With the Flyers clinging to a tenuous hold on a playoff spot in the East’s tight race, they entered the weekend facing the daunting task of a back-to-back match-up with the hated Pittsburgh Penguins. It’s never easy when these cross-state rivals meet and the road team has dominated the series over the past few seasons. Luckily for the Flyers they bucked that trend today with an immensely important (and impressive) 4-0 win over the injury plagued Pens. It was perhaps the clubs most impressive 60-minute effort of the season.
The win catapults the orange and black from the final wild card spot back into third place in the Metropolitan Division. Now, let’s take a closer look at the upset:
- Matt Read played an amazing two-way game. Not only was he a part of a penalty kill that held the Pens top ranked PP at 0/5 on the day, but he scored a shorthanded goal on one of these kills. His two goal effort gave him 18 on the season (1 of 7 Flyers with atleast 15 goals).
- Sean Couturier seems to always find a way to raise his game against Philly’s most-hated rival. Today, he did a solid job frustrating any Pittsburgh line he matched up with. And he also added two key assists, both to Matt Read.
- Much like Couturier, Flyers captain Claude Giroux seems to relish the battles with the Pens all-world talent. In this game he managed two more assists while also laying a big hit on Russian sniper Evgeni Malkin. Just like a captain should, Giroux set the tone for the entire club and helped lead them to a much-needed win.
- Steve Mason stopped all 25 Penguins shots for his 27th win of the 13-14 season and his 4th shutout of the campaign. Mason has been a steadying influence all season and it was no different today.
- The Flyers overall team defense was beyond impressive. Yes the Pens were missing Kunitz, Neal, and Letang, but they’re still stocked with Crosby and Malkin (who were a combined -5 in this game) up front. Not only was the Flyers defense corps constantly in the face of the Pittsburgh forecheck, but the forwards backcheck was equally dominant. It’s amazing how good Steve Mason looks when the guys in front of him are actually supporting him for an entire 60 minutes.
- Michael Raffl continued to play like a longtime vet, rather than a rookie import. The 25-year old Austrian was all over the ice, in all three zones. He dished out a few nice hits, continued to be a key penalty killer, and had several close calls in the offensive zone. As his offensive game continues to develop, Raffl projects to be a Matt Read-like player. And that’s an exciting possibility for the future.
- Super pest Zac Rinaldo made his return from injury and instantly made an impact in the first period by drawing a high sticking call on Pens defender Simon Despres. Scott Hartnell then scored from his wheelhouse on the subsequent PP. Rinaldo, hated by opposing fans, continues to show why he’s an integral piece of this organizations forward corps.
It’s difficult to emphasize just how well the Flyers performed today, but tomorrow’s nationally televised rematch in Pittsburgh will be equally as important. If this team can find a way to somehow sweep the home-and-home it would be a great step towards securing a playoff spot. And the schedule doesn’t get any easier this week as the orange and black take on Blackhawks on Tuesday and the Stars on Thursday. Tune in at noon on Sunday to see round two of the NHL’s best rivalry.