The Flyers took the ice last night against the Florida Panthers under new leadership of: Craig Berube, Ian Laperriere and John Paddock. The coaching staff had one morning skate to make adjustments to the team to get them into winning shape for Tuesday night’s game and were able to make an impression, as the Flyers beat the Panthers 2-1. It is too early to say that the firing of previous head coach, Peter Laviolette was 100% the right move for Paul Holmgren to make, the Flyers will have to win more consistently and fix their problems for that conclusion to be made. But, this win must certainly reinforces the decision in the minds of Flyers management.
Last night during the first period the Flyers took a lot of quality shots on goal, they were finding the opportunities and setting the pace of the game. Their power play, which had been embarrassingly unbearable to watch on Sunday, looked improved last night but still needs much work. Five minutes into the game Branden Schenn scored the first goal getting the Flyers on the board and soon after that the Flyers scored again, breaking their one goal a game slump. Steve Mason got support from the defense in clearing rebounds and for the first time all season, the Flyers were a team that could hold a 2- goal lead through an entire period. The first period for the Flyers was impressive but they generally play their best hockey in the first period of the game.
In typical Flyers form, they took their foot off the gas in the second period and the Panthers came back with a goal, making it a one goal hockey game. The Panthers were doing everything but getting the puck in the net; they took every opportunity to shot the puck at Steven Mason and it was dangerous for the Flyers to slow down but Mason was solid in the net.
"We have to get better, we have to have more of an attack," Berube said after barely beating one of the lower ranking teams in the NHL. "I know we do have good offensive players here. It's just a matter of getting them confident."
The third period got sloppy for the Flyers. They started taking reckless penalties and it was pure luck that the Flyers drew beneficial penalties near the end of the period. After several minor and major penalties called against the Flyers giving the Panthers a 5 on 4 man advantage and forcing the Flyers to work extra hard on the power kill, they got a game changing break. With 2:37 minutes left the Flyers got a 2-minute power play and were put in a great position to defend their 1-goal lead. The Flyers kept the puck in the Panthers zone for the remainder of the power play, preventing the team from adding an extra man. Smart play by the Flyers to end the game.
The Flyers are now 1-3 with three days to work with their new coaching staff before they face the Phoenix Coyotes on Friday. The coaches and players know that they have a lot of hard work to do and are not out of hot water yet. Last night, the Flyers could not generate sustained pressure during their 5 minute power play and they went 0-5 during their power plays with only 5 shots on goal. If this team thinks they are going to recover and head to the play-offs this year they will have to get their power play under control. I think that the line changes were beneficial to the team and with the talent the Flyers have, they have the potential to clean things up and turn their season around. Another disappointment last night was their lack of emotional toughness, they really did take some reckless penalties that could have changed the direction of the game, but thankfully that did not happen. The Flyers always have the “talent” to lose a lead right at the end, and although they came away with a win last night in the future they will not be as lucky.
To end on a positive note, the MVP for the team has got to be Steve Mason. Mason has been a solid net minder for the team and has borne the brunt of keeping this team in the game, by being a stone wall in net. This season Mason is showing how calm and confident he is in the net, which is great to see for Philadelphia. He showed more control on his rebounds last night and the defense needs to work on supporting him more. With the talent and leadership on this Flyers team there is no reason why they should not be able to be successful this season.
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