Inside the Flyers: Flyers get big boost in California

Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds celebrates his goal against the Kings in Los Angeles. The Flyers went 2-1 on their West Coast trip. REED SAXON / Associated Press
Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds celebrates his goal against the Kings in Los Angeles. The Flyers went 2-1 on their West Coast trip. REED SAXON / Associated Press
Posted: February 06, 2014

Every Day Matters

Every Shift Matters

- sign hung in Flyers' locker rooms during their California trip

SAN JOSE, Calif. - The Flyers lived the words during their admirable journey through what has been called the Bermuda Triangle of the NHL - Anaheim, Los Angeles, and San Jose.

They played with urgency for three periods in all three games and went 2-1 on a potentially devastating California trip. And they did it against three elite teams that had a combined 56-11-8 home record.

"We're going back home with a little more confidence," said center Claude Giroux after the Flyers scored four unanswered goals in the third period and stunned San Jose, 5-2, on Monday. "We're competing better and playing more as a team. When we work hard and have fun doing it, that's when we play our best."

San Jose had won nine straight against the Flyers since 2000, had owned a 20-3-3 home record entering the game, and had been almost unbeatable (26-1-2) when taking a lead into the third period.

But the Flyers got goals from Matt Read, Michael Raffl and Giroux in the first 3 minutes, 56 seconds of the final period to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 lead. They set a franchise record by recording their 10th win this season in games in which they trailed in the third period.

Giroux, who put on a dazzling display of puckhandling, had three more points and continues to be on Team Canada's Olympic radar if Steven Stamkos is unable to play.

The Flyers began the trip with a highly competitive 5-3 loss in Anaheim, rebounded to defeat Los Angeles, 2-0, and then played their best all-around game of the season against the Sharks.

Even though they trailed heading into the final period Monday, the Flyers were the better team the entire night in San Jose. They outskated the Sharks to loose pucks, won board battles, committed fewer giveaways (27-11), and had many more scoring opportunities.

"We broke the cardinal rule - when you get outworked and outnumbered all over the rink, you are going to lose," San Jose coach Todd McLellan said. "Simple as that. I thought they worked harder than us in all facets of the game."

San Jose was missing the injured Logan Couture, but even without the star forward, they defeated the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks in their previous game.

And so, yes, it was probably the Flyers' most impressive win this season.

For the second straight game, the Flyers won with Andrej Meszaros playing creditably in place of Kimmo Timonen, who has a bruised left foot. Fact is, the Flyers' much-maligned defense stood tall in the last two games of the trip, keeping Los Angeles on the perimeter, and not allowing San Jose many quality chances. The Sharks were held to 22 shots - 13 below their league-best average.

"If they were in our zone, pucks were along the wall or in the corners, and that's where we want them," winger Matt Read said, referring to the game against the Sharks. "I think we've learned how to play defensively, and that's how you win hockey games."

Should the Flyers make the playoffs, they may look back on their California trip as the springboard.

"It's positive reinforcement," Read said. "We go home and have two more games before the [Olympic] break, and I think in our mind-set, we had to come back from this road trip over .500, which we did. We played great hockey in all three games, and now we just have to go home and take care of business."

Despite their excellent trip, the Flyers actually slipped from seventh to ninth in the Eastern Conference, and from third to fourth in the Metropolitan Division, while they were in California. Other Metro teams - including Columbus, Carolina, the Rangers and New Jersey - are on the upswing.

That said, the Flyers have put themselves in a favorable position. They play 16 of their final 25 games at home, and if they continue to play with the resolve they showed in California - and continue to get terrific goaltending from Steve Mason - it would be a surprise if they weren't playing in the postseason.

Inside the Flyers: Mark Your Calendars

The Flyers have 25 games left, and many of them will be extra critical as they try to earn an Eastern Conference playoff spot. Here are some of them:

March 1 - Rangers at Flyers. If the Flyers have hopes of climbing to second in the Metropolitan Division, winning this game would be a good start.

March 2 and March 5 - A key home-and-home series with Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals, with the first game in Washington.

March 26 - Flyers at Rangers. Both teams will be jockeying for a playoff berth. Can the Flyers figure out how to beat their old nemesis, Henrik Lundqvist?

April 3 - Columbus at Flyers. Great theater: Sergei Bobrovsky vs. Steve Mason in a battle for playoff positioning.

April 13 - Carolina at Flyers. This season finale could determine where these teams are seeded - or, perhaps, if they qualify for the playoffs.

- Sam Carchidi


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