The Flyers won their third straight versus the visiting Red Wings on a historic night for the Orange and Black. Despite a number of penalties and more additions to the injuries list, they received outstanding goaltending from Ilya Bryzgalov and a solid team effort in the 3-2 win. But with the additional injuries, was it all worth it?
The night started with the ice covered in the number-2, and the name Howe, as the Philadelphia Flyer’s organization added another number to the rafters. Mark Howe, the smooth skating defenseman – and arguably the best defenseman in Flyers history – had his number-2 retired in front of the Wells Fargo fans, as well as his own family which included another hockey great, Gordie Howe. Howe, a former Flyer and Red Wing gave a brief speech in front of the fans, and was received warmly before the banner was raised, and the game quickly began just as he had wanted.
The Flyers entered the game having won two in a row for the first time since December 15, 2011, and just 4:00 minutes into the first period, on the Red Wings first shot of the game, center Henrik Zetterberg made it 1-0. In the last 11-games, the Flyers have given up the first goal 10-times, the only game they didn’t was the shutout versus the Capitals on Sunday.
A big part of the Flyers recent swing has been the improved play of Mr. Universe, Bryzgalov. After his 9-year, free-agent signing in the off season to fill the Flyers void in net, the Russian netminder seems to finally have found his groove. Against the Red Wings, he was clearly in the zone stopping a total of 37-of-39 shots, including some tense moments in the closing seconds of the game.
The Flyers already without captain Chris Pronger on defense, Kimmo Timonen and Andrej Meszaros are still out of the lineup, so the Flyers have a bottom pairing of light-weight rookie puck-mover Erik Gustafsson and the aging stay-at-home defender Andreas Lilja. While the two were paired together in limited usage, the Red Wings tried to slip their top forwards onto the ice to take advantage of the Flyers bottom pairing. There were a few break downs for the duo, but Bryzgalov stayed strong throughout.
In such a positive showing for the Flyers coming off of a skid, there were a few hiccups. With 12:23 left in the second period, Niklas Kronwall caught Jake Voracek with a shoulder to the head, and took the Czech winger down hard. Voracek couldn’t regain his feet after the hit, and needed to leave the game. Although the head was the principle point of contact, no penalty was assessed to Kronwall.
After the hit, the Flyers were noticeably agitated. Immediately, Zac Rinaldo had a few words for a Red Wing player, and received a minor penalty for misconduct. Scott Hartnell, recent All Star and NHL super pest, also received a roughing call in the second and a goalie interference call in the third. The moment he stepped out of the box, the Red Wings scored to make it a one-goal game.
Even though they gave up the goal just after the penalty ended, they Flyers twenty-first ranked penalty kill did a great job, even scoring the game winning goal in the second while short-handed.
The shortie came as Red Wings coughed up the puck to the NHL’s third ranked points leader Claude Giroux, who skated in on Red Wing’s goalie Joey MacDonald, fired a shot off his pads that gave Max Talbot a rebound for his 18-goal of the season. The assist was Giroux’s second point of the night.
With more than half the third period remaining the Flyers needed to repel a strong Detroit attack, and Bryzgalov was the best player on the ice. He turned away a number of shots late in the game. The first period belonged to the Flyers, as they out-shot their opponent 12-2 afterwards. But by the end of the game, the shot totals would completely switch, as the Flyers were out shot by the visitors 39-23.
With an injury list that already includes Pronger, James van Riemsdyk, Timonen and Meszaros, the Flyers also lost Jaromir Jagr at some point in the second. It’s likely Voracek will be lost for at least a short time, due to the head collision with Kronwall, and Giroux was also nursing wrist injuries that prevented him from taking many faceoffs. The Flyers are banged up, and need to get healthy for the final push this season.