This weekend saw back-to-back games against the struggling Buffalo Sabres, and boy were they struggling.
Not only did we see Brian Elliot’s second shutout against Buffalo this year, we also saw Carter Hart’s first shutout of the season. For back-to-back shutouts to occur is a rare occasion, but for it to happen against the same team? I would have liked to see those odds.
It was the first time since Oct. 2015 that the Flyers have had back-to-back shutouts (shoutout to Michal Neuvirth!). The last time that the Flyers have shutout the same opponent consecutively was back in October of 1999, quite the rare occurrence indeed.
Now, I know I just said that the Sabres are not having a great time right now. That is not to say that the Flyers do not deserve some credit and should not feel good about their play these past few games.
Besides the play of both goaltenders, who were obviously solid, I believe the team is trending up at a very ideal time. A significant part of this improvement is directly related to the play of Sean Couturier. Coots scored the opening goal in both games against Buffalo, while his presence on the PK unit helped hold a red-hot No. 1 ranked powerplay at a scoreless 0-6.
Since his return from injury, in six games he has five goals and five assists for 10 points. Coots is also +7 in that stretch, and four of his five goals are at even strength. He is so freaking good; I truly do not think we realize how badly we need him when he is out with injury.
Another player who has been instrumental this season for the Flyers and who has not slowed down his scoring pace is James van Riemsdyk. He assisted Shayne Gostisbehere’s goal in the first matchup, then assisted Couturier’s goal and scored himself in the second game. His goal was an absolutely wicked deflection, an example of how players as good as JVR around the net are not a dime a dozen.
Funny how Sean Couturier and JVR are two of the best players on the team right now and happen to be on the same line, alongside Joel Farabee. This line is displaying some fantastic chemistry and spend most of their time in the opponent’s zone cycling the puck. Let me be clear, this line should not be broken up in the foreseeable future unless suddenly everyone goes ice cold.
Now, I mentioned that I believe the team is picking their play up just at the right time. This coincides with some teams in the East Division recovering from slowish starts, for example the now 11-6-4 New York Islanders. The Flyers are currently sitting in fourth with 25 points, two points above their next opponent, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Already, the games are starting to become more important.
Also, congrats to Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault on recording his 700th career victory! AV is the ninth coach in NHL history to reach that milestone, now all we need is the Cup.
Hopefully the orange and black continue building momentum against Pittsburgh , these two faceoff against each other for the next three games. The first of these games is tomorrow night at 7:30PM. Claude Giroux has gotten very close to scoring these past few games, I think he gets one tomorrow!