Live from the Wells Fargo Center, the Philadelphia Flyers played host to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the third meeting of four in the 2019-2020 season. Coming into the game, Claude Giroux was one powerplay assist from becoming the franchise leader. With a win, the Flyers would jump into third place in the Metropolitan Division, becoming more than a wildcard team. The Blue Jackets, another wildcard team, had just as much urgency. It was time to see if Philadelphia could distance themselves into the post-season.
It didn’t take long for the Philadelphia Flyers to distance themselves from the Columbus Blue Jackets at home. Kevin Hayes banked a puck off the back of Elvis Merzlikins with 16:26 remaining in the first period. That goal was an accurate depiction of how Merzlikins’ night would go. Just 57 seconds later, Sean Couturier slow-rolled the puck right between the legs of Merzlikins with 15:29 remaining. Another Flyers goal was challenged and wiped from the record, which would have been credited to Ivan Provorov who blocked a shot with his knee and skated off the ice minutes earlier.
Heading into the second period, the Philadelphia Flyers had a 2-0 lead. Philippe Myers extended that lead with 7:23 remaining in the second period. The Flyers defense had been spectacular in the first half of the game, specifically Justin Braun. It was ironic that Braun would be called on the first penalty of the game, which led to a powerplay goal for the Columbus Blue Jackets. Oliver Bjorkstrand scored with 2:19 remaining in the period, spoiling Carter Hart’s shutout bid.
The Philadelphia Flyers were buzzing in the final period of play. Travis Konecny notched a goal with 16:20 remaining in regulation, which signaled the end of the night for Elvis Merzlikins. On the powerplay, the Flyers would answer again off the stick of Jakub Voracek. Matiss Kivlenieks couldn’t help the cause for the Columbus Blue Jackets and Claude Giroux is now the leader in franchise history of powerplay assists. In Philadelphia’s 5-1 victory, the Flyers scored on 33.3% of the shots they took against both of the Blue Jackets goaltenders.
After blocking a shot with his knee, Ivan Provorov skated gingerly off of the ice in the first period. Before the end of that period, he was a goaltender interference call away of notching a goal after being injured. With 4:52 left in the first period, Joel Farabee was just in the way of Elvis Merzlikins enough to nullify the goal. After watching the defense last night, nothing has changed about my opinion of Provorov as an elite defenseman. Heading into the third period, “Sharp Prov” had as many shifts as Claude Giroux.
Think about this: Robert Hagg was a defenseman meant to be a healthy scratch before this season began. Now, he is a top-six defenseman on a very solid defensive depth chart. A lot of people will disagree, but they’re wrong. He passed the eye test again last night, recording an assist on Travis Konecny’s goal. Take a look at how Hagg ranks on this current Philadelphia Flyers team, a playoff team.
Robert Hagg is a +14 (3rd), has blocked 61 shots (5th), and registered 110 hits (1st). He is one of the best defensemen on the Philadelphia Flyers and it’s been like that for quite some time. His defensive numbers are comparable to Matt Niskanen.
When Jakub Voracek sniped that powerplay goal for the Philadelphia Flyers last night, Claude Giroux notched his 235th powerplay assist with the Orange and Black. That’s good for the franchise lead. As the second star in last night’s game, Giroux was also responsible for the assist on Sean Couturier’s game-winner. “Captain Claude” is third on the Flyers in points this season and has shown out for his team in the second half of this season. He is a career playmaker with Philadelphia, so his career milestone last night is a testament to his incredible body of work.
Next, the Philadelphia Flyers are away at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, OH to visit the Columbus Blue Jackets. This game takes place on Thursday, February 20th at 7 pm. Be sure to give a follow for more Flyers coverage at EricReesePSN and PhiladelphiaSN on Twitter!
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports