It was an emotional weekend for Flyers fans. Against two divisional opponents, The Flyers looked to carry the momentum from a win in Nashville into two basically, must win games. The Flyers faced the New York Rangers and the league leading Washington Capitals in a back to back with a few obstacles. Sean Couturier re-injured his lower body and Michal Neuvirth tweaked something in his legs. The Flyers would be without their 2nd line center and the league’s best backup goalie.
Both games lived up to the hype and tempers started flaring on Saturday afternoon after Wayne Simmonds was crosschecked in the back of the head by Ryan McDonagh. After he was crosschecked in the head, Simmonds got rough and threw a punch at McDonagh. McDonagh appeared to take the hit a little harder than it was. Simmonds received a match penalty and game misconduct about halfway into the first period for the punch. The game misconduct meant the call went straight to the league for review, but Simmonds wasn’t given any supplementary discipline. No suspension for punching McDonagh.
Another game misconduct will mean an automatic suspension for Simmonds.
After dominating the first two periods against the Rangers, the Flyers managed to give up their lead with roughly 12 seconds left in the game. There seemed to be an overall lack of effort on the Flyers part in the 3rd period which led to the Rangers being able to force overtime. Overtime was intense but did not provide a winner, so the game would be decided by a shootout. After a gorgeous move by Mats Zuccarello, the Flyers could not get past Lundqvist and, as is tradition, the Flyers lost the shootout. Although the Flyers gathered a point, it was a tough loss to swallow.
Before the Flyers could get in a full days rest, they had another contest with the Capitals down in D.C for another afternoon game against the league’s best team. Although the Flyers didn’t help themselves out by shooting right into Holtby’s pads, the Flyers did manage tons of scoring opportunities and were eventually able to get on the board when Del Zotto scored late in the 1st period. The goal also gave Nick Cousins, who was called up to help fill in for Couturier, his first NHL point.
Congrats to Nick Cousins on his first NHL point! #Flyers
— Flyers Nation (@FlyersNation) February 7, 2016
The Capitals scored back-to-back goals in the 2nd to create a one goal lead. Nick Schultz, ripped a shot from the point that Holtby never had his eyes on. Matt Niskanen skated through all 5 players on the ice and buried a shot past Mason only seconds later. Del Zotto and Gostisbehere had a rare lapse in coverage,but the biggest problem was probably the three forwards letting Niskanen skate right through them for the eventual game winner.
Hakstol has to be very happy with how the role players have managed themselves while Couturier has been sidelined. Cousins has been filling in on the 2nd line, and he easily had the best weekend of his career. The same could also be argued for Scott Laughton, who has seen improvement with linemates that aren’t R.J. Umberger.
Time to throw Scott Laughton into the fire in the Couturier shutdown center role.
— Bradley (@bradleyc4) February 5, 2016
Sam Gagner and Matt Read also played a vital part in these past two games with an aggressive forecheck. Gagner moved onto the 2nd PP unit and was able to get the puck toward the net to create chances. Mason has been great as of late and easily one of our best penalty killers. Shayne Gostisbehere has also been fantastic, extending his point streak to 8 games.
With only 1 of four possible points claimed over the weekend, the rest of February is becoming more and more important.