Spirit Breakers: How the Flyers have been Quickly Subduing Their Opponents

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

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First place.

OK, technically, because of the NHL’s asinine tiebreaker system that considers wins in regulation followed by wins in regulation plus overtime more important than how you fared head-to-head against the team you are tied with, the Flyers are still in second place.

However, those of us with at least half a brain, which includes a predominance of Flyers fans, no matter what some slick talkers with a microphone might tell you otherwise, can recognize that with 15 games to go, the Flyers are in a virtual tie for first place with the Washington Capitals with 87 points apiece.

This was the result of another dominant win for the Flyers Thursday, 4-1 over Carolina, coupled with an absolutely wild 6-5 overtime loss by the Caps that was highlighted by a five-goal game by New York’s Mika Zibanejad.

If the Capitals lose in Pittsburgh Saturday afternoon and the Flyers extend the win streak to nine games against Buffalo, then there won’t be any more discussion about tiebreakers. The Flyers will be in first place by themselves and on the hunt for their first division crown since the division was known as the Atlantic back in 2010-11.

The Flyers eight-game win streak is the first since an eight-gamer last season, but something tells you that the feeling in the locker room is a little different this time around.

“This year is a little different,” said Ivan Provorov, who scored his 13th goal of the season against Carolina, which was also the Flyers’ 44th goal from their defensemen, tops in the NHL. “We won 10 in a row my first season and last year we went on an eight-game winning streak, but it wasn’t the same feeling. We weren’t playing the same way. This [time] we are dominating. We are controlling the play for most of the game and deserve the win.”

He’s right. The Flyers have scored either four or five goals in all eight victories. They have outscored the opposition 36-16 in the eight games. With the exception of the overtime win in Columbus, these games aren’t close.

On home ice they credit the goalie Carter Hart. And, yes, Hart has been sensational at the Wells Fargo Center:

Yeah, that’s his record on home ice. He also adds an incredible goals against average (1.64) and save percentage (.942) when playing in South Philadelphia.

Taking nothing away from Hart, who has been ridiculously good in front of the home fans, this isn’t about him.

No, the Flyers are winning not because of their goaltending – although both Hart and Brian Elliott have been excellent – but rather because of their killer instinct.

It’s something that has been missing for the orange and black for several years.

The Flyers simply don’t let their opponents have momentum, or if they do, they take it back from them quickly.

Just look at the games in this winning streak.

  • Feb 18 – Led 3-0. Gave up a goal to Columbus to cut it to 3-1. Travis Konecny scores 6:19 later to make it 4-1. Flyers win 5-1.
  • Feb. 20 – Flyers get down 2-0 early, but 23 seconds later, Konecny scores to cut it to 2-1. Columbus regains the two goal advantage in the second period but Nick Aube-Kubel and Claude Giroux score goals 1:26 apart to tie it and Kevin Hayes wins it in OT with his Aaron Rodgers-esque celebration.
  • Feb. 22 – Flyers build a 3-0 lead, but Winnipeg cuts it to 3-2. Tyler Pitlick gives the Flyers breathing room 6:34 later and they win 4-2.
  • Feb. 25 – Flyers and Sharks are tied 1-1. Hayes and Konecny score goals 5:50 apart to give the Flyers a two-goal cushion they never relinquish. Flyers win 4-2.
  • Feb. 28 – Flyers and Rangers are tied at 1-1. James van Riemsdyk and Giroux score goals 2:05 apart to give the Flyers a two goal cushion that they never lose. Flyers win 5-2.
  • March 1 – Flyers dominate for two periods and hold on for a 5-3 win over the Rangers. This is the only game that is an outlier in form.
  • March 4 – Flyers and Caps are tied 1-1. Hayes and Pitlick score 2:05 apart to make it 3-1. Caps cut it to 3-2 heading into the third period but Provorov breaks their spirit 6:36 into the third with a goal to make it 4-2. Flyers win 5-2.
  • March 5 – Flyers lead Carolina 2-0. Justin Williams scores to cut it to 2-1. However, just 1:33 later Aube-Kubel scores to grow the lead back to two and 26 seconds after that, Sean Couturier makes it 4-1 and ices the game.

Whenever the other team seems to have some life, or momentum, or gets close, the Flyers quickly snuff it out. Usually in seven minutes of game time or less. It’s like clockwork.

“It’s hockey, [goals] happen,” Provorov said. “You’re not going to get a shutout every night. But, this team has done a great job of responding when we give up a goal or two. This year, out of all the years I’ve [played] this is the best we’ve been at pushing back and not getting back on our heels.

“It’s mental toughness and knowing overall that we have a good team and no matter what happens, if we need a goal we can get it to either tie the game or eventually win the game.”

I outlined them above, but here are the two backbreakers against Carolina.

First, Aube-Kubel, who has been an unbelievable addition to the Flyers’ fourth line, finds the twine:

Aube Kubel now has seven goals and eight assists for 15 points in just 34 games. When was the last time you saw that kind of production on the fourth line?

And before his goal could even be announced, Couturier was Johnny-on-the-spot to put the game away:

It’s like this every game.

“We have a pretty mature team,” Couturier said. “We’re more experienced than other years and guys are more responsible for things. It doesn’t matter who is out there, they just try to get the job done.”

Boy, do they ever.

For more Flyers coverage, follow Snow The Goalie on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Also be sure to tune into The Press Row Show as Anthony SanFilippo and Russ Joy provide pregame and intermission coverage of every Flyers home game from press row of the Wells Fargo Center via the Crossing Broad Facebook page, YouTube Live, and Twitter, and their Twitter accounts   

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