Flyers’ seven-game win streak. As previously mentioned, Brayden scored the lone goal in overtime in Hockeytown on Sunday (12/11), and yet another that ended up being the deciding goal in a win against Colorado on Wednesday (12/14). Whatever Dave Hakstol is doing on that bench, it’s now safe to say that he has the entire Flyers team drinking his Gatorade.
It really is a shame because words and statistics alone cannot justify how well this hockey club has been playing recently. Philadelphia was certainly riding high during the streak, players, coaches and fans alike. But realistically, the dreaded loss to end the Flyers’ winning streak was inevitable. Giving up a non-division game in Dallas to a squad who is fighting for their playoff lives is not the worst thing ever. Now when the Eagles lose a game in Dallas, that’s much closer to the worst thing ever. The fact of the matter is that this young, thriving Flyers team has yet to face two crucial division opponents; the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Washington Capitals. Looking forward, those match-ups are the contests the Flyers need to win most. How the club measures up against all the tough teams in the Metropolitan division, which includes the infamous rivals Rangers and Penguins, will ultimately determine how this tight race pans out.
Photo Credit: Kevin Burkett (via: Flickr), Michael Miller (via: Wikimedia Commons), calmstorm (via: Flickr)