On the last day before the NHL breaks for the Olympics, two of the league’s hottest teams faced off in Philadelphia. Coming into today, the Flyers had won four of their last five games including three straight while the Flames were looking for a seventh victory in eight games. The Flyers outplayed Calgary all game and now head into the Olympic break on a high note, winning 2-1.
The Flyers are continuing to streak as they win their fourth game in a row. This also marks the fourth game in a row in which Flyers’ captain Claude Giroux added another point to his season total. (Giroux had a slap shot redirected into the net by teammate Scott Hartnell four minutes into the 3rd period.) After a slow start to his season, Giroux is now one of the hottest players in hockey and currently leads the NHL with 37 points in last 29 games.
Giroux’s hot play adds a bittersweet element to the Flyers recent success. Although Giroux has been the driving force behind the Flyers’ hot steak, he’ll have to watch his Canadian Olympic team on television like the rest of us as he was not selected as a member of Team Canada for the second straight Winter Olympics.
Flyers owner and Chairman Ed Snider was outspoken earlier this week about his captain not being selected to the team:
“Well, it’s a farce. He’s one of the best players in the league. It’s ridiculous. He’s better than half the guys on that team.”
Snider continued to air his frustration after Giroux wasn’t even added as a replacement for injured Tampa Bay Lightning star Steven Stamkos. (Stamkos was replaced by teammate Martin St. Louis.)
“Anybody that thinks that Claude Giroux doesn’t belong on the Canadian team, they don’t know anything about hockey as far as I’m concerned. But it’s politics to a certain degree. He had to pick his own guy, and his own guy is good, but Claude is better.”
It’s worth noting that Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman is also Team Canada’s GM.
Giroux was asked about his feelings not being added to the team. He was obviously disappointed:
“I’m just going to relax mentally and make sure I’m ready for the second half.”
The Flyers will have a total of 5 players representing their country in Sochi:
1) Michael Raffl: 25, Austria; his first Olympics
2) Mark Streit: 36, Switzerland; his fourth Olympics
3) Jake Voracek: 24, Czech Republic; his first Olympics
4) Kimmo Timonen: 38, Finland; his fifth Olympics
5) Andrej Meszaros: 28, Slovakia; his third Olympics
Heading into the break, the Flyers currently sit as the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference after their hot stretch of games.
The Flyers recent success can also be attributed to their strong goalie play over the past six games. Starter Steve Mason has won four of five starts while recording two shutouts and a .955 save percentage. He was given a well deserved rest after a stellar last couple of games and backup Ray Emery didn’t miss a beat.
Emery stopped 32 of 33 shots, allowing only one goal by Flames’ Matt Stajan with two and a half minutes left in the game. Coach Craig Berube gave high praise of his backup goaltender after the game:
“He’s a winner and he knows how to play the game,” Berube said. “He’s been around a long time. He works hard, practices hard and stays sharp. He goes in there and he’s a fighter in there. A winner.”
Flyers’ center Brayden Schenn scored the game’s first goal 8:04 into the 2nd period on a beautiful one-time pass from Wayne Simmonds.
The NHL will break until Tuesday February 25th and the Flyers will look to resume their current hot streak when they take on the visiting San Jose Sharks at home on Thursday February 27th. It will be tough for any team to regain momentum after a three week layoff, but in the ever changing Eastern Conference standings, the Flyers can’t wait until these Olympics end so they can continue their winning ways.