The Flyers avenged their playoff loss this weekend. Next, they’ll get another crack at the Boston Bruins at Wells Fargo Center.
January was a busy month, which saw the Flyers play 10 games in 19 nights. Just two contests are on the schedule this week — Wednesday (8 p.m. ET) and Friday (7 p.m. ET).
Those will be a chance for Philadelphia to erase the memory of their ugliest loss of the year so far — the 6-1 drubbing in Boston on Jan. 23, that saw Carter Hart’s goal stick shattered when all was said and done.
Since then, the Flyers have gone streaking. They put up a pair of regulation road wins against the New Jersey Devils, followed by two overtime wins over the New York Islanders — the team that knocked them out of the playoff bubble in Toronto last September.
Revenge Not Front Of Mind
“It feels good to beat them like that after the playoffs, but I wouldn’t say that’s where our focus was,” said winger Travis Konecny. “It’s a new year — it’s completely different than how the playoffs ended, and our mindset was completely different coming into tonight’s game.
“It’s good to beat those guys, it feels really nice. But two points is way better coming from our end. We don’t care who it’s against.”
Konecny returned to the lineup on Sunday after being scratched for the first game against New York — a move that was as much a warning shot to the whole team to clean up its 5-on-5 play as it was an indictment of Konecny’s individual play.
“I always feel like I can play better, but I thought tonight it was a step in the right direction,” Konecny said. “I thought I was moving my feet a little bit, a little bit more confident with the puck and not putting my teammates in bad positions. Rather than put someone else in a bad spot, I create a battle for myself. It was a better effort by everyone tonight. I thought we played really well, and Moose (Brian Elliott) played good again. It helps when everyone else is going, too.”
KEVIN HAYES CALLED GAME. FLYERS WIN. pic.twitter.com/g0wYuiQwkZ
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) February 1, 2021
Kevin Hayes, who scored the overtime winner, also sees progress.
“Obviously, you need to work on things when you’re not happy with your team play, but you can’t be too upset when you are getting 2 points every single night,” he said after Sunday’s win. “I thought tonight was our best 60-minute effort in a long time. I know we gave up a two-goal lead, but ultimately, we didn’t break, and we won again in overtime.”
Tale Of The Tape
Through the first month of the season, Philadelphia is 7-2-1. That’s their best start since the 2002-03 season, when they went 7-1-2 through 10 games, and is good for second place in the MassMutual East Division. The Flyers start the week tied in points with Washington, but the Capitals have a game in hand. Boston sits third, with a 5-1-2 record. After knocking out a pair of home wins against Pittsburgh last week, the Bruins lost to Washington in overtime.
Despite Boston’s major offseason blue-line overhaul that saw the departures of Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug, Saturday’s loss to the Capitals marked just the second time this season that the Bruins have given up more than two goals. Their early-season scoring woes also now seem to be behind them. As usual, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand are near the top of the NHL points race, and David Pastrnak picked up an assist as he returned to the lineup on Saturday, following offseason hip surgery.
Secrets Of Flyers’ Success
As for the Flyers, they’re getting points by committee — and showing a lot more firepower than last season, when their leading scorer, Konecny, finished with 61 points in 66 games.
This season, four players have started out at a point a game or better. On Sunday, James van Riemsdyk assisted on all four goals against the Islanders. That gave him 13 points on the year and moved him into a tie for fifth in league scoring with Nicklas Backstrom of Washington. It’s the 31-year-old’s best start since his rookie season. It also marks a massive turnaround from the playoffs, when he scored just two goals and was scratched for four games.
Van Riemsdyk is also one of four Flyers with five goals already this season. On Sunday, he was joined in that category by Joel Farabee, who notched his first-career hat trick in regulation time, and by Hayes.
Hayes is up to 10 points, tied with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek, and Konecny also has five goals.
With sky-high hopes for this season, Vigneault praised his team for continuing to improve. But he feels there’s still room to get even better.
“For the most part, in the last three games our 5-on-5 play defensively has gotten better,” he said Sunday. “I don’t think we’re there yet, but I do think we’re taking the steps in the right direction.
“I believe this group wants to get there. There’s a way you have to play to have success in this league and that’s what we’re striving to get. We’re trying to get better, and we will.”