The goal of a fourth line is typically to provide energy by outworking the other team, tiring them out, and handing it over to the top players to work their magic. How about dropping the gloves two seconds into the game? That’s exactly what Nicolas Deslauriers did with Pat Maroon. And it was from there on out that the Philadelphia Flyers took it to the Minnesota Wild for most of the game. A third period surge made it interesting briefly, but the Flyers found even more energy to pull away in a dominating victory.
If there’s one thing that you can say about this Flyers team, it’s that you have to try extremely hard to outwork them. What they might lack in high end talent, they make up for in effort and compete. They largely dominated play, spending a fair amount of time in the offensive zone. They had seven straight shots after Minnesota recorded one in the first minute of the game. It was another six and a half minutes before the Wild fired one of Carter Hart. They would only end up firing four total shots on net in the first. Credit to Philadelphia for not allowing any offensive chances.
"“We know we don’t have that big superstar, or offensive power superstar. I think we have three, four lines that can produce at anytime. And it’s nice to see different guys contributing at different moments.” Couturier said about the Flyers’ efforts."
Even when the Flyers allowed the Wild to get in the zone and into dangerous spot, Philadelphia’s defensemen were active and used their sticks to knock the puck away. And when you’ve got energy, everything seems to work in your favor as the inconsistent Flyers’ power play unit used the pressure to score twice. Sean Couturier was not to be denied in front of the net as he bumped himself away from coverage and used his long reach to stretch around the pad of Filip Gustavsson, who has struggled this season.
Couturier again used his hard work, along the boards this time, to get the puck in front to Bobby Brink. Brink, who has done everything but score, finally potted his first NHL goal. He’s been a surprise since training camp for Tortorella. All he had to do was fire the puck on net as Couturier’s centering pass took a Philadelphia bounce off the ref and directly to Brink.
A savvy play by the veteran or just a lucky bounce? Nevertheless, Brink cashed in and was rightfully rewarded for his hard work. He even earned a smile from Tortorella on the bench, not a sight you see often.
"“We have a great group in here. I think if it was anybody, the guys would be doing that same thing. The guys in here all love each other and I think that’s what’s kind of led to our success is we have such a tight group.” Brink said about his teammates efforts at the end of the game to try to get him the hat trick."
The Wild found their surge over midway through the second period, even forcing a few Flyers to spend three plus minutes on the ice. Even then, Philadelphia stood their ground, thanks to some saves by Hart as well. Tortorella skates this team hard during the opening day of training camp and it’s for moments like this. It is a long season and being able to burn the legs, but not give up shows how conditioned the Flyers are. It’ll pay dividends later on in the season when the games get even tougher and the play tightens up.
It especially shows up in the third period when teams tend to slack off, usually when they have big leads as well. That was often a criticism of this Flyers team in that they would not come out strong in the final period of play. And they were guilty of that in the first few minutes of the third period as the Wild had the first eight shots. That included two goals in the first five minutes of the period as the Flyers were caught on their heels and puck watching instead of the energized play they had in the first two periods. It’s those small lapses where Philadelphia gets back on their heels that have hurt them, especially against Dallas and Vegas.
It’s been huge for the Flyers to have someone like Couturier back and the same can be said about Cam Atkinson as well. When they needed it most, Atkinson came up with a big play to strip Kirill Kaprizov of the puck and send Owen Tippett in on the breakaway. And for Tippett, he’s looked a lot more likely himself recently and just picked his spot under the glove on Gustavsson to give the Flyers a huge goal after it was all Minnesota. Speed kills and Tippett has plenty of it.
Credit to Philadelphia for not letting the Wild’s pressure get to them. They could have easily folded and let Minnesota takeover the game. Instead, they scored three straight goals from Tippett, Brink, and Travis Sanheim to pull away and hand Minnesota yet another loss in which they allowed four or more goals.
"“The room is together and there’s a belief. Belief is a very strong thing. If we can just stay about ourselves and keep that mindset, we’ll stay competitive.” Tortorella said after the win on the feeling inside the locker room right now."
And in this “New Era of Orange” the Flyers are a perfect 3-0-0 at home and have outscored the opposition 12-3. They’ll defend that home ice advantage when the Ducks come to town on Saturday afternoon.