They still aren’t firing on all cylinders, but the Philadelphia Flyers made enough good things happen this week to pick up a pair of regulation road wins against the New Jersey Devils.
Mission Accomplished In Jersey
On Tuesday, a pair of early power-play goals by James van Riemsdyk fuelled a 5-3 win at Prudential Center. Nolan Patrick, Joel Farabee, and Ivan Provorov also scored. The Flyers outshot New Jersey 31-26 and helped Brian Elliott improve his record in net to 2-0-0 on the year.
Thursday night, Carter Hart was named the game’s first star, returning to action after the outburst last Saturday that left his shattered goalie stick all over the ice in Boston. The Flyers gave up the first goal and managed just eight shots through the first 40 minutes. They were outshot 34-17 in the game but came out with a 3-1 win. That moves the Flyers to 5-2-1 for the year and into third place in the MassMutual East Division.
It’s Prosser Time
After signing with the Flyers as a free agent in 2019 and spending all of last season in the AHL, 34-year-old journeyman defenseman Nate Prosser opened the scoring for Philadelphia midway through the first period, tying the game 1-1.
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) January 29, 2021
Inserted into the lineup on a pairing with Erik Gustafsson, who was a healthy scratch on Tuesday, Prosser made a statement in his first-ever game in a Philadelphia uniform.
After an offensive-zone faceoff win by Kevin Hayes, Prosser drove to the net as Gustafsson took a snap shot from the left point. He scooped the puck through a maze of bodies and past Devils goalie Scott Wedgewood. It was just his 11th career goal, in 355 NHL games.
Gustafsson went on to earn the primary assist on Claude Giroux’s third-period insurance goal. He finished with a two-point night and third-star honors in his return to the lineup. A fourth-line goal from Michael Raffl at the 2:10 mark of the third period proved to be the game winner.
Flyers coach Alain Vigneault scratched Mark Friedman and Robert Hagg on his blue line to make room for Prosser and Gustafsson.
He’s expected to tweak his group again when Philadelphia hosts the New York Islanders for the first of two back-to-back contests. After missing the last four games with a fractured rib, Philippe Myers could return to action on Saturday.
— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) January 29, 2021
Before Thursday’s game, Vigneault said he believed injured center Sean Couturier was “still a couple of weeks away,” after he started skating this week.
|3||James van Riemsdyk||31||LW||8||5||3||8||-2|
Home Sweet Home
Last season, the Flyers posted the NHL’s best home record at 25-6-4. This year, they’re 3-1-0 in the early going at Wells Fargo. The club gave this week’s games in New Jersey a home feel, too — allowing players to sleep in their own beds and do their practice skates in Voorhees, then bus up to Prudential Center. After the club was able to pick up just one of four points last week in Boston, it seemed to work.
Through his brief career to date, Hart has been much better for the Flyers at home than on the road. On Wednesday, he agreed that the comforts of home make a difference for him.
“It’s nice that we’re only a short bus ride away to Jersey, we get to sleep in our own beds — I think that’s huge,” he said. “I know the first couple of nights on the road there in Boston, it’s tough getting a good sleep in the hotel bed when you haven’t slept in a bed that hasn’t been your own for a long time.”
This weekend will mark the first meeting for the Flyers and Islanders since the second round of the playoffs in Toronto last summer. New York eliminated Philadelphia in seven games to advance to the Eastern Conference Final.
In the early going this year, the Islanders have struggled. They’re now seventh in the East Division with a record of 3-4-0 and are on a three-game losing streak. On Wednesday, they dropped a 6-3 decision to the undermanned Washington Capitals — despite having built a 3-0 lead in the first period.
Nevertheless, the Flyers had better not take them lightly. Barry Trotz doesn’t stay mad for long — he focuses on finding ways to win. That was the message that he shared with his club on Friday.
Barry Trotz on focus today "we went through the last couple of games and things that can zap you mentally. for me it's about getting our minds back. sometimes life kicks you right in the gut and you have to get up. let's pick each other up" #Isles
— Peter Schwartz (@SchwartzSports) January 29, 2021
“We’re excited for these two games,” said Giroux on Friday. “It’s not a good feeling when somebody knocks you out of the playoffs.
“For us, our game is maybe not exactly where we want it to be right now,” he continued. “But I think we’re going to keep working on it and get it where it’s supposed to be. It’s going to be a good test for us, for sure.”